Therapeutic photography exhibition is ‘icing on the cake’

A unique photography exhibition at Robert Gordon University (RGU) has been hailed a success by organisers who have developed a new technique to enhance confidence and self-esteem.

RGU lecturers Neil Gibson and Fiona Feilberg with some of the photographers who displayed their work at the exhibition.For the past year, services users across Aberdeen City and Aberdeenshire have participated in therapeutic photography, a new intervention designed to explore self-efficacy, relationships and empowerment in a group environment.

Social work lecturer Neil Gibson from RGU’s School of Applied Social Studies developed the program as part of his PhD with support from senior lecturer Fiona Feilberg.

He used the program with a number of service user groups in the north-east, and has delivered training on its delivery in Finland with RGU colleague Claire Marsden.

Mr Gibson selected of the most powerful images for display at the Sir Ian Wood Building on Thursday, December 3.

He said: “It was great to see the impact this exhibition had on the workshop participants. For them, the interest people had in their photographs was really rewarding and seeing their images on display made a real impact.

“This project was about enhancing self-esteem, self-efficacy and empowerment and these areas appeared to be addressed during the workshops, but the response the participants received throughout the evening was the icing on the cake for them and there was a real sense of achievement.”

The exhibition was an opportunity to display a selection from more than 1,000 photographs generated in the delivery of the therapeutic photography programme to service users from settings which included autism support, criminal justice, substance use recovery and mental health.

The event was attended by a group of participants from VSA Carers Support Group who had also all taken part in the programme earlier this year.

Mr Gibson said: “They came together as a group of carers, but through the project they were able to look beyond the role of ‘carer’ and identify many other aspects of their identity which were important to them.

“In doing this through photography they generated insightful conversations, offered each other support, and were able to creatively express issues that were meaningful to them.

“The photographs provided another layer of communication, and the exhibition allowed them to display their efforts to a wider public.”

Fiona Feilberg is the head of CPD within RGU’s School of Applied Social Studies which involves developing and providing a range of innovative bespoke training to meet the need of practitioners in social work, social care, health, education and community groups.

The next Therapeutic Photography course starts on Monday, February 29, 2016 and Friday, March 4. Sessions run between 10am and 4pm at RGU’s Faculty of Health and Social Care building. You do not need any photography skills to sign up for the class, just a working camera.

The CPD team are also developing a one day course which can be delivered in agencies to a staff team interested in using therapeutic photography with their service users. An online course will also follow in due course.

More information about the course, which is priced at £120, and an online booking form is available on RGU’s website.

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Ross AndersonCommunications Officer | Health and Sport