The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #6 Sept. 24, 2003
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Dear Reader:

Welcome back to The Cinema Therapy Newsletter. During August I took a brief hiatus from the newsletter in order to complete work on the manuscript of my book, E-Motion Picture Magic. Finally, that part of the book project is finished (there's still the "little" matter of publishing, but that appears to be moving along in the right direction). I'm happy to have time, once again, to devote to other tasks such as this newsletter.

starIn The Spotlight:
Those of you who keep up-to-date on current events may be aware
of the movie Thirteen that was released in theaters earlier this month. The film generated an incredible amount of press coverage and much, if not most of it highlighted the movie's role as cinema therapy. In almost every one of the many interviews published about the film, director Catherine Hardwicke (who co-wrote the screenplay with then-13-year-old Nikki Reed) explained that she hoped the film would help increase dialogue between parents and their young teenagers. If recent trends in traffic to is any indication, I believe this past month represents an unprecedented increase in public awareness of, and interest in, serious cinema therapy. And happily, almost all of the coverage was positive.

Thirteen tells the cautionary tale of a thirteen-year-old girl who falls in with the most popular girl at her school and, under her influence, plunges into the world of drugs, sex and petty crime in an effort to fit in. Meanwhile, her single-parent mom is struggling to cope with her own troubles and fails to take sufficient corrective action.

Here's how journalist Linda Lee described the film:

"To promote new movies, studios have sent out cans of spaghetti sauce (for the coming film "Mambo Italiano"), pretended that made-up events really happened ("The Blair Witch Project"), even encouraged coverage of odd romantic couplings (Ashton and Demi).

"But how often does a studio cross-promote a new film with self-help groups? Or a director set out to make parents and their teenage children cringe, as Catherine Hardwicke did with "Thirteen," a film about girls gone bad? 'I wanted to spark a debate,' Ms. Hardwicke said. 'I wanted something that could connect to kids and moms so they would realize they were not alone.' She calls it 'cinematherapy.'"

Thirteen's coverage included similar in-depth interviews carried in several major (and numerous smaller) newspapers, including the New York Times, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Seattle Times and, last week, this piece in USA Today.

Cinema therapy news coverage also included this article that focused on the work of my colleague Dr. Fuat Ulus. It also included supporting opinions offered by Bernnie Wooder, John W. Hesley and myself. It was picked up by CNN and the London Free Press, along with a newspaper in Turkey and a host of smaller American newspapers.

I'm also pleased to announce that my article, The Transformational Power of Film, was published in the July issue of the International Academy of Family Psychology newsletter.

starTraining Activities:
Dr. Ulus reports he delivered a one-and-a-half hour workshop on Cinema Group Therapy in Istanbul, Turkey on August 26th. "None of the 30-35 participants knew much about the modality and had fun with 3-4 clips I showed them during the gathering. Some of those colleagues were very interested in participating our GATEM group," he wrote to members of an online discussion group about movie therapy.

Also, FilmTX is offering two seminars (each worth various certificate credits) in cities all up and down the California coast:

• Professional Ethics and Psychotherapy Stereotypes in Movie

• Spousal/Partner Abuse Assessment, Detection, and Intervention

And Margot Escott MSW, LCSW in Naples, FL will be conducting a series of workshops in Florida titled "Addiction at the Movies":

• Oct. 6 at Ohio State University School of Social Work (6 hours)

• Oct. 10 at Florida NASW in Winter Park (3 hours)

• Nov. 14 at Florida NASW in Fort Lauderdale (6 hours)

She will also conduct a workshop titled DSMIV at the Movies Oct. 27 at the Pinellas County Juvenile Welfare Board.

If you know of upcoming training opportunities, help spread the word by sending me an email about it. I'll make sure it gets posted on and in the next issue of this newsletter.

starHow Movies Have Changed Lives:
Recent postings to the "Tell Us Your Story" page on

Claudia Biris
Bucharest, Romania

"When I was a child my parents were hyper-protective persons and very fearful. Anyway, the situation here [in Romania] made people to be very fearful and anxious about almost everything. Then and unfortunately, now, the Romanian streets are not a safe place. So, I was spending a lot [of time] indoors. I can’t say I haven’t got friends (I still have friends from my childhood!), but one of my dearest friends was the movie. I was watching all I could get, on TV and VCR, especially Romanian, Russian, Bulgarian, North American, Italian, French and Indian movies. What a great American sociologist said once, “The television is the teacher and the preacher of our society” was very true in my case. I used to talk a lot about movies with my grandparents. Sometimes the western mirage made us dream about another kind of society, where freedom and security were “at home”. Of course, in this case the movie had a transparent and strong evasion function. But I could also learn a lot from all those movies. I still love the Russian and the Italian movies, even if I couldn’t understand too much of them as a child. Now it’s different.

…I myself experienced movies in different ways: as a [means of escape] …, as a lesson, as entertainment, even as a wiser friend that can teach me a lot. There were some situations when a movie thought me something that nobody else could do at that time. [There] still are. It’s quite sad to me, but if somebody [asked] me to [weigh] what my parents taught me, good and bad things, the scale of “bad things” [outweighs] … the other scale. Now, after 10 years of psychology and self-searching I can say that I [learned] from my parents what I shouldn't’t do [more] than [what] I should do. There are movies that showed me how could and should the members of one family behave to each other, how they should solve a conflict without yelling and threatening, for example. Actually, I think there are too many aspects of life that I [learned] from movies to put all of them down here.

Westland, MI

"After being drugged and raped at a professor's housewarming party, I became afraid to leave my house. When I finally did venture out, "my" rapist stalked me, and I had to drop out of school, and quit my job. Soon, I found myself in a very, very dark place. Unable to steady my concentration enough to sink into a good book, I turned to movies, which could command my attention, distract me, and also leave my hands free, to cuddle one of the attention-hungry feral cats I had rescued the year before. What finally lifted my spirits-- what gave me the courage to venture out again--was a delightful film called "Uncorked," starring Nigel Hawthorne, Minnie Driver, and Rufus Sewell. This movie truly is quite literally life-changing; it's about having the courage to embrace life, make peace with one's own flaws and one's family's eccentricities, and being at one with the beautiful world around us. Furthermore, it's rife with enchanting music, perfectly succinct character studies, and wry humor. I wish the whole Western world could see it! 5 stars!"

starCT Research:
Our colleague at Spiru Haret University in Bucharest, Claudia Brisis, sends word that she presented her Ph.D. project, titled "Psychosocial Coordinates of Movie Functions Involved in Personal Growth and Psychotherapy" to her committee on Sept. 23 and received approval to begin her 6-year doctoral project on cinema therapy.

starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

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

-Franklin Seal
freelance writer
Moab, UT, USA