Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences:
Sargent College

Boston University College of Health & Rehabilitation Sciences: Sargent College

Center Initiatives: Photovoice

What is Photovoice?

Photovoice was developed in the 1990’s by Professor Caroline Wang at the University of Michigan School of Public Health and Mary Ann Burris from the Ford Foundation. Photovoice is a process that has been used for research, education, social change, and the development of more healthful public policies. Photovoice empowers people who may be marginalized in society and have little access to policy makers by giving them cameras and asking them to capture in pictures and words the experiences that matter to them. Photovoice gives a voice to people at the grassroots level to represent and define issues of concern, areas of strength, and targets for change. More information about the development of Photovoice can be found here and its current use (https://photovoice.org/). Photovoice has evolved into a powerful and inclusive approach to research and has grown in popularity in the fields of public health, education and social sciences. Researchers have used Photovoice methodology to address a wide variety of issues related to rebuilding communities, promoting health, living with disabilities and challenging medical conditions, preventing and treating HIV, among others. While the Photovoice process highlights the perspectives of people who have firsthand experience in dealing with various challenges, it also has a tremendous potential to empower participants to pursue social change and personal growth.

How has Photovoice been used in the mental health field?

Photovoice has been increasingly used in the mental health field to promote the recovery of people living with mental health challenges. Photovoice-based studies have broadly focused on a better understanding the subjective experience of living with mental health conditions and on recovery. Being involved in Photovoice means that participants can identify and describe the stigma they may experience as a result of their mental health condition using their own words and in ways that are meaningful to them. They can explore important dimensions of recovery such as spirituality, life achievements and receiving and providing support; as well as strategies and supports for coping. An interesting article appears here.

Center Initiatives using Photovoice

In the early 2000, the Boston University Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation pioneered the use of Photovoice methodology as a component of interventions to promote various aspects of recovery. Initially, we used the Photovoice process in an innovative peer-led program empowering individuals to combat prejudice and discrimination they may have experienced as a result of their mental health condition. Given the promise of this program in engaging and empowering participants, we have developed a growing portfolio of Photovoice-based interventions.

Below is a list of our programs that harness the power of Photovoice with links to their manuals:

The Anti-Stigma Photovoice (ASP) is a 10-week peer-led group program enhancing proactive coping with prejudice and discrimination. Manuals that can guide the use of this program can be found at: https://cpr.bu.edu/store/combating-prejudice-and-discrimination-through-photovoice-empowerment/

The Vocational Empowerment Photovoice (VEP) is a 6-month peer-led program combining group and individual sessions designed to empower individuals to pursue vocational services and employment. Manuals that can guide the use of this program can be found at: https://cpr.bu.edu/store/vocational-empowerment-photovoice/

The Bridging Community Gaps Photovoice (BCGP) is a 6-month peer-led program combining group and individual sessions targeting the increase of personally meaningful community participation. You can contact Dr. Zlatka Russinova at zlatka@bu.edu for a current copy of the BCGP Manual.

Recovey4US (R4US) is a social media program which includes a mobile application and password-protected website platforms. More information about the R4US app and website can be accessed at http://r4us.bu.edu.

We have been implementing several research studies to evaluate the effectiveness of these Photovoice-based interventions. More details about completed and ongoing studies are provided under Research. We continue to explore new opportunities and partnerships to expand our studies of Photovoice.

Photovoice: Beyond the Shadows of Stigma