By Peter Teigen

This article is about the exiting Photoshop stamp, clone and layer tools and some of their influences and inspirations from psychotherapy and Gestalt Psychotherapy in particular.

I am a qualified Psychotherapist practicing in the City of London, and I have many years of experience as a studio photographer, working extensively with Photoshop. My favorite Photoshop tools are the Clone stamps, the History Art Brush and Layer Managers. I’ll go through these from what I call the ‘psychographic perspective’, which is the knowledge of Photoshop manipulation and how this skill metaphorically informs the psychotherapist about the psychological stamping and doing and undoing of each unique individual’s history

The clone stamp tool in Photoshop is useful for blending objects together and erasing unwanted detail. We do this in life too; seldom on purpose, yet the results are potentially significant. For example, I might try and significantly reduce or enlarge the presence of someone irritating or wonderful around me by ignoring, shouting down or pretending that this person is made of a pattern more to my own liking. Try it for yourself: pick a family photo or a photo of a group of friends etc. Pick the point in the image that grabs your eyes’ lust, and then clone into it. And do so with as much emotional awareness that you can muster. Discuss the result with a friend or take it to your therapist, if you have one.

The psychography of the History Art Brush is similar. Did you know that this tool, available at the full range of strengths, brings the chosen Photoshop area back to its original point before you started messing with it? Psychologically, the process of bringing back earlier versions of the ‘present you’ is another task of therapy, and Gestalt Psychotherapy in particular. When you understand these tools and their effect in Photoshop, you become aware that we are built up of layers; layers which we manage better or worse depending on the situation. Psychologically, the process of regression is one such event: an example of regression is when, under stress, we feel and behave like we once did before we learnt to control our behavior.

The Layer Manager in Photoshop, as you know, controls which layers sit above the rest, it also allows you to remove and merge layers together. Popular therapeutic approaches, such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) attempts to work in a similar way, the desired outcome is the removal of undesirable layers, and the management of the layers which you are left with. As a Gestalt Psychotherapist I generally avoid this approach as I work on the premise that each of our layers has been created (nurtured) by the levels before. This means that nurture across your levels is a possibility, and the task of psychotherapy is to support your layers to work more efficiently together.

As a visual manipulator and psychotherapist based in Central London I am forever interested in developing the best tools available for working with clients in different degrees of distress; the psychographich approach which I have so far described is in my experience an exciting and beneficial tool for working with the visually creative individual, and at the end of the day visual creativity is available to us all.


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