Articles and Abstracts

One Thousand Trees
The Power of Photographs: How We See Our World 
by Kelly Gauthier

As I sit down to write this article my eyes are drawn to the window beside me where I can see the trees shivering in anticipation of a thunderstorm that lingers overhead.

As I continue to watch, my focus turns to the leaves themselves and how they appear to be dancing yet fearful of what’s to come. Their movements are beautifully contrived, but they are aggressive none the less. The steps to their dance and their hushed rustling appear to be a warning to all around them that “there’s a storm coming, take cover.” I immediately wonder what they would be thinking should they be able to process thought.

I begin to project my own thoughts and concerns onto the leaves that memory and experience provide. I notice that not only has my posture changed, but my facial expression as well. I can feel their dance of fear rising in my own body as I look up at the blackened sky and wait for it to explode with anger. I have now taken on their fear simply by watching them through my own internal lens.

As a practicing Art & Photo Therapist I have spent a great deal of time looking at, taking, and working with photographs. As a result I have developed a sincere appreciation not only for the art itself, but also for a photographs ability to heal. I have come to understand the importance behind capturing a moment and being able to revisit that moment when the need arises. Far too often every day moments pass us by before we have had the opportunity to appreciate, deconstruct, digest, or fully understand them. We rely on our memories for validation and truth, when in reality all any moment can offer is simply itself.

This is when a photograph can bridge the gap between past and present, and reveal a current truth as opposed to one that is no longer valid. It can give you a chance to look at an experience and revisit it without having to relive it. A great deal of our own fears come from revisiting memories that we no longer have control over. Memories that may have caused us sadness or pain, or possibly embarrassment and discomfort. Those memories linger with us and often take up valuable space in our minds because we have given them permission to. We relinquish control over them because they happened in the past and we’ve been told over and over again that we can’t change the past. But here’s the thing, a memory is only as real as it is remembered.

Each one of us is very much like a camera. We have a personal lens that we see things through and we have various modes that determine how clearly and much we choose to capture. My lens is currently set at f/1.4, the maximum aperture and widest opening, and my internal mode is set to continuous.

This means I want to see everything and I will continue to shoot individual moments as long as I can hold down my shutter button or until my buffer is full. In other words our eyes are capturing the moments and our minds are retaining them one after another until they are too full and we have no choice but to download or delete them. Most of us choose to download them as oppose to delete them because it means that we can call on them anytime we like.

Now this would be wonderful if the only moments and memories we were downloading were all good ones, but they’re not. So why is it that we choose to store them? Where do all those painful or unhappy memories go? Well as I mentioned earlier these memories will continue to linger in your mind and take up valuable space unless you deal with them. They will sit idly in the back of your mind and wait for just the right moment to resurface. A moment when you’re feeling down or vulnerable and fear has taken control. This is when we call upon them as they serve us as both punishment and ammunition.

But what if we really don’t want to think about them anymore. What if we truly want to let our negative thoughts go? How can we get rid of them for good when we know these memories are no longer serving us well, that they continue to cause us pain, and are getting in the way of us moving forward and living our best lives.

Well, that’s where photographs and phototherapy come into play, and why I love what I do so much. Because our brains are so efficient at storing the essence of a picture, a photograph and its visual content can trigger a memory even if the image itself is not one we have seen before. This means that negatively stored memories can be brought to the surface and worked on just by looking at photographs. When I use photographs in therapy as a means of healing I do so in various ways.

Firstly, a photograph can be used as a conversation piece, one that opens the door to talking about the memory itself and why it continues to be painful.

Secondly, a photograph can also be used as a visual aid for those who have suffered trauma or abuse at the hands of someone else. By projecting an image that contains the abuser or reflects the experience, I am giving the individual an opportunity to say what they need to say without feeling threatened. This in itself allows for tremendous healing and forgiveness.

And thirdly but not lastly, a photograph can also be used to provide one with the opportunity to change the outcome of a what was once a negative experience into a positive one or one that feels better.

