Phototherapy as an Intervention in Identity Development with Adolescents

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name



Graduate School of Professional Psychology

First Advisor

Judith E. Fox

First Committee Member

Kimberly Gorgens

Second Committee Member

Diane Guerra


Phototherapy, Sexual orientation, Ethnic, Interventions, Identity

Publication Statement

Copyright is held by the author. Permanently suppressed.


Identity development in adolescence is a period of exploration and experimentation. During this stage of development, adolescents are defining their identity in terms of ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender. It can be a confusing time and the lack of resources and support influence the ability of the adolescent to form a cohesive identity. This struggle to define an identity may lead to symptoms of depression and difficulties with interpersonal relationships. Identity interventions are limited and primarily involve the adolescent talking to a therapist and attempting to verbalize and define subjective distress. The use of a phototherapy intervention focuses on using an adolescent's subjective experiences. Phototherapy provides a way for the therapist and client to explore the photographs the client takes and opens different avenues in the areas of non-verbal and visual communication. Photographs can also promote increased communication about an adolescent's ethnic, sexual or gender identity. Interpretations made by the adolescent about images in the photographs will get in touch with emotional experiences that may be missed in traditional "talk therapy." This paper reviews literature on identity development, specifically in the areas of ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. Phototherapy, the use of photography to enhance traditional psychotherapy, is described and a rationale is provided for the utilization of phototherapy in adolescent identity development. Vignettes are provided illustrating how phototherapy can be used when working with adolescents who are questioning and exploring ethnic identity, sexual orientation, and gender identity.


32 pages

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