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New book shows how portrait therapy strengthens patients’ identities

Author: Leila Hawkins
07 September 2017
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A new book demonstrates how portrait therapy can help patients with life-limiting conditions feel empowered about their identity.

Art therapist Dr Susan Carr’s book Portrait Therapy: Resolving Self-identity Disruption in Clients with Life-threatening and Chronic Illnesses, will be published on September 21.

Susan developed portrait therapy by reversing the traditional methods of art therapy, painting portraits of the patients herself while they talk her through their stories and direct how they want to appear.

She explains how patients who experience the diagnosis and treatment of life-limiting conditions find it disruptive to their self-identity:

“Patients often talk about this disruption by saying “I do not know who I am anymore” or “I am not the person I used to be before I was ill”.  Self-identity disruption has been described as “traveling without a compass”, and often results in feelings of disorientation, distress, anxiety and depression.”

Susan says the results have shown an increase in patients’ creative capacity to adapt to illness and a strengthening of their sense of self-identity. 

“One patient said of the therapy: “I felt worthless and useless when we first started this project. But by having to relive my life, by telling the story [through the portraits] I have realised that I have actually become stronger through the illness, and that I am not useless, I have got a purpose in life and I am fulfilling it.””

Her exhibition Paint Me This Way! is a collection of these portraits on at Swindon Museum and Art Gallery until the end of this week.

For more information and to pre-order the book visit Portrait Therapy

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