Again by projecting a relevant image onto a large white papered surface I am giving the individual an opportunity to draw into or on the projected photograph and change the outcome. By adding or taking things away, using colour where there wasn’t any, or including speech bubbles with positive content, the individual can now construct an outcome that serves them well. Each of these uses of photographs and many more give way to understanding, acceptance, and most importantly healing. Who would have thought that a photograph could be the answer to letting go?

So the next time you find yourself revisiting negative moments or memories, I encourage you to pull out your camera and take some photographs. Sit with them, talk to them, draw on them. Their content has the power to change how you see things by adjusting the lens from which you look at your world.  

https://bc9c88d7-ffd6-4ec4-a7c7-a79666e14a90.filesusr.com/ugd/ddb074_1f180cd27bde4d7b92f4f88d26b1beb0.pdf

 

 

A Picture's Worth a Thousand Words - Toronto Life Magazine October 2012

Best of Fall, Special Issue

LETTERS

Article can be found on Pg. 12

                                                

 

How Creative Therapy Can Help Change Your Life 

Sarah Treleaven Mon May 28 2012 

We spoke with Kelly Gauthier, of the Leaside Therapy Centre in Toronto, about art and phototherapy, and why you need to take control of the inevitable changes in your life.

Q: What are art and phototherapy, and how does they work?

A: Art therapy is a form of expressive therapy that uses the creative process of art making as the tool for identifying the areas of a person's life that are most in need of attention. Because art is an innate process that we are all born with, it serves as the most natural way for one to express their emotions. As a result, the release of these emotions directly reduces stress, anger and anxiety, and increases self-esteem and personal awareness.

Phototherapy is a powerful therapeutic process that uses photographs as a tool for revealing important details about our lives that we have chosen to dismiss or keep hidden. It is only when we take the time to acknowledge these details that the healing process can begin. However, going back and reliving these experiences is next to impossible. This is where phototherapy, and its use of photographs, does what no other therapy can do.

Q: How does art therapy differ from other forms of therapy?

A: Unlike psychotherapy where talk is the basis from which therapy begins and ends, art therapy allows the client to determine the direction they need to go in and provides a visual alternative for those who have difficulty expressing themselves verbally. It's a safe environment where they can come and create and just be themselves; and the conversations that come as a result of this are authentic and intentional. In talk therapy, a client has the opportunity to retract what they have said or recount their feelings when things get uncomfortable. In art therapy, the art simply speaks for itself : a visual rendition of their emotions and feelings provides a truth that makes it extremely hard for one to recant.

Q: How does phototherapy differ from other forms of therapy?

A: Photo therapy provides a unique opportunity to revisit experiences without having to relive them, and because photographs have an incredible way of revealing themselves bit by bit, it allows you to notice what needs to be noticed at your own pace. It is in the revisiting process that one begins to notice things about a situation that may have been missed before, and through noticing, they are now able to see the situation from many different angles and perspectives. I have often heard clients say that talk therapy lacks the visual component that phototherapy offers, and one that they find crucial and necessary for seeing things from someone else's perspective.

Q: Who benefits the most from these two forms of therapy?

A: In my experience thus far, I have found that both therapies have something of real value to offer everyone. When asked, people were very willing to share their previous experiences in therapy, and the overall consensus was a real feeling of dissatisfaction. Most felt that talking about something wasn't enough and that the creative elements that both art and photo therapy provided helped them locate the missing pieces.

Q: Do you have any advice for someone who feels powerless but is reluctant to try therapy?

A: This is a hard concept for me to understand, but one that I am faced with daily. It still amazes me how many people are in need of help but are too embarrassed to ask for it. That age old taboo that therapy is for the weak continues to surface, and it doesn't seem to matter how much evidence there is to support it otherwise. I work hard everyday to do my part in changing how people view therapy, but I think the best advice I can give to someone who is feeling stuck or powerless is to remember that all feelings deserve the same attention. If you only respond positively to the good feelings, you are bound to feel stuck and powerless when it comes to the bad ones.

I have often found that those who are reluctant to try therapy are not reluctant because they don't believe it will help, but reluctant because they believe it will. Change is scary for a lot of people, even positive change. So why not give in to it and have a say in whether change will have a negative effect on your life or a positive one?

