Strengthening Brain Injury Support Groups Through Photovoice

By Stephanie Lloyd 

People find their voices in many different ways – photovoice is a way to align what I’m thinking through pictures. –BIA-MA Support Group Leader & Photovoice Training Participant  

PhotovoiceWorldwide staff recently facilitated a training with Support Group Leaders from the Brain Injury Association of Massachusetts (BIA-MA), to prepare them to facilitate photovoice with their group members. Participants gained hands-on experience with the method as they took photos related to a prompt, discussed them with their colleagues, developed captions, and identified common themes. All the photos shared in this blog were taken by BIA-MA support group leaders for this training.  

As we have said before, all our trainings are participatory in nature, and thus are slightly different each time based on participants’ needs and interests. This particular group asked questions and thought deeply about how to adapt the photovoice method for their support group members.  

Here are a few different topics and reflections that emerged during the training sessions:  

  • Overall, taking photos and talking about them increases opportunities to hear about what people have to say. And as Caroline Wang originally envisioned, a successful photovoice project can help participants feel that they have been heard. Support group leaders noted that individuals living with brain injury may use photovoice to help family members understand their experience and to be seen by the community in a different way.  
  • Although there are plenty of options for facilitating photovoice remotely, this group expressed preference for the rich experience of facilitating photovoice in-person. Yet facilitating photovoice remotely may grow in importance if the pandemic continues to prevent in-person meetings for the foreseeable future. PhotovoiceWorldwide will be working with BIA-MA staff to develop written materials, screen shots, and videos on Zoom features and photo sharing that can support use of the technology with support groups online.  Experience during the professional development sessions showed that with tailored training and supports, BIA-MA support group leaders can help their diverse participants fully share their photos and join in discussions online. (For information about facilitating photovoice remotely see our related blog post and recorded webinar.) 
A wooden table

Description automatically generated
Photo taken by Laura M. 
  • During discussions, a leader offered that photovoice might naturally attract support group members who are interested in photography. She noted that it is important to emphasize photo content over beauty, and that most important is for participants to take photos that express something they want to say. Leaders suggested emphasizing with your group that photovoice is not about being a professional photographer or creating a “display worthy” image, but about sharing ideas and communicating something of significance.  They noted that when participants use film cameras, they don’t have a chance to erase or delete their images, and sometimes a “bad” photo makes for good discussion. At the same time, however, a digital camera can make it easier for people to “get the picture that they want.”  
A close up of a cage

Description automatically generated
Photo taken by Cynthia C. 

At the end of our time together, BIA-MA support group leaders expressed their excitement about facilitating photovoice with their group members and the potential for the method to have value for their groups. One leader commented: “I’m truly looking forward to seeing the creativity of all of the participants. It’s a great opportunity to get to know people on another, more personal level.” 

We truly appreciate this collaboration with BIA-MA, and will continue to support their work to strengthen healing and advocacy for people living with brain injury in Massachusetts. To find out more about their work, please visit: http://www.biama.org/.   

If your organization or team might be able to use photovoice in their work, please reach out so we can design a specialized training to meet your needs!