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David Brown uses nature photography for therapy

The recovery journey for people with substance-use disorders is always unique. For some, it’s direct, with few surprises, and for others, there are more twists and turns.
Photographer David Brown at work
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But everyone soon discovers that in recovery, the path itself is a key part of the destination. And for David Brown, that path runs right through the lens of his camera.

David is a peer worker at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital, where he uses his own first-hand experience to connect with and relate to patients in a way that most health-care professionals simply can’t—because he’s been there. He understands all too well the challenges of addiction.

Sunbeams through trees by David Brown

When David isn’t working and helping others on their road to recovery, he’s using his camera to help with his own. Having immersed himself in hiking and nature photography, David has tapped into something powerful and profound: the therapeutic power of art and nature.

It’s easy to see why he’s thriving. 

“There’s a deep connection between myself and all living nature around me,” he explains. “The pictures became my journal in a way, and I always felt like nature was deliberately taking me to all the beauty.” 

“The therapeutic properties of connecting with nature have been heralded for centuries,” says Raman Samra, a counsellor at the Forensic Psychiatric Hospital. 

“Engaging in artistic expression has been shown to reduce stress and help increase self-esteem. It can also lead to a greater understanding of your inner self, improve your sense of meaning and purpose, and help you appreciate forces larger than yourself.”

Autumn trees by David Brown

“When I leave the city concrete and head out on a dirt trail, everything changes. A one-day hike can often express an entire recovery,” David says, describing how walking the trail teaches him patience, empathy, understanding and self-care. 

“When you’re half way up the mountain and all you want to do is quit, you don't! You keep going, and before long you’re standing on the top… even though you were certain it was hopeless… just like recovery.”

To support David on his journey and see his incredible nature photography, follow him on Instagram at davidgbrown146. All photos in this story are courtesy of David Brown.

The importance of the connection to nature isn’t just part of David's journey—it’s also informing the design of the new Centre for Mental Health and Addiction, which is being built on the Riverview lands in Coquitlam.

addiction; BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services; correctional health; Correctional Health Services; Forensic Psychiatric Hospital; Patient story; People in Profile; Substance use
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