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We have developed a technique for photothermal displacement spectroscopy that is potentially orders of magnitude more sensitive than conventional methods. We use a single Fabry-Perot resonator to enhance both the intensity of the pump beam and the sensitivity of the probe beam. The result is an enhancement of the response of the instrument by a factor proportional to the square of the finesse of the cavity over conventional interferometric measurements. In this paper we present a description of the technique, and we discuss how the properties of thin films can be deduced from the photothermal response. As an example of the technique, we report a measurement of the thermal properties of a multilayer dielectric mirror similar to those used in interferometric gravitational wave detectors. © 2004 American Institute of Physics.