The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #21
February, 2006
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Reel Fulfillment: by  Maria Grace;
McGraw-Hill (September, 2005); available on Amazon.

Book Description: This original new approach to personal happiness teaches you how watching your favorite movies can radically improve your life. Using interactive prompts and work sheets, you will learn how silver-screen fantasies from such diverse movies as "Working Girl," "Star Wars," and even "Shrek" can uncover the self-imposed obstacles and unrealistic expectations that get in the way of realizing your dreams. With tips on how to create a realistic life script, Reel Fulfillment will guide you to a happily ever after.

On her Web site, Maria Grace displays several articles about the usefulness of movies in different life circumstances.

My colleague, the movie therapist, Bernie Wooder, from the UK gave an interview about his work Cinema Therapy for the article Hollywood on Prescription that appeared in The Independent.

My mentor, the psychologist and founder of the Center for Story and Symbols, Jonathan Young, explains why Hollywood continually shys away from making films with tragic undertones in the article hollywood's love affair with happy endings in Yogi Times .

Kim Linekin, a film critic from Vancouver, BC, created a radio piece on Cinema Therapy, which is presented on Saturday, 3/18/06 on CBC radio in Canada. The web link to the announcement about this show can be found here.

Asrar Wail Islam, from Saudi Arabia wrote:
           "In my MA research in Broadcast Journalism at Cardiff University I would like to study how the methods of Cinema Therapy (CT) can be used with nonfiction or documentary films and help serve similar powerful purposes of healing, self-reflection, insight, and creative problem-solving for viewers. I will examine models of documentaries that in their vivid reflection of realities and search for truth they provide viewers the innovative principles and techniques of cinema therapy.
           I believe that the actuality of the stories taken directly from real life in documentaries can bring out deep feelings and help viewers reflect on their lives. I'm mainly interested in the healing effect of changing misconceived world outlooks. Model films for my study will be a selection of topics like diseases, war, poverty etc. To examine how various documentaries can help heal viewers' thinking, feeling and understanding of such real critical issues.
         I believe that if the great therapeutic potential of a documentary film is effectively used in the media, such an approach will have the power to change societies in significant levels.
         I would appreciate any comments and suggestions to"
Asrar is studying International Broadcast Journalism at the School of Journalism and Media Studies, Cardiff, Wales, United Kingdom, Phone: +447707635850

A Ph.D. candidate at the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology in Palo Alto, CA, is planning a dissertation on "Transformative Film Experiences".  She will be interviewing people who have changed their lives in some significant way as a result of viewing a film (or films), or people for whom film plays an ongoing role in their psychological and emotional well-being.  This Ph.D. candidate is also interested in interviewing people who have experienced a non-ordinary state while watching a film (had a sudden clear realization, felt a "presence", experienced an altered state of consciousness, etc.).  She is in the proposal writing stage right now, and expect to be doing research by the end of the summer. 
If anybody can help identify participants and/or by offer thoughts/perspectives and anecdotal stories related to my topic, please email me ( and I will forward the information.

The New York Times - Science published an article by Sandra Blakeslee about monkey research on Jan 10, 2006 that shows how biology can help us understand the question, "why Cinema Therapy works":
Cells that Read Minds
When a monkey watches a researcher bring an object--an ice cream cone, for example-- to his mouth, the same brain neurons fire as when the monkey brings a peanut to its own mouth. In the early 1990's, Italian researchers discovered this phenomenon and named the cells "mirror neurons."
One of the researchers, Dr. Iacoboni, said that mirror neurons work best in real life when people are face to face. Even though he states that "virtual reality and videos are shadowy substitutes", I believe that this research provides a basis for understanding the impact and therapeutic efficiency of movies.

starWorkshops and Online Courses:
For mental health practitioners:

Birgit Wolz

After my first online continuing education course, Cinema Therapy - Using the Power of Movies In the Therapeutic Process received a positive response (overview here), I expanded my work into "Cinema Teaching".

Together with Ofer Zur, PhD, I have co-authored an on-line continuing education course in which we use movies as a teaching tool. Mental health practitioners in the US can earn
6 CE credits.
Therapeutic Ethics and the Movies - What Films Can Teach Psychotherapists About Ethics and Boundaries in Therapy is now available online:

To access this course lick on
An overview over this course can be found here.

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.

I am currently working on a course with the title: DSM: Diagnoses Seen in Movies - Using Movies to Understand DSM Diagnoses, Other Presenting Problems, and Treatment Options.

July 21, 2006, 7:00 - 9:00 PM
Friday Night at the Movies - An Introduction to Cinema Therapy
At the Annual Conference of the American Mental Health Counselors Association in St. Louis, MO, July 20-22, 2006.
To register click here.

