Visual Representations of Homelessness & Addiction

Psychology research by Karakitsou and Danaskou

Dr. Chryssoula Karakitsou, Head of Psychology at Deree, and Vasiliki Danaskou, mental health specialist and Deree alumna, have recently co-published a qualitative research paper on the Realistic and Symbolic Representations of Homelessness and Addiction by Greek Women. The authors examined the needs of homeless and drug-addicted women, their daily challenges, how they cope, as well as these women’s experiences in Athens.

In their research, Danaskou and Karakitsou employed a visual sociology method of interviewing called photo-elicitation, that uses images and photographs to assist participants in narrating their lived experiences.


The aim of this study was to explore in depth the experiences of homeless and drug addicted women living on the streets. The study took place in a harm reduction day center serving this population located in the city of Athens, Greece. A respondent-controlled Photo Elicitation Interviewing (PEI) was employed and seven women aged 19-38 years were asked to take up to 15 photos relevant to their lives on the streets and elaborate on the ones that mostly represented their experiences. Thematic analysis of the photos revealed two approaches to photo shooting: (a) a “realistic representation of life” and (b) a “symbolic representation of life”.

The photos captured homelessness, drug addiction and sex work and reflected the participant’s mixture of affective states as they portrayed a variety of negative and positive emotions. Despair, insecurity, loneliness, exploitation, silence, abandonment, exclusion and fear along with hope, security and domesticity were evident in the photos often in a dialectical relationship. The implementation of respondent-controlled PEI boosted participants’ self-esteem, enhancing their creativity and insight, while photographs functioned as a mirror in which participants saw themselves reflected. Implications of the use of PEI as a therapeutic tool are discussed.


About the Authors

Dr. Chrysoula Karakitsou received her PhD in Developmental Psychology and her MSc in Health Psychology from Stirling University, UK. Her research and academic interests include the areas of early childhood development and education, internet patterns of use with an emphasis on adolescent development and adjustment, and evaluation research of special education programs aimed at inclusion and vocational rehabilitation.

She currently serves as the Head of the Psychology Department at Deree, as well as Assistant Professor, teaching developmental psychology and research methodology.

Vasiliki Danaskou is a double Deree alumna having graduated in 2010 with a BS, and in 2015 with an MS in Applied Psychology. She did street work with Doctors of the World providing psychosocial services to homeless people, served as a developmental psychologist in a school setting, while recently she worked with Eliza – Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children. For many years she is also involved in social street work for homeless people at Emfasis Foundation and is currently employed at the International Organization for Migration in Greece as a psychosocial worker.


About the author