Julie McCarter is using her experience as a professional photographer and licensed therapist to help people find healing and emotional balance through a camera lens.
McCarter, who has a private practice in Lansdowne, teaches mindfulness, personal growth and expanded creativity through photography. She has two upcoming workshops: Girl Vision, for girls ages 13 and older, on April 30; and one for women May 21.
Since 2014, she’s offered Girl Vision workshops, aimed at teaching teenage girls emotional wellness tools, such as mindfulness and self-compassion.
“I teach teens a little about working with their inner critic, and also the flip side of that is practicing self-kindness,” she said. “I teach the visual components of expressing yourself through a photograph, and then do mindfulness walks through downtown Leesburg where they photograph images that reflect the topic that we’re covering.”
She gave the example of a recent workshop where the girls were asked to snap photos of naturally occurring hearts. A few girls got creative to form a shadow of a heart using their arms and hands, and McCarter captured it in a photo. “That photo is very meaningful to me because it illustrates the reason I’m inspired to do this work, to encourage young people,” she said.
She wishes she had been taught some of these tools, like self-compassion and mindfulness, at a young age. She said she was a harsh self-critic as a teen, and she sees young people today struggle with the same emotions. “I work with so many teenagers from local high schools, and their self-criticism is off the charts,” she said.
Loudoun County has seen a rise in suicides among young people, and many in the mental health community have credited it in part to the pressure teens are under to be high-achieving students.
McCarter described therapy, coupled with the expressive art of photography, as being akin to airing out a stuffy room. “It doesn’t cure the self-criticism, but it helps you find a balance. It’s all about helping people find a balance between play and work and rest and criticism and self-kindness.”
Julie McCarter’s Girl Vision workshop is 1-5 p.m. Sunday, April 30, and the Women’s Workshop is 1-5 p.m. Sunday, May 21, in downtown Leesburg. (Exact location will be provided to registrants.) Cost is $135, but discounts are offered on a sliding scale. No prior photography experience is necessary. Participants are asked to bring a cell phone or digital camera. Find details at juliemccarter.org/workshops.