Inner Child Therapy: The Photo Technique

August 8, 2019
Your current self is partly the product of your childhood experiences. We all have an inner child that still has some problems, however minor. Learning to heal those wounds is a key part of being confident in the present.

People say that there’s a child inside all of us. Every single adult in the world was obviously a child at some point. Like everyone else, they were born with specific genes, in a specific environment. That environment played an important role in their upbringing and the way they see the world. This is why inner child therapy can be so important.

Inner child therapy aims for patients to get in touch with their inner child to deal with problems that they still have today. Later on in this article, we’re going to talk about one great way to do that: the photo technique.

But we want to lay some groundwork first. Attachment is an intense, long-lasting, unique bond formed between two or more people, based on their interactions. The immediate goal of this is companionship in moments of danger because it gives a sense of safety, comfort, and protection. Most children develop healthy attachment patterns.

But not every child does. Basically, all children need a sense of safety, confidence, and, of course, all the necessary resources to survive: food, hygiene, and shelter, among other things. If a child doesn’t get those things, that could lead to problems that they carry with them into their adult life.

Those gaps become etched in the deepest part of a child, their unconscious mind. As adults, they end up developing problematic behavioral patterns and emotions without knowing why. This means knowing what your childhood was like, and what you lacked, is a vital part of getting to know yourself better.

A person looking at a framed photo in their hands.

The photo technique for inner child therapy

The photo technique is a tool in inner child therapy. The goal is for you to learn to give yourself the affection you need. It’s an entirely emotional tool that will awaken memories, emotions, and sensations that you may be repressing.

A therapist will use this technique to get a patient to talk about their inner child. The point of the technique is to make it easier for a patient to establish a symbolic form of communication with that part of themselves.

There are multiple ways to go about this technique. As a therapist, you have to use your creativity to make sure the technique adapts well to each patient. For example, some patients who have rational or anti-emotional tendencies might be harder to work with.

Once a patient has a childhood photo in their hands, the therapist will ask them to look at it for a couple of minutes without making any judgments. They should just try to connect with the child living inside them.

Making a connection with the child

Once the patient makes that connection, the therapist will establish sincere, emotional communication with the child. They may ask things such as “What does that child feel when their parents aren’t available to them?” or “What does that child need?

This process starts with questions meant to clarify the child’s feelings. In most cases, the answers will reflect the emotions the patient is feeling as an adult. Thus, you may hear answers such as: “The child feels alone and empty” or “They feel insecure and anxious for their mom to come home and hug them“.

Taking the connection further

After those questions have been asked, the patient should try to help their inner child. In other words, they should try to help themselves.

The therapist should then ask questions such as: “What are you going to give that child from now on?” or “Do you think it’s worth staying with a partner who puts you down all the time?” or “How can you help the child get out of that situation and feel safe?”

This will help the patient see that, even as an adult, that inner child is still looking for safety. As adults, they’re trying to fill those gaps, and even might have turned to things such as alcohol, unhealthy relationships, or dedicating themselves solely to their job.

The patient has to understand that safety isn’t an external thing, like when they were a child. That anxiety for safety actually has to do with the way they feel about themselves. Thus, if the patient can soothe their inner child and give them unconditional love, then they can start to heal together.

A child holding hands with their parent in a field.

What happens after you help your inner child?

The photo technique is like any other emotional or experiential psychological tool you might use in therapy. It’s a means to an end, but it can’t be the end goal itself.

For a patient to truly heal their inner child’s wounds, they have to give them the daily love, affection, and attention they’ve promisedOne great way to help with that is to have them write short notes on the back of the photo. For example, they could write I won’t let anyone treat you that way again. I’m going to take care of you“.

But it’s not enough to write those things down. They have to manifest in the form of behaviors and commitment. This is where behavioral techniques can be extremely helpful. Once a patient has helped their inner child, they can start to live more fully and freely.

They’ll stop craving safety from the outside world and find it in themselves. They’ll start to embrace themselves and love themselves unconditionally.

  • Cadarso, V. Abraza a tu niño interior. Editorial Palmyra