The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #4, June 24, 2003
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star In The Spotlight:
Cinema therapy is apparently becoming an increasingly popular subject for journalists. The Fort Worth, TX Star Telegram published this interesting article on May 31 that examines research into "tear jerkers" — why some viewers, mostly women, seek out films that make them cry; what in the films makes them cry; the social payoffs, etc.

Austrialia's Sunday Telegraph ran this piece on June 8 that contains an interesting list of personal problems and the films that address them. For example, "I've got a job, a partner and a life — but none of it makes me happy" is mated with High Fidelity, while "My heart's been trampled by a two-timing rat" points to Sliding Doors.

This article, by Dan Nephin of The Associated Press hit the wire service on June 23 and was picked up by the Pittsburg, PA Post-Gazette and a slew of smaller PA newspapers. The thoughtful piece featured psychiatrist Fuat Ulus and included comments by therapists John Hesley, Bernie Wooder and Birgit Wolz, and American Psychological Association spokeswoman Pam Willenz.

The San Francisico Chronicle is set to run an article July 7 or 8 by film critic Stephen Winn. The piece is part of series on art and therapy and features an interview with Birgit Wolz.

star Upcoming CT Workshops:
Movies and the Mythic Imagination: Using Films in Depth Psychology is being offered by Johnathan Young, Ph.D. in San Clemente, CA on July 11 and Berkeley, CA on July 27. The workshop explores uses of movies to increase understanding of emotional life. It is an introduction to how popular culture can reflect adult psychological challenges. The plots and characters in movies reflect a broad range of human concerns and difficulties. The training includes how to detect psychological themes in stories as presented on screen and how to use examples from movies in discussions of personal issues. Examples illustrate the value of modeling actions on those of significant fictional characters such as heroes, mentors and allies. Discussion points out parallels between dreamwork and cinematherapy. The seminar also considers how movies can show individuals that others face the same problems.

Victoria S. MacDonald, MA is set to conduct Film As Sacred Emissary, a Video Divina Retreat Aug. 1-3 at San Damiano Retreat Center. The brochure describes the workshop thusly: "In the 1st Century, the Desert Fathers developed the practice of Lectio Divina, reflecting on sacred biblical texts, to deepen their spiritual lives. Today film, a medium of our time, can also be a tool and a practice to fortify our faith. Using film clips, scripture, prayer, reflection, small and large group discussions, come discover how film can offer sacred gifts for spiritual growth."

Motion Pictures: An Emerging Adjunct to Psychotherapy is the title of a workshop to be lead by Richard Fields, Ph.D. and Alan Berger, Ph.D. Sept. 18-20 during the 9th Annual Counseling Skills Conference in Las Vegas. The workshop introduction states that "movies are a rich medium that is an excellent adjunct to counseling. Multiple applications of using films in pyschothereapy will be demonstrated. Actual film clips will be shown and discussed in: unblocking patient denial, moving patients who are stuck, demonstrating dimensions of mental disorders, and facilitating individual, group and family discussion around issues and curative factors." Fields has a private counseling practice in Tucson, AZ and Bellevue, WA, is the author of Drugs in Perspective, 5th Edition, and is a consultant for Entertainment Industries Council, Inc.

Margot Escott, MSW, LCSW of Naples, FL reports that she recently presented a six-hour workshop on DSM-4 at the Movies during the Florida State Convention for NASW. She is also scheduled to present similar workshops at the Florida NASW convention this fall and at the Ohio State University School of Social Work Continuing Education on Oct. 6 in Columbus, OH.

For more specific info regarding these workshops please contact Birgit.

star Cinematherapy with the Addicted Client:
Escott also offers this preview of a presentation she hopes to present later this year in conjunction with Dr. Ulus and others at the APA conference next May.

Using films to help clients identify previously denied feelings and harmful behaviors is one of the many benefits of movie therapy. As clinicians become more comfortable with this treatment modality, the use of films to treat addicted individuals and their families can provide a valuable intervention. Finding the appropriate film and matching it to the clinical presentation is essential to the effectiveness of this new treatment modality.

Movies have portrayed alcoholism and addiction since the early days of film, from the 1916 Chaplin’s Police to 1930’s Thin Man screwball comedies depictions of “carefree” alcoholics to contemporary films such as Leaving Las Vegas. The wealth of films dealing with this topic does so with varying degrees of reality and clinical relevance.

Perhaps the greatest challenge in treating the addicted individual, and often their family, is in breaking through the denial — the primary defense mechanism utilized in early, middle and late stages of alcoholism. If the film is not chosen judiciously, it may only feed into the client’s denial as he or she may tend to deal with the film on a literal level. For example, assigning a movie such as 28 Days could result in the client returning to session with such comments as “I never got drunk at a wedding” or “My mother wasn’t an alcoholic.” Indeed, they may use the assignment to minimize their own usage by comparing with specific behaviors rather than looking for parallels in their relationships and own behavior.

In this presentation we will look at specific films that may be used with addicts in early and middle stages of the disease process and follow up interventions designed to help the client identify their own usage and the effects the addiction has on specific areas of their lives, i.e., work, family and health.

star Correction:
Last month's newsletter carried a report on a cinema therapy survey conducted in Romania. The article stated that subjects were interviewed as they exited the movie but we have learned they were actually interviewed prior to the show. We stand corrected.

star 1,000 Best Movies — Ever:
Though it does not specifically focus on the therapeutic aspects of movies, this online list, drawn from the 1999 book by New York Times film critics Peter M. Nichols and Janet Maslin, The New York Times Guide to the Best 1,000 Movies Ever Made, is a valuable resource for film lovers.

starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

-Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT.,
Canyon, CA, USA

-Franklin Seal
freelance writer
Moab, UT, USA