The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #20
Nov. 9, 2005
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Amazon now has a page called Cinema Therapy for a Meaningful Life where they list several inspirational movies.

Movies And Mental Illness: Using Films To Understand Psychotherapy (Paperback) by  Danny Wedding, Mary Ann Boyd, Ryan M. Niemiec; Hogrefe & Huber Publishing (May 30, 2005); Available on Amazon.

Reel Psychiatry: Movie Portrayals of Psychiatric Conditions (Paperback); by  David J., M.D. Robinson; Rapid Psychler Press  (May 31, 2003); Available on Amazon.

Cheap DVDs can be ordered on the following Web sites: and

Copyright and Licensing Questions: Sometimes I receive inquiries about the question whether we need to pay licensing fees, when we show movies in a therapy session or in a CT workshop or group. I am not in the position to give legal advice. Please contact Amy at the Motion Picture Association, 800-462-8855 ext 3006. Here are some relevant questions and answers:

Q. We own the Video, do we still need a license to view or show it in public?
A. Yes. The location requires a license regardless of who owns the Video. While you may own the actual video, you are only granted the right to view it in your home, not to perform it in public.
Q. We do not charge admission. Do we still need a license?
A. Yes. Regardless of whether an admission fee is charged, a license is required. However, the Umbrella License® covers only those situations where admission is not charged.
Q. We are a non-profit organization. Do we still need a license?
A. Yes. Under the law, it does not matter if you are a non-profit or for-profit organization. You are required to have a public performance license to show Videos.
Q. How much does the Umbrella License cost?
A. In most cases, the MPLC has set license fees based on the type and size of facility. However, if the facility and/or use falls outside of these categories we will determine a reasonably priced license fee within your organization’s means based on the nature and size of the audience and anticipated frequency of showings.
Q. We are a preschool; do we qualify for a “face-to-face ”teaching exemption?
No. The educational exemption is narrowly defined and applies to full-time, non-profit academic institutions only.
Q. We show Videos on our closed-circuit system. Do we need a license?
A. Yes. The Copyright Act provides that closed-circuit transmissions are automatically deemed public performances.
Q. We are not open to the general public. Do we still need a license?
A. Yes. Any location outside of the home is considered public for copyright purposes and requires a license.
Q. We rent out our facility to other groups. Can we be liable for copyright infringement?
Yes. The facility owner can be held vicariously liable and all parties may be considered “contributory infringers.” If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact the MPLC at (800) 462-8855 or send us an email to

Art Shostak, Ph.D.,Emeritus Professor of Sociology, Drexel University wrote about his research:

Regrettably, almost all the attention we pay to movies is paid to them as a whole, thereby undervaluing our ability to make something special of singular film moments.  We learn to recall films in a global way, and are accustomed to holding sweeping judgments (It was great, or, it was a real stinker!).  To be sure, some movie goers can cite specific film moments made memorable by a cinematic feature, such as a star's shining moment, a breathtaking aesthetic configuration, a sharp exchange of clever words, or some such "gee whiz!"  film attribute.  Far rarer, however, are movie goers who go beyond the retention of memorable cinematic moments.  They can recall a scene of such transformational impact as to be linked thereafter with the initiation of a life-changing experience.  The most insightful among them understand they themselves are the agents of the change, the scene only the enabling stimulus.

For the past five years I have used the Internet to get over 500 movie goers to complete a survey recounting a scene of great personal consequence.  I am busy writing a book now about my findings and seeking a publisher.  I remain eager nevertheless to get still more completed surveys (ask me for one at  I have learned a bit about how men and women differ in their recall of such a scene, how age blocs differ, and how the choice of film genre differs across the spectrum of movie goers.  I have a list of the most cited types of scene, of films, of films stars, and so on.  Best of all, I have learned a bit about the types of scene we chose to allow to have so great an impact as to leave us thereafter a different person. I have thereby learned more than I had ever dare hope about us.  This much seems clear: Holding onto a deep-reaching scene, and processing it to facilitate a consequential change in one's life represents a remarkable, if under-recognized and under-valued tool for personal development.  Far more movie goers could make far more of their lives would they soon come to appreciate this over-looked aspect of the film experience.

For mental health practitioners:

Cinema Therapy training is now available as a continuing education on-line course for mental health practitioners: Cinema Therapy - Using the Power of Movies In the Therapeutic Process

4 CE Credits - $39.00

Click on

Continuing education credits are available for Psychologists (APA), MFTs & LCSWs (CA-BBS), Social Workers (ASWB) and counselors in California and other states. Click here for more information about these credits.