                        

 

 

 

 

How Phone Therapy Can Boost Your Mood - Chatelaine Magazine October 2012

Sarah Treleaven Thu Oct 11 2012 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I'll be honest: the idea of therapy has often been attractive to me, not least because I like the idea of going somewhere midday and lying on a couch. But today the types of therapy available are changing. According to a recent study, "phone therapy" can be as effective as face-to-face therapy. Talking is cathartic (as anyone with a best friend knows) but how does phone therapy work? I spoke with art and photo therapist Kelly Gauthier and psychotherapist Kimberly Moffit to get the lowdown. 

Q: What is phone therapy and when is it used?
KM: Phone therapy is a form of counselling where the therapist and client speak over the phone instead of meeting in person. It can be used for a few reasons: A person has unique or extenuating circumstances that prevent them from being able to attend in-person sessions on a weekly basis such as a physical injury, a rural location, a busy mom with kids, or a job that requires lots of traveling. Some therapists will only use phone therapy when they have met the client in-person before, in order to make a full and proper assessment before the therapy starts.

KG: Most of my clients feel phone sessions are much more relaxed than regular office visits because they are given the choice of environment in which they wish to conduct the session. Many of my clients choose home as their therapeutic space, while others feel more comfortable in their local coffee shop. Regardless of the environment, the option to choose leaves the client feeling more comfortable and in control, which is ideally the best way to begin a session. The only requirement that I have for my clients in choosing a space is that the space provides enough privacy for them to be able to discuss what needs to be discussed.

Q: Does phone therapy have any unique benefits?
KM: There can even be benefits for therapeutic process for certain clients: For example, people who are especially shy can reveal their thoughts and feelings without having somebody staring back at them. This can be a great start to resolving the issues!

Research shows, however, that some essence of the therapeutic experience can be lost over the phone. Things such as facial expressionsempathy, and warmth can be completely lost in translation. Also, part of the therapeutic experience is feedback: where the therapist shares their unique interpretations and perceptions of the person (how they come across, what signals they exhibit to the outside world, etc). Skype therapy has also taken flight in the therapeutic world which has some of the same perks as phone therapy but with the benefit that the client and therapist can see each other?s facial expressions.

Q: Who is the best candidate for phone therapy?
KG: Once a therapist is confident that a client is capable of conducting phone therapy, then and only then, will the phone sessions begin. I typically see clients at least once in office prior to phone therapy so that I can assess and determine whether phone therapy is in fact the best course of action or for that matter even suited to the client's issues and needs.

KM: In my opinion, nothing beats the feeling of sitting on a therapist's leather couch, sipping a cup of tea, and feeling completely removed from your normal, everyday world. If you've had this before, you will understand the differences between the two, and recognize when an in-person visit is needed.

 

 

 

 

 

What is PhotoTherapy

 

 

 

 

As I sit down to write this article my eye is drawn to a photograph resting on the corner of my desk.  I’ve looked at this photograph a hundred times before, but it’s uncertain as to why I pick it up this time and long to know more.  I look closely at it, admiring its detail and simplicity all in the same moment.  I begin to notice things about it that I hadn’t before and I find myself filled with questions.  Who are these people?  Do they know each other, or are they complete strangers?  Does it have to be one or the other, or can it be both?  These questions and more keep me compelled to look for answers.

A woman with sunglasses controls my thoughts as she stares at me with a welcoming grin.  “She’s happy” I think to myself.  Or, is she simply smiling for the sake of the photo being taken.  And if so, does that mean she isn’t happy?  Does it mean she doesn’t know the photographer, or she does?  So many questions pop into my head as I try to determine what is really happening within this photograph.  I get a sense that she knows the person taking the photograph simply because of her relaxed positioning.  Her slouched posture and one arm propped up on the bench she sits upon, leads me to believe that she is somewhat comfortable with the person behind the camera.  So the smile I questioned originally now becomes sincere.  However, when I look further, I notice that she is the only one wearing sunglasses. Is she hiding from something or someone, or is the sun the only reason that she keeps her eyes covered?  And further still, does this bear any relevance at all?  While I find this question interesting, my attention is distracted by the woman in the forefront who has her back to the camera.  I find myself wanting to know who she is.  This takes my thoughts away from the woman with the sunglasses and directly to this woman in the lawn chair. 

