Life Images of Today and Tomorrow

A new program using photography in the healing process

Image of young girl and woman touching hands
"It's wise to document life's journey for family and friends -- the good and the not so good. Memories are great, but photos are constant reminders of loved ones."
-- a Cancer Center patient who participated in the new program

Photographs capture moments in meaningful ways. Thanks to a new Complementary Therapies Program, patients and their family members can have portraits taken at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center.

The program, Life Images of Today and Tomorrow, includes portrait sessions, information on integrating photographs into expressive creations and workshops for those interested in creating art and sharing emotions related to their personal journey.

"Photographs create openings for conversation and communication about oneself with others. Viewing and talking about the images provide opportunities for growth, acceptance and healing," says art therapist Margaret Nowak.

Goals for the program include helping patients capture and define moments in their life stories, as well as finding the therapeutic value of engaging in creative expression during or after cancer care. Family members, including children, can also participate. As a Cancer Center Patient and Family Support Services initiative, the program is enhanced by the expertise and contributions of many disciplines working to provide the ideal patient care experience.

Each patient who is photographed receives a flash drive containing selected images, suggestions for using the photographs in creative ways and art therapy resources. For those interested, workshops for making art with the images are available, as are opportunities to receive individual counseling with an art therapist.

Life Images of Today and Tomorrow is funded through a grant from FRIENDS of the University of Michigan Health System. The program is offered through a partnership between the Cancer Center Patient and Family Support Services and Washtenaw Community College Photography programs.

WCC faculty members Jennifer Baker and Don Werthmann oversee training of photography students, both in the art of taking and editing photographs and demonstrating sensitivity in interactions with patients and their families. Over time, community photographers will also participate in the program.

More information about Life Images of Today and Tomorrow -- and the Complementary Therapies Program

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Thrive Issue: 
Spring, 2014