September 15, 2006, 6:00 - 7:30 PM
Cinema Therapy - Using the Power of Films for the Therapeutic Process
Sponsored by the Marin Chapter of CAMFT (California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists)
At the Corte Madera Town Center: 770 Tamalpais Drive, #201, Corte Madera, CA  
Contact: (415) 492-9850 or

(Dorie Rosenberg, MFT)

Michael Kahn

At the Charlotte Area Health Education Center , Charlotte, NC
•  Depiction of Therapists in the Movies: Monday April 3, 2006 9-12:15
•  Cinematherapy: Wednesday May 17, 2006 9-4:30
March 21st:
Reel Couples: a workshop for the MS Society
For more information email Michael Kahn at

Francis Lu and Brother David Steindl-Rast

July 28-August 4, 2006
Renewing Wholeness: The Spiritual Experience of Viewing Great Films
At the Esalen Institute, Big Sur, CA.

In celebration of their 15th Esalen film seminar together, Francis and
Brother David will present a 7-day retrospective of great films that have been highlights of past seminars.  Themes will include:
   +  The quest for wholeness
   +  Nirvana and salvation
   +  Integrity
   +  The inner child
   +  Animals, angels, and other spiritual allies
   +  Forgiveness
   +  Gratefulness
   +  The spirit of humor
   +  Faith and resilience
   +  Contemplation
   +  Serenity
   +  Exuberance, creativity, and delight
   +  Film and the remembering of love

CE credits available for psychologists, social workers, nurses.

Shoshanna April

April 2, 2006 (Sunday), 6:30 PM
Spiritual Cinema Circle
The movies shown are for those seeking a new form of spirituality that unifies humanity rather than divides us, that recognizes the organic divinity of all of us, and that is committed to discovering what heights we can reach when we are at our best.
Discussion from the heart to follow film.
Place: Richmond, CA (directions given at registration)
Cost: Love donation gratefully received
Registration: please e-mail or call Shoshanna April

starInteresting dialogs between members of the CT Forum

About the portrayal of affairs in movies:

The culture/people gives lip service saying they do not condone affairs but in fact promote it.   (Similar to violence...) My question to you is, what movies can you point to as examples as how the media condone/promote infidelity or make it socially acceptable?

Birgit Wolz:
There are many movies about affairs. The following links to my Film Index show you some of them: affairs and commitment.
I am not exactly sure what you see as condoning/promoting infidelity. There are plenty of murders (lovers in Unfaithful (2002) and Matchpoint (2006) or the father in Eve's Bayou (1997)) as consequences of affairs. Does this mean that the affair or the killer spouse are judged in these stories? Does a movie promote/condone an affair, when a viewer empathizes with the lover or the couple who has the affair? I rooted for the lovers when I saw A Walk on the Moon (1999 ), Rumor Has It (2005), The Bridges of Madison County (1995 ), The End of the Affair (1999), Out of Africa (1985), Prince of Tides (1991 ) , or The Horse Whisperer (1998), because the spouses (all husbands in these examples) were portrayed as boring or unavailable. This might be true for most viewers but different for some. The filmmakers might have implicitly condoned or promoted infidelity. But in Matchpoint the husband who killed his own lover looks as if he will be unhappy for the rest of his life. I guess that the affairs in Icestorm (1997) or Closer (2004) have pretty negative consequences too. And how about The Graduate (1967)? Is Ms. Robinson portrayed as doing something morally wrong, or are viewers on her and her young lover's side? It seems that I have more questions than answers, because my ongoing experience in my CT work is that - depending on personality and history - people respond very differently to what they see on the screen, even if a filmmaker may have had a certain intention.

About the portrayal of the dynamics of therapy in movies:

Matt Boone, LCSW (Lecturer at the Department of Sociology, Ithaca College, Ithaca, New York):

I know from teaching another class on individual counseling that using movie clips as springboards for discussion about the dynamics of therapy is very useful.   However, I find that depictions of group counseling or self-help groups in film are often comical and less useful.
Have you come across any movies that have accurate depictions of group therapy or self-help groups?

Birgit Wolz:
I agree that few movies are useful as examples of group therapy because depictions of group counseling or self-help groups in film are often comical. I remember only three movies that might be useful.
1. About 10 years ago I saw wonderful film about group therapy: The Color of Fear. It might be available at some college libraries.  
2. I also like the group therapy scenes in the movie Bliss (1997). One of the main characters, Maria, gets treatment for psychological problems that result from sexual abuse in childhood. I recommend to only focus on these scenes exclusively since the rest of the film is not useful for your purpose.
3. You can also check out the Spanish movie Take My Ees (Te Doy Mis Ojos) by Iciar Bollain. Luis Tosar beats his wife.  And Laia Marull, his abused wife, despite everything is still attracted to her husband. Tosar tries to improve herself through group therapy.