I notice that all the other people in the photograph appear to be looking at her.  I find myself asking “who is this woman that she commands such an audience?”  She appears very poised and positioned.  Her legs are stretched out in perfect unison and her hair looks quite styled given the setting they are in.  Why does she sit in a full length chair while the other three women are confined to a wooden bench?  Confined?  Why is that word coming to mind?  Is it something I sense, or is it something I feel?  This is a question that makes me go deeper and long to know who this woman is.  How is it that she commands my attention too?  I now notice that she not only has her back to the camera, but she also has her back to me as well.  This awareness urges me to move on.

My eye is now focused on the girl on the end of the bench with her arms crossed.  This typically is known to be a behaviour used by someone who is uncomfortable or closed off.  Is she uncomfortable and closed off?  The slight grimace on her face adds to the conclusions I find myself coming to.  Yes, this girl wishes she were somewhere else.  I look at this girl and I get a sense of who she is.  I get a feeling that I know her or know of her.  As though she is part of a bigger picture that I also belong to.  I feel as though it could be me on that bench.  That I could replace her in this photograph and be feeling as uncomfortable and removed as she is in this moment.  I’m now left wondering why that is?  Does this uncomfortableness stem from the woman on the lawn chair, or did it follow her to this situation?  This photograph has stirred something within me that I didn’t anticipate.  So I look even deeper. “So many layers to one photograph” I find myself saying out loud. I am immediately reminded of the many times I have peeled back an onion, layer by layer, and been in awe of its uniqueness and ability to hide within itself. Is that what this girl is doing?  Is she hiding behind her own layers?  I’d only be guessing at this point, but I have a feeling that there is more to her than what I see.  I find myself strangely okay with this conclusion.  As though not knowing is enough. 

I move on to the woman at the far end of the bench.  She appears to be much older than the rest, and her posture intrigues me.  She sits somewhat tall, yet with a slight drop in her shoulders.  Her hands are entwined and positioned carefully in her lap.  I find myself wondering whether she has placed them there not for comfort, but for security.  While she is physically a part of this group, her facial expression and body language leaves me feeling as though she may vacate this environment at any moment.  Is that true or is it my own thoughts coming into play again?  Since I can never know for sure, I defer to my own thoughts.  I move passed them long enough to take notice of her positioning on the bench.  For some reason I’m left feeling very uncomfortable.  The distance between her and the woman with the sunglasses is not a lot, but it is enough to make me question the nature of their relationship. This older woman sits somewhat removed from the group, even though contained within it, and I wonder if the same feelings aren’t present for her.  I notice that she appears to be looking straight ahead.  I can’t tell whether she is looking at the woman in the lawn chair or if she looking at the person taking the photograph, but I’m left wondering if her uncomfortableness lies with one of these two people.  I could draw my own conclusions, but somehow I know that wouldn’t be right.  So I sit with the uncomfortableness that I believe we share, and move on to the gentleman in the lawn chair beside her.

This man is positioned on the outside of the group.  Is he there as an outsider, or is he there to hold the rest of the group in?  Other than the woman sitting on the lawn chair, all of the other women are facing away from him.  Is this intentional or did it simply happen by chance?  Maybe he joined the conversation after it had begun, and was therefore careful not to intrude.  The slight smile on his face leaves me feeling at ease with him there, but not sure what his role is.  He appears relaxed in his chair; although he too has his hands entwined and positioned carefully in his lap much like the older woman that sits next to him.  This begs the question, are they possibly related?  They appear to have similar mannerisms, yet they look disconnected.  I now notice that he too seems to be looking at the woman in the lawn chair, which would indicate that she has gained his attention as well.  Again I find myself wanting to know just who this woman is.  I call out “turn around”, but she doesn’t answer and she doesn’t move.  I wonder if she would have turned around for me if I was actually there.  This makes me feel empathy for the photographer.  A whole other story in itself. 

