The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #13
Apr. 28, 2004
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A new Web site, Medicinema, advertises itself as "Bringing the magic of the silver screen to patients in hospital."
For those of you doing CT research, you may find this Web site, Psynews helpful, which appears to offer a simple way of publishing your findings to the Web.
I received this note from a doctoral student in our nation's capital:
I'm Donald Kearly, a doctoral student of clinical psychology at Gallaudet University in Washington, DC. I'm also a therapist at a residential facility for severely emotionally disturbed boys ages 12 to 18. These young men often experience symptoms of conduct disorder, oppositional-defiant disorder, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and various learning disabilities. Also, many of them have low verbal skills, making traditional talk therapy difficult if not impossible at times.
I started using films in therapy more by accident than design. I wanted to illustrate a "power struggle" between an authority figure and an adolescent. There is a terrific scene in the movie The Breakfast Club, where the principal and a student (played by Judd Nelson) get into an argument. The principal repeatedly asks "Do you want another (weeks suspension)," to which the student replies "Yes!". The young men I work with were enthralled with the movie and wanted to see more. Most of my clients were able to relate to the movie, and verbalize their feelings and thoughts regarding their own behavior. The effect was striking.
I continued using films in therapy. However, in contrast to what other therapists have been doing, the films are shown in segments to the client in my office individually. With the population I work with, some rules need to be agreed upon before watching the films. The movies are chosen by me, there must be discussion before and after each viewing, and I reserve the right to pause the movie and ask questions.
This technique has worked extremely well with my population, and I'm interested in learning more about the theory of why it works so well. I'm also interested in research regarding the efficacy of this technique and have been thinking about measuring its effectiveness. Because residential treatment has so many variables such as medication changes, recreational therapy, family variables, school variables, etc., I feel it may be more reasonable to measure an increase in verbalizations when film is used, rather than attempt to measure long-term outcomes.
I'd be interested in hearing from anyone else who has used cinematherapy with adolescents; how they use it and what films they use.
Our colleague, Fuat Ulus' book Movie Therapy, Moving Therapy! was reviewed in the April issue of Psychiatric Services, a journal of the American Psychiatric Association. The review by June Wilson RN, MA, a doctoral student in Media Psychology at the Fielding Graduate Institute in Santa Barbara, California, appeared on p ages 458-459.
Fuat Ulus has passion and energy for the growing field of movie therapy, which is evident in his book Movie therapy, Moving Therapy! This insightful and informative book is part theoretical-transactional analysis as it applies to movie therapy provides the reader with a foundation on which to apply movie therapy. It is also part workbook-visualization exercises are provided-and part practical application. This book's chapters cover practical issues, such as the types of patients who are referred for movie therapy, how movie group therapy works, movie group therapy dynamics, and useful information about the qualifications required to become a movie therapist.
Ulus has tapped into his extensive experience with movie therapy and provides thorough reviews of the movies he has selected. He also shares his experience and recommends groups of individuals for which particular movie clips have been proven useful. The book recommends an interesting combination of movie clips, and the reader is likely to find a variety of clips that are useful to his or her own practice. Some chapter names provide an idea of Ulus's methods, such as "One Word...Many Messages," on the film The Bridge on the River Kwai; "I Love My Patient," on Lovesick; and "I Hate My Patient" on Analyze This. Movie Therapy, Moving Therapy! would be beneficial to psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses, social workers, or anyone else who is currently working in or has an interest in movie therapy.
This story, by Associated Press writer Mark Babineck on Mar. 30, highlights the influence movies may have on certain psyches:
A man who had gotten away with murder confessed to police after seeing "The Passion of the Christ" and talking with a spiritual adviser, authorities said Thursday.
Dan R. Leach's viewing of Mel Gibson's cinematic depiction of the last hours of Jesus, along with the discussion with a family friend, led him to walk into the Fort Bend County sheriff's department earlier this month and confess to killing Ashley Nicole Wilson, Detective Mike Kubricht said.