I also communicated with Fuat Ulus, with whom I believe you are familiar.   He made a few suggestions:
Made for Each Other
Starting over
One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest
Anger Management
He also suggested some movies that depict group dynamics outside the context of group therapy. These include 12 Angry Men, 8 Women, The Wild Bunch, and the HBO drama Oz (with some caveats about the level of violence).

starIntruducing a Movie:
The Celestine Prophecy will open in select theaters on April 21.

This movie is directed by Armand Mastroianni from a screenplay by James Redfield & Barnet Bain and Dan Gordon. It is produced by Barnet Bain, Terry Collis, James Redfield and Beverly J. Camhe.

Interview with James Redfield:

What motivated you to make this movie?

Our foremost intent as we created this film was to make an entertaining movie that stayed true to the book -- or more accurately, that stayed true to the essence of the book.   After all, a film is a different medium. Intended meanings, messages, have to be shown in the flow of human action.

How can this film be used for healing, transformation and spiritual development?

We seem to have created a movie that has to be probed a bit, not just taken in one gulp.   In that way perhaps it does capture the book, and reflects what we all want at this moment in history: to look closer, to go deeper, and to discover a perspective on life, that is no less miraculous than the fact that we exist in the first place.

Do you have any suggestions or guidelines for watching this movie?

Suspend your movie-going conventions, immerse yourself into the essence of the movie, these archetypal invisibles glistening as music, landscape and people -- that is how you will "get" the movie.

Who could benefit from watching "The Celestine Prophecy"?

This movie and phenomenon are here for a reason, and each time you engage with it, you'll know more and more clearly what that special reason is for you being here. You'll gain a clearer sense of how to uniquely proceed, and how to skillfully take action for the sake of a more positive evolution -- for the good of the whole.

How is "The Celestine Prophecy" different from other movies?

We had to face the fact that the film had to be a different kind of parable from the book, with a complicated but more global meaning, a kind of snapshot of the Celestine worldview that became ever more impactful with each subsequent viewing--but all laced within a story line that had a beginning, a middle, and an end, and moved along at a rate that moviegoers expect.

Is there anything else you would like to say about this film or it's making?

All that's left now is for the real test to happen as this movie is released into the world. I would only ask that people remember one thing. The real impact is one you'll sense more fully without thinking. It will be something you feel--not so much with your emotions, but with your body, your soul--as a distantly familiar world begins to emerge.


Therapeutic Movie Review Column
By Birgit Wolz Ph.D.

Brokeback Mountain

Director: Ang Lee
Producer: Diana Ossana, James Schamus
Screenwriter: Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana
Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Heath Ledger, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid, Linda Cardellini, Anna Faris, Scott Michael Campbell, Kate Mara

MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 2005


Brokeback Mountain is based on a short story by Annie Proulx, published in The New Yorker in 1997. The drama covers two decades, beginning in 1963. In Signal, Wyoming, when Ennis Del Mar and Jack Twist are about 20 years old, they get a job tending sheep on Brokeback Mountain for a local rancher. Ennis is a boy of few words; he learned to be guarded and fearful long before he consciously knew what he feared. Eventually he shares that he was raised by his brother and sister after their parents died in a car crash. Therefore he only completed one year of high school before having to work. Jack, a Texan, who was raised by a domineering father, is somewhat more talkative and has done some rodeo riding. Both are descendants of their culture, the American West and its cowboy mythology - taciturn and stoic.

After some weeks have passed on the mountain and some whiskey has been drunk, they reach out to each other in an almost violent sexual passion that surprises them both. "You know I ain't queer," Ennis tells Jack after their first night together. "Me, neither," says Jack. "This is a one-shot thing we got going on here," states Ennis, and Jack agrees. But they are intensely drawn to each other and cannot stop.

When the summer is over, they part laconically: "I guess I'll see ya around, huh?" When Jack returns in the following year to ask for work, their no-nonsense boss, who had watched the lovers through binoculars, doesn't want him back: "You guys sure found a way to make the time pass up there. You weren't getting paid to let the dogs guard the sheep while you stemmed the rose."

In agreement with the disapproving heterosexual world, Jack and Ennis attempt to settle down and live "normal" lives, but nothing will ever be the same for them. Jack marries a rodeo queen, Lureen, in Texas, becomes the father of a boy, and settles into a job working for his wife's family business. Ennis gets married to his fiancée, Alma, and they have two daughters.

