As a Clinical Psychologist and Coordinator of the Psychosocial Rehabilitation and Recovery Center at the Salem VA Medical Center, I have an opportunity to support Veterans in the process of recovery through the therapeutic benefits of photography. Through the process of picture taking, Veterans gain a greater understanding of various concepts of recovery and how they apply to their personal experiences. Each group topic features various themes related to mental illness and recovery, with weekly assignments. As an individual in recovery from mental health struggles, I complete assignments alongside the Veterans I serve, offering hope for recovery and enjoyment in the full experience of life! These are samples of photographs that illustrate my life experiences.

Statue in an open field with a figure bent backwards with open arms

With Open Arms: Opening oneself to all of life’s experiences supports freedom. This freedom comes through acceptance of what it means to be human. Rain is felt by all. Chosen responses to both external and internal worlds dictate destinies. With open arms, all conditions can be weathered and trueness remains as one moves through life.

A photo of two doors divided by a wall. The door on the left is in the shadows, the door on the right is bright white

Choice Not Chance: My journey in recovery has consisted of a series of ongoing choices. These choices have become more conscious over time, now supporting consistency with my highest values and priorities. Initially, I was blind to the change I could choose for myself. Rather, I spent days, weeks, months, and years entering the same door…although familiar and well lit, it offered a promise of comfort only to be followed by immense pain. I finally saw that door for what it was and saw my own power to make a different choice. Although hesitant to face the uncertainty, I could see the light that lay behind the door to my desired future. Choice, not chance, led me through that door and continues to be my path forward.   

photograph of dunes with seagulls in silhouette against a beautiful cloudy sunset

Healing and Renewal: As I saw flight after flight of pelicans along the coast of North Carolina, I found myself contemplating their significance. With a quick Google search, I discovered that pelicans can symbolize healing and renewal. I found myself reflecting on their consistent pattern in the sky and my own recovery and repeated pattern of putting one foot in front of the next. Through this process, I’ve come to have faith that things will work out just as they need to as long as I keep stepping. Just as the pelicans maintain their flight pattern, I will maintain my movement forward through action in support of my own healing and renewal.