....He was arrested Tuesday, a day after his indictment for murder, and remained in county jail on $100,000 bond.
He was expected to get a court-appointed attorney, Kubricht said.
"Something (the adviser) said, between that and the movie, he felt in order for him to have redemption he would have to confess his sin and do his time," Kubricht said.
Leach faces up to life in prison if convicted.
And there's this note from our friend Nina that tells of a similar story:
Hi again, Birgit. The story you sent me is amazing, as is the following: This weekend a Norwegian former convicted murderer saw The Passion of Christ movie and immediately after, confessed an armed robbery! He brought a reporter out in the woods to find his hidden weapons, and turned it all, and himself, in at the Oslo police department. I thought of cinema therapy as I heard of it...
The Kansas State Collegian ran this CT article on March 19 titled Benefits of Movies Provide Alternative Psychological Self-Help.
This article, in the L.A. Daily News, about the Spiritual Cinema Circle, demonstrates how the word is spreading about our colleague, Stephon Simon's new Web site that showcases films with an uplifting theme. According to this article, as many as 18,000 people have subscribed to his newsletter in a period of only 4 months.
Advance Newsmagazine for Occupational Therapy Practitioners carries this feature by Jill Glomstad, The Healing Power of Hollywood: Cinematherapy is making its mark both in clinical psychology and in the self-help section of your local bookstore.
My regular column in The Therapist, Mining the Gold in Movies, carried this review of About Schmidt.
San Francisco Academy of Fine Arts instructor John Dobson, who teaches film theory, media criticism, contemporary culture and the power of myth and symbol, last December offered a course titled The Matrix: Hidden Meanings of a Remarkable Film. The course, advertised on www.learningannex.com was described as a multimedia, interactive seminar in which "you will view clips from The Matrix and learn how to: Uncover the hidden meanings of symbols, metaphors and mythological themes in film; Deal with personal obstacles in your own heroic journey; Appreciate your own spirituality through your love of films."
Billed The Adventure of Change, Psychotherapy Networker has set its 2004 symposium for June 10-13 at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, CA. On Saturday, the key dinner address by columnist Frank Pittman will be on the topic of The Movie Cure: Film As Therapy.
On June 12, the Jung Institute of Chicago is offering a course called Cinema-therapy: A Jungian Approach taught by Judith Cooper. The information is found at the bottom of this Web page. Here's the course description:
"No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul." - Ingmar Bergman
The history of modern psychoanalysis, with its focus on dreams, parallels the invention and flowering of the cinema. Jung noted that movies can produce amazing revelatory symbols which illuminate the unconscious on personal and collective levels. Films have become our modern myths - "Cinemyths" - and, like myths, they allow us to participate in emotions and ideas that are universal. As we sit in darkened rooms we experience the larger-than-life film images saturated with narrative, color, music, and movement much as we experience our own dreams.
Watching a movie is like entering an altered state of consciousness. When our clients mention movies in our consulting rooms, how can we as clinicians facilitate and deepen their psychological process to promote increased understanding and personal growth? How can we learn to work with a film as part of a constructive psychological process much like we might work with a dream, a waking fantasy, a fairy tale or myth that has become alive in a client?
This workshop will explore these questions by examining concepts of Jung's which account for the power of film. Like dream, film can connect us with the unconscious and feed our conscious understanding of that relationship. In the workshop, we will analyze selected films to see how they deepen our sense of self and reveal something of the inner life of our clients. We will also discuss techniques to expand on the latent content of films.
The in-depth article by Justin Breton on cinema therapy that ran in the East Bay Express on Feb. 25, which I mentioned in the Feb. 28 issue of the Cinema Therapy Newsletter, generated a number of replies from readers. Here is a link to one letter, and links to two more letters are stored on my Web site here and here.
Thanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.
-Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT.,
Canyon, CA, USA
Moab, UT, USA