Pekka Lehto, a nurse from Finland, teaches about cinema therapy in his country and has received great feedback. He is going to start a 10 week training of 300 hours in 2006-2007 for those professionals who are interested in using movies in therapy.

Cinema Therapy Association

With Several colleagues I am currently discussing the foundation of the Integrated Association of Cinema Therapy (IACT). We are planning to include professionals who use movies in the context of psychotherapy, personal and spiritual growth, as well as teaching. If you like to receive more information about our plans and/or participate, please contact Rosemary Nocella at

starInteresting dialog between members of the CT Forum

Ideas about using movies in couples’ therapy:

Alix Harrow:
Hi does anyone have any ideas about working with couples and films. I am thinking about this at the moment.

Thomas W. Blume:
I ask couples in the first session to begin searching for a couple whose relationship they can agree on as a model for how two people can relate. I encourage them to consider real couples in their family and peer group, but I especially encourage them to watch films in a search for their model

Birgit Wolz:
I found many films helpful in my couples’ work. Especially when one partner resists therapy encouraging them to watch a movie were a couple struggles with similar issues often helps the resisting client to open up because the movie makes them less intimidated by the therapeutic process and less afraid of getting blamed.

Here is an example of my work with a client that helped her with her relationship. This work could be done with couples too.

BTW, the film indices on and (more extensive) in my book E-Motion Picture Magic list many movies in the categories "Couples" and "Families".

Alix Harrow:
Thanks Birgit for your work with changing lanes I love this film and would like to use it one day as well. … What I am proposing is that I utilize stage fighting as a therapeutic tool for working with couples. By paralleling direct experience we can look closely at what fighting is because it can be very different things. I think it can be: Pure aggression, becoming competitive, not being heard, not listening and many more things. My idea at this point is fencing because its not only elegant but dangerous competitive and physical. Often when we get stuck in the mind. We get stuck in the body and using these techniques encourages physical movement, which in turn frees up the mind aiding communication.

Who can practice CT and how can we use movies?

Alix Harrow:
As a Dramatherapist do you think that it is within my remit to use film in my work? Do you have a large film collection at your disposal or do you access them in another way. It would be impossible to store all the films that might be useful, do you think?

Birgit Wolz:
I don't see why you shouldn't use movies as a Dramatherapist. In my training seminars for mental health practitioners I encourage therapists to build the use of films into their use of traditional therapeutic techniques, as an adjunct tool. In my practice I frequently observe how the emotional impact of movies that enables a film to bypass ordinary defensive censors in clients enhances the efficiency of traditional methods. For me, as the therapist, this is a very enjoyable creative process. I am sure that your experience as a Dramatherapist give you plenty of creative ideas how to use the movie watching experience as an adjunct tool.

I started slowly to develop a DVD collection for my workshops and training seminars. For my work with individual clients and couples in my private practice I mostly encourage people to watch certain movies at home or I work with a film they have already seen. The latter often looks similar to dream



Therapeutic Movie Review Column
By Birgit Wolz Ph.D.

Bend it like Beckham

Director: Gurinder Chadha
Producer: Gurinder Chadha, Deepak Nayar
Screenwriter: Paul Mayeda Berges, Guljit Bindra, Gurinder Chadha
Stars: Parminder K. Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, 
Anupam Kher, Archie Panjabi, Juliet Stevenson, Ameet Chana
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 2003


This movie tells the story of high-school senior Jesminder. Her Indian parents emigrated from Africa to England, where her dad works at Heathrow airport. They live in the middle-class suburb of Hounslow, under the flight path of arriving jets.

The British-born Jess is about to enter college and is encouraged by her strict parents to emulate her soon-to-be-married older sister Pinky. Jess is a fairly typical teenager. Her source of rebellion is to play soccer. In her family's living room is a large portrait of a Sikh spiritual leader, but above Jess' bed is her own inspiration--the British soccer superstar David Beckham. To Beckham's portrait she confides her innermost dream, which is to play for England.

However, although her parents tolerated her sports passion when she was younger, they now believe she should become serious about her life and prepare for the future. That means giving up "children's games" for cooking lessons, marriage, and university studies. They forbid her from playing any more. An Indian girl should not play soccer, since the game consists of "displaying your bare legs to complete strangers." The preparations for her sister’s wedding only underscore the liabilities of Jess’s unladylike behavior. Her mother says: "Who'd want a girl who plays football all day but can't make chapattis?” "Anyone can cook aloo gobi," Jess responds, "but who can bend a ball like Beckham?"

