PhotoTherapy in the UK

Welcome to, the resource for British Phototherapy practice. Interest in PhotoTherapy Techniques and Phototherapy practice is growing fast in the UK, alongside the established UK therapeutic photography activity. The dramatic increase in photography degrees over the last decade has also led to more British post-graduate Art Therapy trainees having significant experience and investment in photographic media, a practice sometimes described as Photo-Art-Therapy.

The history of therapeutic photography and Phototherapy in the UK dates back to the work of psychiatrist Dr Hugh Diamond in the mid 19th century. In the 1980s photographers Jo Spence and Rosy Martin worked therapeutically with their photography and used the term phototherapy to describe their practice, initially unaware that the term was already in use in North America, where it specifically describes use of photographs by therapists with their clients. This site uses the North American nomenclature as these definitions are now widely understood throughout the world, similar to the distinction between the terms Art Therapy and the arts in health. The capitalisation of the word Phototherapy should help draw attention to this distinction. Both practices are equally valid uses of photographs therapeutically and the distinction on this website is merely for clarity.


  • Phototherapy, PhotoTherapy and PhotoTherapy Techniques: The use of photographs in a therapeutic encounter with a qualified art therapist/psychotherapist, family therapist, counsellor, psychotherapist, or clinical psychologist
  • Therapeutic Photography: The use of photographs in a therapeutic or personal growth context where participants are not necessarily qualified as above, perhaps in educational or social work settings or self-directed exploration
  • Photography in Art Therapy or photo-art-therapy: The use of photography as one of the media in Art Therapy and Art Psychotherapy
  • Phototherapy: Also the use of artificial light sources to treat ailments and disorders, for example Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), rheumatic diseases, back pain, or sports injuries and not the subject of this site
  • The term phototherapist is avoided here because these techniques are supplementary to a counsellor or therapist's core qualification and skills base, not a separate discipline. Phototherapy is a unique extra dimension to the therapeutic modalities for which therapists are already trained and qualified and represents a valuable contribution to already therapeutic encounters. The techniques may probably be applied to systemic, psychodynamic, psychoanalytic, cognitive, object relations, integrative or any other psychotherapeutic modality if the practitioner and client so wish. is a resource of interest to Northern European, especially UK based, practitioners of PhotoTherapy techniques in their counselling and psychotherapy practices, and to practitioners of therapeutic photography. It is also a growing resource for students of Art Therapy & Art Psychotherapy, photography, psychological aesthetics, and the psychological dimensions of fine art photography and of photographic media and culture. avoids duplication with the PhotoTherapy-Center website, which is the well established and comprehensive resource for PhotoTherapy throughout the world. This site concentrates on material and information not already covered by the PhotoTherapy Centre.

PhotoTherapy may be combined with the techniques of many psychotherapeutic modalities, Art Psychotherapy, Family Therapy, cognitive-behavioural therapy, psychodynamic psychotherapy, person-centred counselling, motivational interviewing etc. PhotoTherapy interventions may use the client's own family album, personal snapshots or, increasingly, the album stored in clients' mobile phones. PhotoTherapy may also involve the selection or creation of photographs specifically for the PhotoTherapy intervention.

Mark WheelerThe therapist engages in conversations with the client that might be stimulated by the photographs (or lack of them) as memories, emotions, ideas and questions are raised by the images. Indeed, PhotoTherapy techniques and therapeutic photography offer precious and powerful opportunities that may be otherwise unavailable to many people at that moment.

The client, or therapist might also engage in direct conversations with the photographs, inviting circularity familiar to systemic and narrative practitioners, but with a directness unique in the presence of photographs. These stimulated conversations may be worked with by whatever therapeutic techniques fit the therapists training. The life of the photographic images in the therapeutic space engenders similar additional therapeutic dimensions to those of the art works in Art Psychotherapy, but with the additional psychological aesthetics unique to photographs.

These unique psychological aesthetics of photographs enable engagement often more quickly and more effectively than merely verbal exchanges. PhotoTherapy techniques are supra-verbal in that they extend beyond words. Photographs display a reality-trap, nurtured since the invention of photography, that enables clients and therapists using PhotoTherapy techniques, to make direct connections with the content of photographs as well as the photographic object (usually a print) itself.

PhotoTherapy techniques can prove useful and effective working with a wide range of issues, incorporated into existing counselling or treatment plans, particulalrly with clients for whom periods of life have been disrupted by dislocation or trauma. Phototherapy is also a contemporary adjunct to interventions with anxiety disorders or post-traumatic symptoms. Images made on mobile phones can augment scaling and desensitising excercises.

As this site evolves, links pages will be added. This site is self-funded by those therapists listed on the directory of practitioners page. To be listed on that page please contact the site-builder; practitioners .listed in the directory will have provided a statement of bona-fides including their professional registration and declare that they are appropriately qualified to practice and hold suitable insurance.

Please revisit this site regularly as it will be updated often, especially with news of events of interest. Anyone in the UK with an interest in undertaking training in PhotoTherapy techniques, the psychological aesthetics of photography or masterclasses should contact this site by email in the first instance.

© Copyright 2008 Mark Wheeler -