Tag Archive for healing

Seeing a Brighter World: Photography as Therapy

RTP LogoThe camera eye can often throw the day-to-day world into sharp relief, making us notice things that usually slip past our conscious recognition. Photography can also be a path to rehabilitation, a means of developing skills, expressing ourselves, and creating a path of engagement with the world for those who feel deprived of one.

This is the stance taken by Rehabilitation Through Photography (formerly the Volunteer Service Photographers until its name change in 1982), a group that has been teaching photography as a form of therapy since 1941. What started out as simply photographing troops leaving for war and sending their photos, along with a personal note, to their families, has become much more as time went on. RTP’s website tells of the early days in the World War II era:

Volunteer Service Photographers (VSP) programs and volunteers used portable dark rooms that were designed to enable veterans to develop and print photographs from their wheel chairs and their beds. Photography speeded the healing process, easing the pain of mind and body. Herrick recognized the therapeutic potential of photography and she helped to establish additional programs that taught photography skills. VSP’s efforts became so well known that requests came from hospitals and other instituions serving the chronically ill and the emotionally disturbed.

This stance would dictate the shape of the program for the next 70 years. In the modern day, RTP engages with a large number of people at what most consider to be the fringes of society. At-risk youth is only one of the many groups that seem to be benefiting from RTP’s many efforts, as Picture Business Magazine reports:

RTP started and helps run 25 programs using photography as a unique form of therapy with 55 classes a week, 695 participants ages 8 to 80 with a total of 30,000 hours of instruction each year. Programs serve all facets of the community from the physically handicapped, developmentally disabled, at risk or economically challenged youth and nursing home residents. RTP provides photography instruction and programs to the physically and emotionally handicapped, the elderly, at-risk youth, the economically disadvantaged, the homeless and, the visually impaired.

In order to enact these programs, RTP needs equipment. If you find this to be a program worthy of support, it is currently engaged in its 2010 Summer Camera Drive. At the time of this writing, only 75 more cameras were needed by September 1, 2010, to help equip the current RTP programs. (Click on the Picture Business Magazine link for more details, below.)

What are your thoughts on the subject? Do you think that this kind of work can bring people back into a broader community? Can it provide a proper focus, allowing engagement with the world that had once seemed out of reach?

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Source: “Donate Your Cameras to Help RTP,” Picture Business Magazine, 08/04/10
Image: Rehabilitation Through Photography Logo, copyright retained, used under Fair Use: Reporting.
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Dr. Perry and The ChildTrauma Academy

CTA LogoQuestions of abuse and neglect are the tricky ones. Just like so many issues in life, they are vastly more complex than they seem at first. In the case of the children, whose bodies and brains are constantly developing, these complexities can span a broad array or disciplines.

Enter The ChildTrauma Academy and its Senior Fellow Bruce D. Perry, M.D., Ph.D. The Houston, TX-based CTA describes itself as a not-for-profit organization that is “working to improve the lives of high-risk children through direct service, research and education.” Dr. Perry is an internationally recognized authority on children in crisis.

As a native New Orleanian, I must admit to being quite partial to the work Dr. Perry has done in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. The plight of our city’s children and the elderly was one quite evident to me from the start, and I think his work was important. This excerpt from Dr. Perry’s article, “The Real Crisis of Katrina,” applies not only to the child survivors of the Gulf Coast disasters, but also to children in general:

We know that traumatic experiences can result in a host of chronic, sometimes, life-long, problems. More than 35% of the children exposed to a single traumatic event will develop serious mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). That is just the start, however. Children exposed to adverse experiences are at much greater risk for physical health problems throughout life; this includes heart disease, diabetes and hypertension. Traumatized children are at much greater risk for other emotional, social and mental health problems; and as these children grow into adults the risk follows them. Adults with childhood trauma have increased divorce rates, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, alcoholism, drug abuse and dependence, school failure, and unemployment among many other problems. These children have a much higher probability of requiring the services of our expensive public systems throughout life; special education, child protection, mental health, health and criminal justice.

That makes perfect sense to me. I am in my 40’s, and I have certainly experienced a deterioration in several aspects of my physical health in the five years since Katrina. I’ve also seen the widespread symptoms of PTSD firsthand after the flooding. One can only imagine the effects of these stresses on a developing child, especially when the adults around that child are experiencing similar privations.

Dr. Perry’s article continues with an important message of hope:

And we also know that when traumatized children receive appropriate services, they can heal. We know that if traumatized children can live in safe, consistent, relationally-rich, and nurturing homes and communities they heal. Indeed, traumatic experience can provide a wisdom and strength that is impossible to get any other way. Yet this healing takes place and wisdom grows only when the child is safe, secure and her emotional needs have been met.

Dr. Perry suggests we prioritize funding for children at the same level we do for other crucial infrastructure. After all, our children are the infrastructure of our future.

Dr. Perry can also be seen in our debut feature-length documentary, It’s More Expensive To Do Nothing by HUMANE EXPOSURES films. You can also follow The ChildTrauma Academy on Twitter.

Source: “The Real Crisis of Katrina,” The Zero, The Official Website of Andrew Vachss, 2006
Image: ChildTrauma Academy Logo, copyright retained; fair use: reporting

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