The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #11
Feb. 28, 2004
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starIn the Spotlight:
Katherine Spitz, medical writer for the Akron Ohio Beacon Journal, reported on the growing cinema therapy movement in the Feb. 17 issue. Titled Popcorn psychology, her insightful piece features interviews with Dr. Lawrence Tyson, Ph.D., an associate professor of counselor education at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, and myself, and cites the field's growing popularity and increasing credibility. Spitz' piece ran with two shorter pieces on cinema therapy: Cinema therapy gets red carpet treatment, in which she reported on the West/Peske book series, and Therapeutic Movies, which listed five films of particular therapeutic value along with a link to the Film Index at

Denise Mann writing for WebMD, the health ezine, uses The Passion of Christ as a vehicle to examine cinema therapy from several angles. The Passion for the Movies features interviews with Gary Solomon, MPH, MSW, PhD, William Jeffrey, MD and myself. Mann also wrote Movie Therapy: Using Movies for Mental Health for WebMD.

My new cinema thearpy movie review column, Mining the Gold in Movies for Healing and Transformation, began running in The Therapist this month, featuring my review of Under the Tuscan Sun.

The Times of London carried this article by Nick Wyke titled Movie therapy: Dramatic cures? Including interviews with therapists Brian Mills, Bernie Wooder, Phillip Hodson and myself, the piece covers a wide range of CT-related ideas.

The East Bay Express ran a lengthy feature article on cinema therapy February 26. In this ground-breaking piece, the writer, Justin Berton, lets the reader follow every detail of his internal process as he undergoes a series of CT sessions he had with me. Titled: So, How Do You Feel About That Scene? the expose-style piece begins with Berton cynically laughing at the notion that popular film might have any therapeutic value whatsoever. But his attitude quickly changes into one of sincere respect for the process as he gains insight into his own issues. The article is long, but is also a highly entertaining read. And it makes a powerful case for the efficacy of cinema therapy.

On February 20 and 21 I had many very inspiring and enjoyable experiences as I participated in Cindy Lou Golin's class "Moving Pictures: Film as Transformational Tool" at the Integral Studies Department of John F. Kennedy University, Pleasant Hill, California.  After teaching theoretical background, Cindy Lou introduced several powerful exercises that helped students understand how the movie experiences can be utilized to expand consciousness for personal growth. We watched a
clip from "Animatrix" and the entire movie "Mangnolia.

I also noticed this report on the GATEM listserv this month:

I did a cinematherapy seminar at Fielding Graduate Institute.  The audience was comprised of some graduate students and a few proffessors of clinical psychology. It was very well received.  There seemed to be quite a bit of interest.  The only thing we needed was more time.

--June Wilson

Shauna Norton, BSN,Psych/Mental Health APRN student in Salt Lake City, UT
, reports that she plans to prepare a cinematherapy module for a local youth and adolescent inpatient mental health unit there, and will document it's effectiveness as used by others along with reporting on previous research that has been done.

Also on the topic of CT research, the following discussiontook place on the GATEM listserv this month between June Wilson, Ph.D Student, San Francisco, California; Wandal Winn, M.D., Ketchikan General Hospital, Ketchikan, Alaska; and Fuat Ulus, MD, Medical Director of Behavioral Health Care at Millcreek Community Hospital:


My dissertation topic is -- Does cinematherapy have a therapeutic effect? Anecdotally we all know it does, but it hasn't yet been empirically measured.

Do you think CT is so effective because the viewer identifies with the situation, character etc...(social identity theory)? For example are individuals who are better able to identify with the characters in the film more likely to open up to the point where s/he can talk about their own issues?


I think it would be pretty tough to do a "tight" well controlled study on the efficacy of Cinematherapy. There are many variables that would be tough to control for. Example: the therapist is likely to have a larger effect on outcome than the technique itself. There is no accepted definition, let alone protocol, for Cinematherapy so you can't really study its effects in any standardized way at this early stage of development.


I agree that cinema therapy itself is not necessarily a treatment modality. However, it is one of the most effective tools to apply and/or implement supportive, dynamic and cognitive-behavioral therapies within the individual, family and/or group settings.

I think you are a bit unfair to cinema therapy's validity and reliability, two cardinal entities in determining the value of research. Today, psychopharmacotherapy is accepted as "evidence based practice." One it really?

...Movies address our physical, psychological and spiritual selves. Depending on those three factors applicable to the other modalities, all of our responses to what we watch are different.


I think our positions and advice overlap but may not be exactly the same. I, too, want to see CT research but it must be real/valid to be of value and that will be difficult to do until we define what we mean by the term.

...With psychpharm research, when the independent variable is "15mg of Zyprexa", we all know what happened; with a "dose of Cinematherapy", we don't know what was actually administered . . . unless the researcher goes to great lengths to specify that. Even then, it might be tough to reproduce the research because, in the hands of another, a "dose of Cinematherapy" may actually be quite a different act.


My problem is not knowing what may happen [with] "15 mg Zyprexa" either!! While it is expected to calm the person, decrease psychomotor activity, clear the psychotic strays [sic] and stabilize mood, many patients present with different responses: Some get more agitated, some continue having psychotic symptoms, some throw up, some lose appetite, so on [and] so forth...

Do we have universal agreement on supportive, dynamic and cognitive-behavioral therapies? I am a participant of International Association of Group Psychotherapies listservs. You would be surprised how the research conducted on those therapies are different than those we are accustomed in the US.

A new book by James Whitlark, Ph.D, The Big Picture: A Post-Jungian Map of Global Cinema analyzes how certain movies guide their cultures through developmental thresholds with potential for individual and social health. It combines the hypnotherapy of Milton Erickson, the series of unconscious archetypes discovered by Carl Gustav Jung ,and the conscious states delineated by Clare Graves.

starMovie Reviews:
Dr. Ronald Atkinson is a professor of psychiatry at Oregon Health and Science University, Portland. The February issue of E-Clinical Psychiatry News, carried his article, Reel Life Gamblers on Screen? Four Worth Betting On including several reviews of films that deal with gambling addition. For more reviews, visit his Web site at

Karin Leonard and Daniel Robin pooled their talents in reviewing a list of recent releases from a personal growth perspective. The short reviews were published in the February Connection and then republished in Leonard's newsletter, which she distributes in connection with the corporate consulting business, Inner Revolution.

starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

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


-Franklin Seal
freelance writer
Moab, UT, USA