The edict to stop playing soccer comes just as Jess has taken up an invitation from a white classmate, Juliette, to try out for an all-girls' soccer team. The coach, a young Irishman named Joe, thinks she's brilliant and offers Jess the opportunity to play for a semi-pro team. Her parents are appalled. The promise of an upcoming visit from an American soccer scout, and the potential to play professionally, keeps Jess sneaking back to the field for more soccer.

In the locker room, Jess finds herself schooling the white girls on what it means to be her: "Indian girls aren't supposed to play football," she explains.  "That's a bit backwards," observes one of her teammates. Jess knows exactly what it is: "It's just culture, that's all."

Jess and Jules develop a friendship, through which the film explores the differences in their respective backgrounds and the ways they navigate their parents' rather typical fears -- of other cultures and changing times.

Jess’s father regrets that he gave in to social demands when the British in Africa laughed at his regular use of a turban and refused to allow him to enter into their cricket competitions. Rather than use his resentment to fight for his daughter, he tries to pass on his disillusionment. But "things are different now," Jess tells him, and eventually he sneaks into the crowd at a match to see for himself.

Several crises emerge when Jess and Jules both fall for their soccer coach. When Pinky's future in-laws spot Jess and Jules on a street corner, displaying more affection publicly than is seemly, the wedding is called off. Jules' mom fears that Jules is a lesbian, and Jess' parents (believing short-haired Jules is male), think Jess is intimate with a white boy. After these issues get cleared up, new complications develop when the date chosen for Pinky’s wedding is the very day that Jess is scheduled to play in the most important match of the season.

All of these conflicts come to a head in a colorful finale that crosscuts between a final football match and the traditional wedding. Jess and Jules take their team to victory against all odds. The cultures continue to clash, but in ways that are increasingly responsive to one another.

Cinema Alchemy

My 30-year old client, Rashmi, came to therapy for help with her confusion around professional and relationship goals. She saw herself as bi-sexual. Rashmi felt unhappy in her current relationship with a woman. She also felt stuck at work, although she was very successful and well regarded at her workplace.

Rashmi’s parents had immigrated into the US from India right before she was born. My client emphasized that she feels very loyal to her traditional family. Rashmi contemplated whether she might not be able to emotionally open up to her girlfriend because her parents would not approve of this relationship if they knew about it. She wanted to leave her job and start graduate school at a university on the East Coast. Although her parents were supportive toward her carrier ambitions in general, Rashmi believed that they did not approve of her plans to move far away from her family. It saddened her that she has to hide major aspects of her life from them. Rashmi even wondered whether an arranged marriage would bring her happiness and the closeness to her family she was yearning for.

My client also told me that she had not openly rebelled as a teenager. After seeing Bend it like Beckham, Rashmi thought that she had missed the opportunity to stand up to her parents, like Jess, and to communicate her dreams to them.

When I asked her whether she might consider starting this communication now, Rashmi responded that she would try if she knew how. She was afraid that her parents “wouldn’t know what she was talking about because they live in a completely different world”. I suggested an “experiment”: to watch Bend it like Beckham together with her parents and see whether this might help start the dialog that Rashmi was yearning for.

My client came to her next session pleasantly surprised how relatively easy it was to start talking with her parents after watching the movie. The film had served as a catalyst for Rashmi to find the courage and share her dreams about graduate school. Her parents listened and even expressed support. This lifted a big weight from Rashmi’s shoulders. Pursuing her professional goals didn’t mean she had to sacrifice her family bond.

Sensing her parents’ caring sparked new hope in Rashmi about being able to introduce her girlfriend to them at some point. Consequently her relationship improved.

Theoretical contemplations

Like in the movie, Bend it like Beckham, Rashmi’s family was caught in a typical dynamic of immigrant families, when the traditional parents try to push their conventional expectations onto their children who have been born into a different cultural world.

As in her case, communication between clients and their family is often strained because they try to communicate a concept that is unfamiliar to other members of their family. A film can introduce understanding through readily grasped images. It serves as a metaphor and therefore represents more accurately feelings and ideas that a client had trouble putting into words.

This can also be applied to work with couples and families. In combination with systems oriented therapy, watching films that show family or other relationship dynamics, and comparing with them, helps clients


starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

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


-Franklin Seal
freelance writer
editor & webmaster
Moab, UT, USA