In 1967, when Jack visits Ennis in Wyoming, the two men embrace and move to the side of the house for a passionate kiss. Alma sees them and is completely shocked, but she cannot bring herself to say anything. "If you can't fix it, you gotta stand it," says Ennis, expressing his philosophy of staying in the closet, while he begins to see Jack secretly for "fishing trips" on Brokeback Mountain. The main characters are incarnating the basic human needs for wholeness, fulfillment, and a true love who accepts them as they really are. They struggle valiantly over the years to make their marriages, their children, and their work sources of meaning, but neither man is able to fully engage with his life. Their story reveals the pain of living with hidden identities. Despite the intimacy they share, there is a certain formalism between Jack and Ennis that might stem from their seeming inability to admit their homosexuality, even to each other.

After several years, doling out their love during just a few weeks a year is not enough for Jack. He suggests that they leave their wives and live together on a small ranch, but Ennis is not willing to take the risk, frightened that they will be discovered: "This thing gets hold of us at the wrong time and wrong place and we're dead." His father taught him to hate homosexuals, and therefore his own feelings. Ennis tells Jack about something he saw as a boy. "There were two old guys shacked up together. They were the talk of the town, even though they were pretty tough old birds." One day they were found beaten to death. Ennis says: "My dad, he made sure me and my brother saw it. For all I know, he did it."

Jack is able to accept a little more willingly that he is inescapably gay. In frustration and need, he goes to Mexico and finds a male prostitute. After Ennis' marriage has failed and after his world has compressed to a mobile home, the laundromat, and the TV, he blames his pain on Jack: "Why don't you let me be? It's because of you, Jack, that I'm like this -- nothing, and nobody." Ennis' effort to resist his love for Jack turns him into an angry, bitter drunk who shuts out everybody. The two men's wives and children are victims too. Alma finally calls Ennis on his "fishing trips". It took her a long time to do that, because nothing in her background prepared her for what she has found out about her husband.

Jack dies 20 years after the two men met. The viewer cannot be sure about the scenes of his murder in a flashback: Are we witnessing what really happened, or how the grieving Ennis sees a hate crime in his imagination? His subsequent visit to Jack's parents is heartbreaking because of what is said, and not said, about their world. A look around his lover's childhood bedroom suggests to Ennis what he overcame to make room for his feelings.

Cinema Alchemy:

My gay client, Vince, told me that he experienced Brokeback Mountain as very powerful. When I asked him which scene and character impacted him the most, he pointed to the end of the film: Ennis had come back to his trailer from his visit to Jack's parents, and looks at his deceased lover's shirt that he was allowed to keep. Vince expressed sadness and anger when he told me that it broke his heart to see Ennis looking "so alone, isolated and lost". "It doesn't need to be that way", he added.

I asked my client whether this scene reminded him about something in his own life. At this point memories and emotions started pouring out him. For the first time Vince found the courage to tell me about the most lonely and painful experience of his life. He became aware of his homosexuality in the 1960's, at age 12. Because he was too afraid to talk to anybody about it, he started educating himself about sexuality in a public library. There he learned that homosexuality is a mental illness and that gay people can never be happy. This sickness can only be healed if a young person undergoes therapy treatment before late adolescence. Because Vince believed that adults are always right, he fell into deep despair. The boy was very attached to his family. Now he became afraid that he will be separated from everybody because he is going to end up in a mental asylum. At the same time, Vince's homophobic father, who intuited his son's sexual orientation, made hateful remarks when he was drunk.

Eventually my client was able to break through his isolation by sharing his secret with a school counselor, and asking her to tell his mom. Even though Vince's mother never rejected him and divorced his father, he insisted on starting therapy. He wanted to be "cured" to become "normal". Surprising for Vince and the therapist, this treatment ended up confirming his client's sexual orientation. In college he met supportive friends, and experienced a sense of belonging as a gay man for the first time. Since then he has lived in an environment that he experiences as "extremely permissive".

Vince was confused about his strong reaction to the movie since he knew now that his childhood beliefs were wrong. I responded by asking him whether there might be a part in him, an "Inner Ennis" or "Inner 12-year old", who believes that the books he read as a child and his father were right. We discussed a possible connection between this part inside him and the fact that Vince has never been in a long-term relationship, although he misses it, because he is too afraid of getting hurt. Vince began to deeply understand his internalized homophobia for the first time. I guided him into a healing dialog between the "Inner Ennis" and his "True Self". Consequently my client lost much of his fear and is starting to make steps toward dating.

Guidelines for Questions and Interventions:

•  What scene and character affected you most?
•  Does this scene remind you of an experience in your current life or your past?
•  Do you aware of a part inside yourself that could be called your "Inner (name of character)"?
•  What function does this part have in your life?
•  Initiate dialog between "Inner (name of character)" and "True Self" and/or other parts.

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