Portrait therapy reverses the traditional roles in art therapy, utilising Edith Kramer’s (1971) concept of the art therapist’s ‘third hand’ to collaboratively design and paint their client’s portraits. Portrait therapy addresses ‘disrupted’ self-identity, which is common in serious illness, bereavement and other kinds of trauma. People living with a life threatening or chronic illness, often describe the impact of their diagnosis, treatment and illness as having changed their sense of self-identity beyond all recognition and is characterised by statements such as: ‘I don’t know who I am anymore’ and ‘I’m not the person I used to be’.
Dr Susan Carr developed Portrait Therapy as a way to ameliorate this sense of self-identity disruption. Seven people attending a day-hospice were invited to take part in the PhD research study and the results demonstrate the power of portraiture as an intersubjective way of knowing, being and relating. Portrait therapy also enables people to develop a stronger, more coherent lived experience of self-identity, effecting closure to difficult life experiences, and improving their overall quality of life.