Therapeutic Photography: How Visual Art Can Be Healing

My relationship with photography started when I was about 15 years old. I took a photography class in high school (and I was terrible at it), but it helped me to express myself in ways that I hadn’t been able to before. It allowed me to explore my own artistic expression, self-identity and self-confidence, and provided me with an outlet for stress reduction. It also provided me with a sense of community and encouraged me to challenge myself in healthy ways. For me, photography and everything that came with it was a form of healing and self-care.

Therapeutic Photography

The Therapeutic Nature of Photography

Therapeutic Photography
Therapeutic Photography

Photography can be a way of expressing your personal journey. This may be more of a solo journey (like mine) or you may want to engage in co-occurring therapy to work through some of the things that come up during this process. This is the difference between “therapeutic photography” and “phototherapy”. Therapeutic photography is practicing a set of techniques that you use on your own outside of a professional setting, which can enhance the work you do in therapy and phototherapy includes techniques put into place by a trained mental health professional to help guide you on your healing journey. 


Photography has been found to be an emotionally powerful means of expressing human experiences and can be especially effective for working through trauma. Artistic expression of complicated emotions and painful memories can be healing. Furthermore, the simple nature of taking a photo lends itself to the process of containment – a skill learned in psychotherapy. The methodological nature of taking a photo is a powerful form of emotional containment and allows an individual to experience an emotion in a measured fashion without being consumed (or re-traumatized).

Therapeutic Photography

Benefits of Therapeutic Photography for Your Mental Health


DeCoster, A. V., & Dickerson, J. (2013). The therapeutic use of photography in clinical social work: Evidence-based best practices. Social Work in Mental Health, 12(1), 1-19. doi: 10.1080/15332985.2013.812543

Killick, J. (2019). Therapeutic photography and healing childhood trauma (considerations). Retrieved from https://findingmypsych.com/therapeutic-photography-and-healing-childhood-trauma-considerations/

Stuckey, L. H., & Nobel, J. (2010). The connection between art, healing, and public health: A review of current literature. American Journal of Public Health, 100(2), 254-263. doi:10.2105/AJPH. 2008.156497

The One Project Education Inc. (n.d.). Therapeutic photography. Retrieved from https://theoneproject.co/therapeutic-photography/

Picture of Jessica Mick

Jessica Mick

Counsellor at HeadWay Clinic
(705) 670-2000