So who is the photographer anyway?  Is there actually a person behind the camera?  Suffice to say that a camera can’t stand on its own unless supported by a tripod.  So perhaps the camera was set up on a tripod and the picture was taken on a timer?  If that was the case, it could mean that the photographer wasn’t actually taking the photograph, but posing for it.  It’s a possibility, but more than likely not the case, since the photograph doesn’t appear posed enough to have happened this way.  And this makes me wonder once again, why the woman with the sunglasses is smiling?  Maybe, just maybe my initial observation was true … she’s just happy!

In conclusion, looking at a photograph is never as simple as it sounds.  It will always stir up a question, an emotion, a feeling, or an observation.  That is what photo therapy is all about, the stirring of things inside, the peeling of layers, and the realization that our interpretation of any given situation might possibly be incorrect.  And if it is incorrect, how does that awareness change how we feel about the experience itself?

 

Kelly Gauthier

March 16, 2012

 

 

 

How PhotoTherapy Aids in Restoring Self-Esteem and Body Image Acceptance

Therapy begins : The original image of the client has been replaced with a similar photograph to respect the client's privacy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So tell me what you see when you look at this photograph.  

 

"When I look at this photograph I saw a girl that keeps herself hidden from the world.  She feels ashamed and embarrassed about the way she looks.  She's fat and ugly and has nothing to offer anyone.  Yes, I know this sounds dramatic, but I can't help how I feel.  You asked me to tell you how I'm feeling and, well, what's the point of that if I can't be honest about it.  I mean that's what I'm here for right?

Yes, that's right, that's what you are here for.  I'm glad that you can be honest about your feelings.  Let's continue then shall we.  What else comes up for you when you look at this photograph?

"Well, when I look at this photograph I know that I am hiding.  That I don't like what I see.  Not through the lens, but in myself.  I don't know where it stems from, I just know that it's there and it's with me everywhere I go.  Funny enough though, so is my camera.  Maybe that's why I take my camera with me everywhere I go.  If I'm distracted by what's going on around me, then I don't have to think about me.  I can focus on everyone else out there and what's going on in their lives.  Is that right"?

 It's only right if it feels right to you.  Does it feel right to you?

"Yes.  It feels very right.  I hate myself.  I hate everything about me.  Especially my body and the way I look.  Why couldn't I have been born thin and beautiful? It's not fair.  All those women out there that are thin and beautiful just take it for granted.  If I was thin and beautiful I wouldn't take it for granted.  I'd appreciate it more than them, that's for sure!

What I hear you saying is that you resent these women because they were born thin and beautiful and you weren't.  Is that correct? 

 

"Yes"

Tell me more about the resentment. 

"There's not much to tell.  I resent that I have had to diet my whole life and they haven't.  That they can eat whatever they want and never get fat.  It's not fair.  Why do I have to work so hard, and for what?  After all the diets and fads I've tried, I'm still fat and ugly.  It's just not fair"!

What would be fair?

"If I could eat whatever I wanted and still be thin.  That would be fair."

So eating whatever you want is fair?

"No, just being able to would be fair."

What else would be fair?

"That I could be thin and beautiful like them."

You want to be thin and beautiful like them?

"Yes.  Well, no, not exactly.  I don't want to be them.  I just want to be thin and beautiful like them.  I still want to be me."

So you don't want to be them,  just look like them? Is that what I hear you saying?

"No, I want to look like me,  just be thin like them."

Okay, now I understand.  But I'm still a bit confused.  Earlier you said you hated everything about yourself.  Has that changed?

"Well I don't want to give up who I am.  Aside from being fat, I kind of like who I am.  I think I was being a bit dramatic before.  I don't actually hate everything, just that I'm fat."

Okay, so using the photograph, can you point to the things that you do like about yourself?

"Well I love that I'm creative.  I"ve been complimented many times on my photographs.  People actually like them.  They say I have a real eye for photography.  So I wouldn't want to lose that."

What else do you see that you like?

"I like that I can see my reflection.  It makes me feel like I'm not alone.  Like everywhere I go I always have someone there with me."

And how does that feel?

"It feels good actually.  It's like I have a buddy that follows me wherever I go.  I like that feeling.

So would "this buddy" be someone you would enjoy being with?

"Yes, I would.  When I look at her, I like what I see."

And what is it you see?

