Lebanon VA Medical Center
Therapeutic photography program helps Veterans
Lebanon VA Medical Center and Lebanon Valley College developed The Seeing Lens a ten-week therapeutic photography group to help Veterans in recovery.
The innovative program fuses therapy and art together to assist Veterans in recovery and focuses on mindfulness. Each week focuses on a different aspect of recovery and ties it to photography. For example the recovery topic of clarity and attention is tied to the lecture on aperture and depth of field. Each Veteran is issued a camera and a textbook for duration of the program.
Veteran-participants had their art displayed in an exhibit at Lebanon Valley College and the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. The photograph exhibit will return to Lebanon VA Medical Center in the next several months.
Five Veterans who graduated from the program gathered at the college recently to talk about the positive impact both the program and seeing their work on display has had on their lives. All the Veterans commented on the positive environment for healing.
“Every Veteran can experience it in their own way, but something that would be in common between Veterans was the supportive nature of it, the non-judgmental atmosphere, ” said Robin Ann Pottoroff, a U.S. Army Veteran.
The Veterans also commented about the program’s efficacy.
“Initially I thought photo recovery was far-fetched,” said U.S. Army Veteran, Corrin Lee Mac. “But,” she continued, “it promotes mindfulness. Looking through the lens, this second in time you are here in the moment.”
Mike Robertson a U.S. Navy Veteran agreed. “It makes you slow down and look at the world in a different way. You are more thoughtful and creative. It calms a racing brain.”
Amy Cook, a recreation therapist assigned to Lebanon VAMC and a founder of the program agreed with the Veterans assessment. “Really seeing what the camera can do as a recovery tool….once the Veteran picked up the camera it was life changing,” she said.
The exhibit at Lebanon Valley College was surprise for the Veterans who did not know about the art exhibit ahead of time, however, it was not a surprise for their instructor, Dr. Grant Taylor, a Lebanon Valley College professor of art and art history, and fellow creator of the program.
“I knew they were going to take photos worth exhibiting,” he said. “For me it was important to get the full circle for them to realize their artistry and put it in a public setting.”
Veterans unanimously agreed the program is an excellent tool for recovery. They also suggest that other Veterans give the program a try.
U.S. Navy Veteran Bob Campbell said, “It’s a great program; it really is. I can’t say it was suitable for everybody, but in my experience it was very suitable for me.”
Patrick Dougherty another U.S. Navy Veteran agreed, “give it a shot, it worked for me. And I was the most negative person, a naysayer. So, if it helped me, it can pretty much help anyone.”
Currently enrolled Lebanon VA Medical Center patients interested in participating in the program may call Recreation Therapy for more information 717-272-6621, ext. 3557.
Central Pennsylvania Veterans interested in Lebanon VA Medical Center health care may call enrollment at 717-228-6000.
The program’s success has led to additional classes being scheduled at Lebanon VAMC this spring and it spreading to other VAs nationwide.