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Some time ago I wanted to write an article explaining the difference between Photo-therapy and Therapeutic Photography (if you missed it, just click on what I just wrote).
Today I wanted to go into more detail about this topic by describing the Phototherapy Techniques by Judy Weiser. The methodology created by this Canadian psychotherapist and photographer who gave life to Photo-Therapy, used in psychotherapy to help patients solve their problems and guide them towards change.
This therapeutic practice is very powerful because, through the photographs that act as a visual stimulus, people are able to talk about themselves and arrive at deep awareness, much faster than using just the word and dialogue with the therapist.
Why does this happen? Because when we talk about a photograph, it’s like we’re talking about ourselves. We project parts of ourselves on it but are not aware of them, we bypass our defense mechanisms which most of the time block us in talking about ourselves.

By describing photographs and reacting to them, people are often able to come into contact with strong feelings that are usually hidden by cognitive defense such as denials and rationalizations. These techniques bypass verbal and conscious control systems and allow unconscious, metaphorical and symbolic language to emerge.

How the projective process works

the phototherapy techniques by judy weiser
©Salvador Dali,
Invisible Sleeping Woman, Horse, Lion, 1930

The projective process is the theoretical basis of the Phototherapy Techniques by Judy Weiser and I’ll explain how it works.

When we look at an image, each of us receives from our brain a series of information simultaneously and subconsciously chooses what to pay attention to and what to remember.

This unconscious choice is guided by the personal internal structure of values that map and set the priorities of what interests us most. You’re probably wondering what this internal structure is, it’s simply the set of our inner values absorbed during our growth and our experiences, conditioned by the culture of origin and family education. This system of inner values is profoundly unconscious and is at the basis of all daily decisions, opinions, judgments regarding oneself and others, expectations, the rules of living, the one in which we believe.

Now you’ll understand why when we look at a picture and talk about it, we’re actually talking about ourselves because most of what we think we see come directly from within ourselves.

The Phototherapy Techniques: Photoprojective

The Canadian psychotherapist’s photo-therapy techniques use the projective process to stimulate the patient’s understanding of himself and the resolution of his psychological dynamics. The therapist asks a series of questions about the photo chosen as a stimulus and the patient answers talking about it in the third person. In this way, not feeling threatened, he freely expresses what he thinks and the therapist receives a series of valuable information that will then be the subject of reflection.

Now I’ll let you try the first photo-therapy technique that is called Photoprojective: look below this picture and choose, among all the photos you see, the one you would use to introduce yourself to people you don’t know. Feel it in your belly, without thinking, but where your eye falls, what catches your attention.

phototherapy tecnique di judy weiser

Now look at this photo, take paper and pen and answer these questions one at a time:

Three things I like about this Photography…

Three things about you that can’t be understood by looking at this picture…

If this photo could talk what would it say?

What would I like to say to this photograph?

If this photo could keep a secret, what would it be?

I would give this photo to…… why?

I would never give this photo to…… why?

What title would you give to this photograph?

Now that you’ve finished the exercise, how did it go? If you really questioned yourself, you probably understood why you chose that photograph and not another, maybe right now it expresses a part of you, a conflict you’re experiencing or a desire.

I made you do this exercise so you can understand how the projective technique works and how the therapist asks the patient questions. It is obvious that in session, the therapist guides questions based on the answers so that the patient delves into some aspects that he considers interesting for the development of therapy.

If I have intrigued you and you would like to know more, in the next few days I will describe the other 4 Phototherapy Techniques by Judy Weiser. Stay tuned!

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