USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION
USING PHOTOGRAPHY TO HEAL
n photography therapy, participants take photos to explore emotions and experiences that they have trouble verbalizing as a step toward mental health recovery. “We’re not really treating people in the sense that they’re going to a specific therapeutic counseling group or individual counselor,” said Susan Quaglietti. “It’s a therapeutic intervention.” Quaglietti, who continues to research and analyze data from participants in the Veteran Photo Recovery Project (VPRP) to illustrate the benefits of this alternative recovery program, has written a paper, “Using Photography to Explore Recovery Themes with Veterans,” which is pending publication in the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health. In it, Quaglietti discusses specific photography therapeutic benefits, such as using photography as a distraction technique for those who deal with hypervigilance as well as fostering camaraderie as a way to bring participants out of self-imposed isolation. Her hope is that through her continued research and publication in academic media, other VA recovery programs will consider incorporating photography therapy. “People want evidence that this works,” said Quaglietti. “You need veterans to want to do it, but you also need proof that this is worthwhile.” This push for proof is what drives Quaglietti to continue her research. — Kristen A. Schmitt
RECOVERY Homerina Bond, top photo, looks at one of her many medications in the bathroom of her home. The Marine Corps veteran is featured in the film Visions of Warriors.
of times you can’t put words to that,” said Smith. “Conventional forms of therapy do help, but sometimes having a creative aspect to that therapy and literally having pictures of beautiful things that you’ve experienced is a visual reminder that not everything is doom and gloom.” Smith, who recently started working as a health technician for the Homeless Veterans Rehabilitation Program, is proof that photography therapy is an important piece of the recovery puzzle. “It’s amazing how far I’ve come in two years and much of it is because of people like Susan, who are willing to take a risk,” said Smith. “Recovery can be fun, and it can be creative.” Where does this leave Quaglietti and VPRP? Currently, the program is only offered at the Menlo Park VA center. “What I’ve realized is that I want other veterans to understand that there’s additional ways to process their mental health challenges and recovery,” said Quaglietti. “For those that may need a different avenue, this may be an option. Now, it’s not yet universally available throughout the VA system, but we’re trying. We’re working on it.”
WHERE TO WATCH Visions of Warriors premiered in March at the Vail Film Festival in Vail, Colo., and will be officially released on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. To watch the film, head to Amazon Video on Demand, Apple iTunes, Google Play or Vimeo on Demand or, if you’re interested in hosting a screening, visit visionsofwarriors.com/store to purchase a screening license package.