Kelly Gauthier has found a way to combine her two passions into one business.
Upon graduating from Ryerson University with a B.A. in photography, Kelly initially took the traditional route of shooting portraits and weddings but felt the need to do more. This led to her opening Camp Camera, a photography camp for kids.
“What I noticed was that a lot of the children I was teaching were exhibiting emotional or behavioural concerns,” says Kelly. “I started gearing the photographic activities toward their concerns and felt I wanted to do this in a more professional manner.”
Kelly then moved to Vancouver where she obtained her master’s-level diploma in art therapy.
“I wanted to create a practice that would combine both the loves I have—art and photography—and provide a well-rounded avenue for me to help other people,” she says.
Kelly started Picture Yourself Well and ran it out of Toronto for 10 years before moving to Muskoka.
“If you think about psychotherapy, the conversation or the talk is the actual therapy, whereas with art therapy the process of making art is the therapeutic aspect and the conversations come from there,” she says. “When I work with a client who has been reluctant to talk about how they’re feeling and yet can pick up a pastel, a paintbrush or a piece of clay and express themselves, that’s when I know art therapy works .”
Photo therapy was a natural extension of Kelly’s love for photography.
“The camera was a huge part of my growing up, it was my form of expression. In my practice I use projected imagery and photographs so clients can look at a visual— especially clients that have experienced trauma, abuse, PTSD—and then step back into the experience without having to relive it. They can talk to a representation of their abuser or the situation that has caused the trauma. They can either draw right on top of the image or they can mentally recreate the outcome from it. That’s the part that’s often missing for people when it comes to healing—the opportunity to talk to the abuser or change the outcome.”
Art therapy is for anyone who thinks they can benefit from it.
Individuals choose the best therapy for themselves. Art therapy is not just for people that feel they have an issue that needs resolving. It’s also for people that feel they just need an outlet. Some people exercise, there are lots of things people do. With the creative process, there are so many mediums to choose from to just let go of what you’re sitting with. There’s such a stigma around therapy that I want people to know it’s not just for people with a mental health concern. It can be for people who just need to release some tension.”
Kelly runs group workshops, wellness drop-ins, and individual sessions.
“They’re not specifically geared to one individual concern, they’re an opportunity to give people an outlet to express themselves. Sometimes that’s all you need,” she says. “Even individuals that have been reluctant to try art therapy or are intimated by the art process because they don’t see themselves as artistically inclined, the outcome is amazing. It’s not about what the art looks like so once they get past that and see what’s come out in their artwork, they’re amazed by what they were able to create and how it spoke for them.”
One of the benefits of art therapy is that people are free to express themselves however they would like.
“Art is a really innate process. Sadly when we attend school, we’re asked to put art in a form that someone else wants. So we often lose the desire to create because someone has told us that that’s not what it should look like,” says Kelly. “Art therapy brings you back to a point where you can just create and it eliminates that feeling of expectation. It’s a much more comfortable form of therapy for people to express themselves.”
Kelly sees the benefits of simply working with photographs as well.
“Using photographs and tangible visuals can make clients more aware of what the actual concern is and where it’s coming from,” she says. “Working with family photographs is a great start and asking clients to get out there and take photographs and then ask themselves, ‘What was it about that that inspired me to take a picture? What part of me is in that?'”
For more information on Kelly’s services visit pictureyourselfwell.com, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1-416-712-5689.
Update: Kelly is now also offering these additional services
Online Art and Photo Therapy for children, youth, adults and seniors: “With a specialization in Photo Therapy, we will use photographs (either those you’ve taken, I’ve taken, or available images) as the starting point for addressing your concerns and as the tool for identifying where they stem from. Following this, we will use art to create response pieces from which we can further support and explore your concerns,” says Kelly. “Photo Therapy is a visual technique that is extremely effective and enjoyable. When you enter into the therapeutic process with interest and excitement, you also enter into the therapeutic process with more motivation to address and conquer your concerns.”
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