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A Picture Can Say 1,000 Words

April 27, 2016 Print

Susan Camuti
Susan Camuti holds her image, “Insistent rumble pulling me forward—too fast”

After taking dozens of photos of trains at commuter rail stations, Susan Camuti finally captured the image she was seeking. Using a specialized app on her smartphone, she transformed the image of an approaching train to depict what her mania feels like.

“When I feel manic, it feels like a train is running through my chest—like a rumbling, fast, energizing, but disturbing feeling,” said Camuti, 59, who has bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder and attends McLean’s bipolar disorder outpatient group. “I was able to make the train look like it was going at a high speed and actually vibrating and rumbling.”

Camuti is among a growing number of patients at McLean using MyMoments Expressive Digital Imagery (EDI) as a tool for self-expression during therapy and recovery. “The images that participants are creating for their personal recovery plans become a visual map for developing personal wellness and emotional stability,” said Nancy A. Huxley, PhD, who initially piloted MyMoments with its founder Steven Koppel in 2014. “It complements talk therapy by allowing the participants to express their thoughts, feelings, and behaviors in ways that words alone cannot.”

Joseph Stoklosa, MD, medical director of McLean’s Schizophrenia and Bipolar Disorder Inpatient Program, said that MyMoments “allows patients to express the depth of their feelings. It helps them focus on what’s important to them and helps us better understand them.”

According to Camuti, MyMoments helps her express feelings she has had for most of her life. For the first time, she can depict them in a way that her family and friends can comprehend. “It’s freeing,” she said. “It’s helping my son understand what I experience. He can almost feel the intensity from the train coming off the photograph.”

“These images help McLean patients with recovery and resilience without the need for any particular artistic skills or training, and through an easy-to-learn and highly accessible mobile app,” explained Koppel, whose EDI Institute announced a formal partnership with McLean in late 2015.