The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #1 March 23, 2003
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Dear Reader:

Welcome to the premier issue of The Cinema Therapy Newsletter. After working diligently through the fall and winter to create the site, I'm happy to finally have a moment to publish this first issue of the newsletter. My aim is to keep it newsy (so it has value) and short (the better to fit into your presumably busy schedule). As to how often it will publish, I'm going to leave that variable for now. My plan is to let items build up until I have enough to make it worth your time. My guess is that as readership builds (currently there are about five new subscribers per day) and as news items flow in to me more frequently, I will publish more often. For now, expect monthly or quarterly updates, or somewhere in-between. We'll see how it goes.

If anyone has an item of interest they'd like to share, please send it in and I'll try to include it in the next issue. Anything related to cinema therapy would be welcome. I'd also like to make a special request for any comments or personal stories about how movies have deeply affected you or possibly changed you, or someone you know. I'm collecting such stories for publication in a book I'm working on titled E-Motion Picture Magic.

In addition to writing this newsletter for a general readership, I'm also planning to publish The Cinema Therapy Journal, which will include items of interest for the professional therapist.

star New Discussion Group: The Cinema Therapy Forum:
I would like to announce the launch of The Cinema Therapy Forum, an email-based group to facilitate ongoing discussion of any issue related to cinema therapy. It's a public listserve open to anyone interested in cinema therapy. I invite you to subscribe for free.

star In The Spotlight:
Stephen Sloane, Ph.D. has recently published Organizations in the Movies: The Legend of the Dysfunctional System. This book suggests that organizations can be functional with respect to accomplishing their purpose and at the same time be dysfunctional with respect to serving the values, interests, mental and emotional health of their members. A series of case studies is presented in the form of movie plots. The analysis, which synthesizes the perspectives of philosophy, science and art, results in individual coping strategies. For information concerning how his work may be useful to therapists and clients, contact Dr. Sloane.

star Training Opportunity:
My workshop, Cinema Therapy - Using the Power of Imagery in Films for the Therapeutic Process is set for March 29 in Monterey. I'm excited about the opportunity to spend an entire day discussing my favorite subject with a large group of my peers. I hope to come back with loads of new insights and connections. If any of you wish to sign up, it's not yet too late to register. Just send me an email.

star What's In A Word?:
The first cinema therapy books were published approximately 10 years ago, which I think still qualifies it as a "new" idea. Like any term describing a new idea, it appears "cinema therapy" is finding itself used in a wide variety of ways. The term means different things to different people. For this discussion, I'll pretend there are three distinctly different states or phases of the term, though in reality, the distinctions are quickly blurred.

Phase 1:
I use "cinema therapy" to describe a very specific idea: the conscious use of film imagery by therapists and their clients or by individuals as one tool among many for self-discovery, personal growth and healing.

Phase 2:
The term is also used by some in an almost "tongue-in-cheek" fashion, something I've taken to calling "popcorn" cinema therapy. Generally in this phase, the emphasis is on the idea that watching a movie can be a needed emotional release. But, as in this article on PlanetOut's Fantasy Man Island by gay columnist Derek Hartley, there is little if any serious intention toward self-discovery. Popcorn cinema therapy is rather heavy on "cinema" and rather light on "therapy". Note in Hartley's article, his use of the term in this instance: "I have always loved the movies. They are just like life, except with better lighting and easy resolutions to difficult problems. As Meryl Streep says in Postcards From The Edge (a cinema therapy staple in my house), I don't want life to imitate art, I want life to be art." Also: "So, this week, I recommend some good cinema therapy to help chase away the winter blahs and the dreaded New Year's Eve-Valentine's day romantic triangulation."

Hartley uses "cinema therapy" in much the same way that popular writers Beverly West and Nancy K. Peske use the term in their Girls Guide to... book series. That brings up an interesting note regarding "popcorn" cinema therapy. It is by far the most popular use of the term, at least as measured by book sales and media exposure. Sales of West/Peske's original book in their series of four is currently ranked around 6,000 out of more than 2 million titles on the mammoth book site.

Phase 3:
A third version of the term extends the concept to encompass filmmaking as a therapeutic tool. For an excellent presentation of this concept, check out Taproot Inc.'s site. (Warning: the site is Flash intensive and may be difficult to view for those with slow Internet connections. The site also is many pages long and doesn't get around to describing the group's technique until near the end). Other uses of the term focus on teaching therapeutic techniques via the use of film.

For purposes of this newsletter, I will use the term "cinema therapy" to describe the concept contained in phase 1 only. Here's an "official" definition of the term I like from Word Spy (it uses the single-word variation whereas I prefer the two-word version): "Cinematherapy is a relatively new therapeutic approach being used by many psychotherapists and counselors. It is an extension of bibliotherapy, a technique developed by psychiatrist Carl Menninger, who assigned fiction and non-fiction books to his patients to help them develop insight and coping strategies."

star The Growth of an Idea:
Apparently word about cinema therapy is slow to spread. In her January 2 post to a cinema therapy thread on the Transpersonal Psychology Discussion Forum, Sue Doyle, who is pursuing an M.A. in Psychoanalytic Psychotherapy, says she is "very interested in your subject which has not reached Ireland officially as a research in its own right." I am very interested in hearing from anyone who has news of cinema therapy training opportunities. I will post them to the growing list of such courses on

In other regions, interest in cinema therapy is apparently running quite high. More than 10% of visitors to are finding us by having first visited an Italian language cinema therapy site. The disproportionately large number of presumably Italian-speaking visitors has me curious about cinema therapy doings in Italy. If there are any Italian-speakers out there who would be willing to assist me in a little research, please visit the link above and the other links listed there and let me know what you find out. (Google's Web page translator does work, but it's Italian-to-English skills are apparently somewhat limited.)

starThanks for reading. Feedback is always welcome.

-Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT.

Note from the CT Webmaster: A few of you may have recieved a test copy of this newsletter three days ago that contained odd characters in place of the quotation marks and apostrophies. Please forgive the mistake. It was not intended to reach anyone but me. This newsletter distribution system is new. We're learning!