Re: Is Phototherapy a predominantly female profession?
Posted by Judy Weiser, Group Administrat on 10/9/2010, 6:11 pm, in reply to "Is Phototherapy a predominantly female profession?"
Hi Kirstin, |
Thank you for your enquiry -- a most interesting one, indeed!
I have been around since the "early days" of the PhotoTherapy movement (mid-1970's) -- having been the first person in the professional world to use that word in print (1975). I have run the world's informational resource base for the field for over 25 years now, and so I think I might be a good person to give you feedback about this, since I'm very familiar with the development and current practices in the field...
First of all, you mention:
"The first cases of therapeutic photography was used by Hugh Diamond who photographed mainly women"
I must first explain that to be doing either PhotoTherapy or Therapeutic Photography, there has to be first the INTENTION to be doing practices which will produce beneficial change in those doing the work.
Even today, if you read the simple definitions on the Entry Page of the PhotoTherapy Website, you will see that these techniques are from an "intentional framework" of using photographic-related activities to produce beneficial change... They are not about just taking pictures and then serendipitously finding healing results (which is what Diamond did)...
The early photographic-based research done by Psychiatrist Hugh Diamond was never conceived of being done for any reason of benefit to his patients; instead he was simply documenting them so he could study them to see if he could learn to predict parallels between different looks and different mental problems. He did this primarily with women, because women made up the vast majority of such patients... and because a female mental institution was the kind of hospital he was working at...
Had he been paid to work with me, it is likely he would have studied them instead... And he had NO plan for any benefit to using photos this way -- and in fact was very surprised
In those days "being photographed" was a prestige status -- you had to be rich and/or important to deserve being photographed.
Also in those days "madness" was not understood and some people believed you could identify/predict this by studying faces, shapes of skulls, bumps, etc ("phrenology"). Diamond thought that photographing these "mad women" would produce evidence of such things and so he began documenting them in photographs.
Then he discovered that *being photographed* resulted in the improvement of several women's feelings about themselves.
BUT, this was not "PhotoTherapy" as we know it now -- instead it was more "Photographic Visual Research Methodology" -- especially as there was no therapeutic intention involved...
If you have evidence that he then went on to use (as you write): "photography as a form of therapy for his patients who were mostly women", then please get me those sources so that I can correct the History that I maintain as one of my responsibilities for the Archives of this field!
NOW, to your question about gender.
Interestingly, in the early days, most of the theorists and practitioners were men -- there did not seem to be any reason for this; they just were!
The early major pioneers (whose early articles you can find on my website and in the key books on the field), were almost all men!!: Douglas Stewart, David Krauss, Joel Walker, Alan Entin, Jerry Fryrear, Arnold Gassan, Pat Hogan-Turner (female), Robert Wolf, Brian Zakem, and me (female).
Even today, there are men who are also very active in this field; for example (in your own Country), Mark Wheeler, who has already responded above. See the paragraph about him on the "Who is Doing What, Where" page -- and realize he would be an excellent resource for you in your studies!!
You can find mention of these in a number of places on my website: the History Page, the Recommended Readings Page, and especially on the "Who is Doing What, Where" page...
HOWEVER, you are correct in what you are "sensing" about current practitioners -- mainly female as far as I can see...
But that reason may or may not have anything to do with the nature of the therapy involved -- and instead could represent any number of confounding variables, for example: the population of therapists (other than psychiatrists -- and possibly psychologists) is predominantly female IN GENERAL. If, for example, you survey the gender of any of the lower-paid "helping professions" (i.e., not the two categories above), such as Social Work, Psychiatric Nursing, Art Therapy, Counselling, and similar, you will find mostly women.
Is this about gender, or about who is willing to do this kind of hard work for low pay?
Or is it something about the "nature" of women re: being more "caring" and "care-taking" than men have, until recently, been programmed to be??
I am not even sure this previous statement is true, but if it is, it is relevant also.
SO: Yes, current PhotoTherapy practice is primarily female -- and this could be for any of the above reasons and/or the emphasis society places on the importance of a woman's physical image and its presentation, versus what men need to worry about every day...
You have asked about gender both for therapist and for client/patient -- those worlds (and reasons) are very different, at all times...
ALSO, as for its effectiveness, there have been very few "evidence-based" research surveys of results -- but from my own experience, it seems that I also get more female clients than male --
and that is another huge topic about which I don't have time to type...
The effect of therapy has a lot of things involved: the skill of the therapist, how much the client really does WANT to change, what do you mean by "effective"?, and so forth.
Lastly, re: your comment "As there seems to be a lot of focus in the early stages of its history on women with mental health issues" -- that is the history of the entire world of therapy itself -- not just PhotoTherapy practices -- until recently there was a "status" difference re: men not being as willing as women to seek out therapy -- and in fact I personally think this is still happening....
Hope this helps -- however please know that I'm extremely busy and so if you want more discussion or actual Consultation, you'll need to contact me directly for voice discussion as I don't have much free time to type long messages (Canada: 604-689-9709).
I'm happy to hear of your interest and I hope your studies continue to be interesting!
Judy Weiser, R.Psych., A.T.R.,
Director of the PhotoTherapy Centre in Vancouver Canada