"I see a girl who is creative, kind, thoughtful, and supportive.  And she likes nature just like me."

You can tell all this from the photograph?

"Yes, well, no.  Well yes, and no.  She does look like all those things to me when I look at her in the photograph, but I also know her.  It is a picture of me after all."

Yes, it is.  So what does that say about you then?

"I guess that I'm all those things too - creative, kind, thoughtful and supportive.  And that I like nature. Wow, I guess there are things that I actually like about myself.  Maybe even really like.  Maybe even love!?"

And how does that realization feel?

"A bit odd.  I'm a bit stunned actually."

Why stunned?

"Well because I came in here hating everything about myself, and now I'm sitting here feeling like I love some things about myself.  I'm not sure I've ever felt like that before.  I actually feel sorry for this girl now when I look at her."

Can you tell me more about that?

"Well I feel like she got a bad rap.  Like someone labeled her without ever getting to know who she really was.  That because she isn't thin, she wasn't worth knowing.  That makes me really sad."  (the client takes some time to cry quietly).

I can see this is very upsetting for you. 

"Yes.  I feel like I've been very hard on this girl, on me.  I've been so focused on being thin that I forgot to notice all the good things about myself.  And there are lots of good things.  Like writing, I'm really good at writing short stories.  I love it actually.  And I love old people.  I'm good with old people.  I think they are funny and kind of adorable.  They're old and wrinkled, yet they don't seem to care.  They just enjoy life.  I know that's not the case for all of them, but most of the ones that I have met are like this.  It's like they've reached a point in their lives where their weight or how they look doesn't matter anymore.  I envy that."

Earlier on you were envious of the thin and beautiful girls and now I hear you saying you're envious of the old and wrinkled seniors.  Is that correct?

"Ya (client laughs out loud), isn't that funny eh.  Who would of thought!  Me envious of the old people.  I'm shocked.  But, I think I like that much better than being envious of the thin people.  If you were to ask me which one I would rather be, I would say old and wrinkled."

That's a wonderful realization! I'm curious about that.  Can you tell me more?

"Because then I could just enjoy life.  Without worrying about my weight."

Now that you are aware of what you really want, has anything in your body shifted for you?

"Yes, how I look at myself.  Ya, sure I may need to drop a few pounds, but I don't need to be thin.  I think I just need to take better care of myself.  I think that's something else I saw when I was looking at the photograph."

That's interesting.  Can you tell me more.

"Well I saw this girl that I felt sad for.  Partly, because she was heavy, but partly because I felt that she thought she wasn't worthy?"

Worthy, that's an interesting choice of words.  What does worthy mean for you?

"Of being loved." (the client takes more time to cry quietly).

That's quite a realization. 

"Yes, it is isn't it."  I guess I never really felt worthy of being loved.  And I based all that on my weight even though I had all these other amazing attributes that make me so worthy of being loved.  How f***ed up is that?  God, I feel like I've wasted so much of my life worrying about being thin when I could have actually been enjoying it.  You know like living it!"

Now that you have come to this realization, is there anything else you see in this photograph?

"Um, well, I see a camera pointed at me.  It's like this girl has been looking at me the whole time and hoping that I would see what she sees.  So now she's smart too! (client laughs out loud) Wow, I think I really like her.  No, I think I really love her.

                                                                               

My intention for writing this article was to provide you with an understanding of what phototherapy is and how it is used, and to share with you the incredible power that lies beneath it.  My hope is that you were able to identify with this young woman on some level and see how the photograph played an important role in the awareness she experienced. 

Unfortunately, as was evident in this young woman's experience, we don't always see things the way they are, rather we see things the way we want them to be.  If we are to accept ourselves for the way we are we have to step out from behind the lens that we have been using to see through, and start focusing on what's really in front of us.  The photograph allows you to do this in a safe and self directed manner.

