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Photography helps clients explore recovery through imagery

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BC Mental Health & Substance Use Services is sharing stories to spread awareness on International Overdose Awareness Day. Read this story and others about the innovative programs in place to support clients in their treatment and recovery.

The Burnaby Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (BCMHA) photography group was started by a recreation therapy intern student in spring of 2016 and has since been a great success. Each week during the spring and summer months, clients at BCMHA have the opportunity to express themselves through photography and learn basic camera skills. Thanks to generous used cameras donations from the community and staff at BCMHA, we have been able to improve our camera to participant ratio.

What does photography offer to clients at BCMHA? Research has proven that photography is a meaningful activity that gives adults in recovery for mental health and substance concerns the opportunity to improve self-expression, self-esteem, coping skills and provides hope for the recovery process (Gillam, 2013; Stickley & Hui, 2012). Photography is a form of creative expression that doesn’t require individuals to make or draw something; therefor it is less intimidating for participants than other forms of creativity (Glover-Graf & Miller, 2006; Stevens & Spears, 2009).

During the photography group, clients learn how to use a digital camera, as well as learn specific photography skills. Some of the lesson topics include macro photography, focus and sharpness, angles and perspectives, rule of thirds and black and white photography. Clients are also offered the opportunity to request specific skills they would like to learn and make recommendations for future sessions.

To make the learning process more engaging, the group usually includes some form of challenge or game. For example, photo scavenger hunts, photo bingo and taking photos of objects beginning with each letter of the alphabet. Depending on the size of the group, clients usually work in pairs or small groups. This encourages social interaction, collaboration and teamwork.

Clients are able to showcase their photography skills by posting developed pictures on a feature wall in the Recreation Therapy room. They also have the opportunity to submit photographs to our onsite monthly magazine, called “the Zine.” We offer the opportunity for clients to request their favorite pictures to be developed so they can share their new talents with their support networks.

Our hope is to provide clients with another tool they can use to enhance their quality of life on their road to recovery.
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