Presenting the Self: An Inquiry into the Function of Photographic Self-Portraits with Men in Addictions Groups

by Jeremy Addington

A group of men with addictions participated in an intensive, psycho-educational, outpatient program. Ultimately, they sought change, but to achieve this, they first needed self-awareness and self-understanding. The program incorporated art therapy interventions and phototherapy exercises to assist the men in reaching these goals. The facilitator introduced three phototherapy exercises which required making self-portraits. They then used their self-portrait photos in artworks. My focus was to determine, "How did the phototherapy exercises function and what was their value with respect to the development of self-awareness?"

This was a qualitative study applying Max Van Manen's hermeneutic phenomenological method to the data, mainly, the photo collages, but the research also looked at self-awareness, self-presentation, and aspects of photography in the social and psychological sense in order to broaden and deepen the exploration. The results of the investigation showed enthusiastic and serious involvement with the exercises, creative solutions in the participants' poses and artworks, and a newfound awareness of themselves in social situations. Although the men would have benefited from more time to become comfortable with the process of making their self-portraits and to reflect on and debrief the results, the overwhelming indications were that these interventions in an art therapeutic context were profoundly helpful to the development of self-awareness.