Conducting Photo-Based Reminiscent Therapy Session May 26, 2022 9:00 am

As published in February of 2022 in the “Cognitive Benefits of Photo Reminiscence Therapy for Dementia Patients research study, Photo Reminiscence Therapy (pRT) can improve the quality of life for those living with dementia or related forms of memory impairment.

Conducted by a coalition of organizations, including the National Institute for Dementia Education, the CERTUS Institute, Vivid-Pix, Tellegacy, and achi, the group studied the healing power of photos and concluded that Photo Reminiscence Therapy (pRT) can minimize social isolation and improve medication compliance and general cognitive performance.

Now that we know how pRT can be beneficial, let’s break down how to “do it.” Before conducting a pRT session, it is critical to properly prepare. This includes ensuring that all of the necessary materials are gathered, such as photos and photo albums.

It is also important to choose a comfortable location with good lighting and plenty of seating.

Once the preparation is complete, it is time to implement the reminiscent session. The facilitator should begin by asking the participants about their favorite memories associated with the photos.

As the conversation progresses, the facilitator should encourage the participants to share more details about their experiences (it is about the experience, not the task). After the reminiscent session is complete, it is important to evaluate its effectiveness.

This can be done by speaking with the participants and asking them how they felt during and after the session or what they connected with most.

If necessary, revisions can be made to improve future sessions. Ultimately, proper preparation and implementation are essential for leading a successful pRT session.

Selecting Photos

When prescribing photos for a Photo-Based Reminiscent Therapy session it is important to work with anyone who may have insight into family history, the photo’s importance, and the type of photo.

We have learned that real-relatable photos are more powerful than stock photos; however, stock photos may be a good place to start if you do not have enough information about the person or have any personalized photos.

General photos such as babies, house animals, family portraits, job vocations, etc. are a good place to start.

This will open the conversation to see what types of photos would work best. It is important to use real-life photos whenever possible as they are more likely to evoke memories and trigger positive emotions.

If you are unsure about which photos to use, include someone who knows the person well and can provide insight into their life story.

With a little bit of planning, you can create a session that will be both enjoyable and beneficial for the participants (you and the person).

We recommend the use of real photos rather than general stock photos.

Real photos have a back history and context that can add to the experience of looking at them and help create a successful session.

Back histories might include when and where the photo was taken, who is pictured in it, and what the event was, or simply asking what they think of the photos.

Reviewing photos beforehand will help ensure that a session is successful because you will be able to pick out photos that evoke certain emotions or experiences – or what you think will be reliable topics.

Focus on the Experience, Not the Task

When facilitating Photo-Based Reminiscence Therapy sessions, the focus should not be on the task at hand but rather on the experience during the session. Each photo will evoke conversation, mood, and emotion.

Whether you have two photos or thirty photos, it is about the narrative and personal story each person shares.Allow the conversation to flow naturally, take turns, and revisit topics as needed. Research has demonstrated the benefits of this type of conversation in reducing stress, enhancing mood, reducing social isolation, and promoting socialization. It can also provide a sense of connection and belonging. Creating an environment where people feel safe to share their stories is essential to the success of the session.

pRT Is a Two-Way Street

Photo Reminiscence Therapy is a two-way street. Both the facilitator and the participant have stories that they want to share. It is about connection and working through reliable stories and overlapping interests, ideas, and narratives.

Establishing multiple connections fosters a bond between the facilitator and participant, encouraging richer conversation and narrative sharing.

In other words, it’s not just about the photos. It’s about the connection that you make with the person through those photos that allow for legacy sharing and the narrative exploration of meaning and purpose.

So, keep that in mind as you choose your photos and as the facilitator and participants share their stories.

Enjoy the process of creating connections with others through this visional/emotional platform of pRT.

Here are some photos to get you started:

Steps When Using Photos

  1. Show one photo at a time and allow for conversation to happen – let it unfold, let it take turns, and listen to the stories.
  2. Take a mental note of what photos they liked and what ones they did not like. This will allow you to plan better for a future session.
  3. Be mindful of place and time. When a session is not successful try a different location, different time, as well as be mindful of what photos you are showing.
  4. Remember communication is a two-way street, feel free to share your narrative when appropriate as well.

We hope this step by step summary for using pRT was helpful. For more tips or general feedback on pRT, please reach out to us at

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