 

Article by:  Kelly Gauthier

March 18, 2012

The Use of PhotoTherapy With Bereavement and Loss

It was on my tenth birthday that my father bought me my first camera.  It came as a complete surprise and to be honest, not something I was exactly thrilled about it.  I had spent the past three months wishing for something I could ride rather than something I could carry.  Needless to say, it took me quite some time to warm up to the idea of taking photographs.  However I eventually did and once I started I never looked back.  The camera quickly became my friend and ally, going everywhere and anywhere that I went.  It became my tool for documenting my life and my experiences.  I loved that I could capture a passing moment on my camera and yet keep it with me forever.   I cherished the images that I took and the moments that they represented.  Before long I had completely forgotten that I had wished for a bike.

Thirty-eight years later things haven't changed much.  I still use my camera as a means of expression and a way of sharing the parts of myself that I keep hidden.  It continues to follow me wherever I go and depict the moments that I find myself wanting to know more about.  The images have somehow adopted a voice of their own.  Each time I look at them, they have something more to say or something different.  The conversation never gets boring.  I see so many new things that I didn't see at the time I took the photograph.  Things that make me realize that there is so much more to any given situation than what we walk away with at the time.  What an incredible journey they have taken me on. 

I find myself wanting to revisit my past experiences by way of these photographs time and time again, yet unlike so many other things today, access to this place is free.  I can sit and linger amongst my photographs and feel as though I have been transcended through time.  I can look at a picture from my childhood and be reminded of a period when innocence prevailed, or I can look at pictures from my life today and see how all the experiences in between have shaped the woman that I have become.  I am able to visit the places I have been and the places I'd like to go.  But more importantly, I can sit with the people that I have lost in my life and remember them without interruption. 

When I look at these photographs and the faces of those who have passed, I can cry if I need to cry or simply smile at having known them.   I am able hold onto the moments that we shared and the memories that we created.  I can take comfort in knowing that because of the photographs that remain, these people will forever be a part of my life.  No one can take this away from me.  They are mine to keep and to cherish, and to visit with whenever the need arises.  It warms my heart to know that even after a life ends, their memory lives on.  I have learned that I can never really lose someone entirely.

An Example of  a Client's Use of a Personal Photograph in Therapy

I remember this place well.  In fact, I can almost  smell it, that's how well I remember it.  So many summers spent splashing in the lake, picking wildflowers, and fishing for whatever fish would let me catch them.  It didn't matter what size they were, just that I had proof I had caught something on the end of my rod.  It's like time stood still when I was at the cottage.  Nothing mattered, nothing begged my attention, and nothing stood in front of what I had planned for my day.  It was a simple life and a simple friendship.

She was the one person that I felt most comfortable with.  I could always be myself and never feel like that wasn't enough.  She encouraged me to be adventurous and to find new things to explore.  To take the time to smell the flowers and the mud, and be patient while nature grew up and around me.  She was forever mindful and forever playful.  The age difference between us was great, but it never amounted to very much.  I often think it was this that allowed us to be as close as we were.  Ironic isn't it.

I can still see her looking out this window and watching me run down the laneway.  There was always a glimmer in her eye that grew as I got closer.  I couldn't wait to find out what she had in store for our night in front of the fireplace.  Would it be a hand of Crazy Eights, a round of Life, or a game of Drunken Sailor?  It never really mattered to me, just as long as we played for pennies, and we always did.  She never disappointed me.  I could always count on her bringing her little red change purse full of pennies with enough to share.  I find myself wishing I had taken more time to appreciate the person she was and the little things that made her unique. 

There were so many things that I loved about her.  I loved that she wore red socks with her green pants and navy sweater.  I loved that her hair was the same from one day to the next.  I loved that she wasn't afraid to try anything once even if it meant falling down.  But what I think I loved most of all was her ability to laugh at herself regardless of the cost; and without intention, she taught me the value of acceptance and individuality.  She gave me a sense of security in knowing that she would be the same tomorrow as she was today.  I loved this about her. 

I know that I will never forget her because each time I look at this photograph I am reminded of how much she meant to me.  I am reminded that this window was not only a place for her to look out from, but that it is also a place that I can look inside of; and, deep within my heart, when I look at  this photograph I still find the love of a simple friendship.   

 

In Loving Memory of my Grandmother

Article by:  Kelly Gauthier

March 21, 2012

416.712.5689

Huntsville, ON, Canada

©2010 Kelly Gauthier, Picture Yourself Well