The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #31
August, 2008
Unsubscribe info at the end of the issue
send this page to a friend

starIn the Spotlight:

Ralph Allison, MD comments in his blog Thoughts of the Day on Spiritual Psychology on the article Review of a New Version of the Movie "Sybil" in Newsweek of June 9, 2008. The remake of the movie “Sybil” is based on the book of the same name. Allison says: "In reading the book carefully, I found no evidence that those “other selves” which the heroine created in her early childhood were alter-personalities. They were most likely IIC (Internalized Imaginary Companions), with some of them being “older” than the patient herself. Therefore I feel she used her “emotional imagination” to create entities who could help her cope with her schizophrenic mother. ... Therefore I disagree with any diagnosis of DID (Disassociative Identity Disorder), or MPD (Multiple Personality Disorder), and I have always been unhappy that she has been considered a prototype of a “multiple” all these years."

Joyce Seah in Singapore writes in her blog VitaminJ "Movie Therapy is a breakthrough therapy approach that uses movies as a counseling tool to help people work through issues in their lives with a counselor. More than just a novel idea, this will prove to be just as effective as (if not more effective than) traditional counseling tools when it comes to helping clients attain the self-awareness necessary in the healing process." She gives a taste of this therapy with the movie 'Forest Gump".

The UK/France based organization Insight pioneers the use of Participatory Video as a tool for empowering individuals and communities. This method enables people to develop greater control over their own development and the decisions affecting their lives.


Ryan M. Niemiec, Danny Wedding just published their new book Positive Psychology At The Movies: Using Films to Build Virtues and Character Strengths. Positive psychology is concerned with strengths and virtues, particularly those that lead to fulfillment, connectedness, and meaning in life. Drawing on the authors’ experience of teaching, movie discussion groups, and with patients, this book combines research-based advice on how to improve life and flourish – using movies to exemplify, illuminate, and inspire.

I updated the page Other articles and useful links on Included is a new section "Academic articles and dissertations" with the results of the latest research in the field of Cinema Therapy.

The Cinematherapy Professional Directory has a new addition:
Roger D. Butner, Ph.D., LMFT is a psychotherapist Baton Rouge, Louisiana at the Baton Rouge Christian Counseling Center. He specializes in treating teens and their families, as well as in couple counseling. Roger believes people are inspired and moved by stories, and movies have become one of the primary storytelling avenues of our culture.  He frequently recommends specific movies to clients in therapy, encouraging them to notice any themes or situations that seem personally familiar or stir them emotionally, and to notice which characters they find themselves really understanding, not understanding, liking, and disliking.  Processing this together in subsequent sessions is a powerful tool for therapeutic insight and growth.

Gary Craig, the Founder of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT) has used movies in conjunction with EFT. He desrcibes his success with this method in the article Movies to explore our inner life. Gary Craig also posted Silvia Hartmann-Kent's article Going To The Movies about the same approach on this site.

The website Talent Development Resources posted in the article Cinematherapy a short introduction into this field.

Tanya T. Warrington describes in his blog Movie Therapy how movies affect emotions. She also lists several mood-appropriate films.

starWorkshops and Online Courses:

Birgit Wolz

Continuing Education Online Courses for Mental Health Professionals:

For the Movie Lover:
A package of four online courses for CE credits that are based on popular movies
- Cinema Therapy
- Cinema Therapy with Children and Adolescents
- Therapeutic Ethics in Movies
- Therapeutic Boundaries in Films
- Learn About the DSM Through the Movies

25 CE credits can be earned.
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.

Shoshanna April

August 16, 2008
E-Motion Picture Circles - Where Reel Life is a Metaphore for Real Life
Emotion Picture Circles exists in order to provide you with entertaining movies that will:
• Awaken your sense of joy and wonder
• Inspire love and add to insights
• Evoke a deeper connection with the universe around you
• Clarify values and are life affirming

3 Short Films:The Danish Poet, Audrey and Einstein, Ryan's Well
When: August 16, Saturday

Place: El Cerrito/Richmond, CA (directions given at registration)
Time: 7:30 PM
Cost: Free. Love donation sincerely appreciated
Directions: Given at time of Confirmation
RSVP: Pre-registration required, space is limited to 12 participants
Call Shoshanna April 510-502-4164 or write at to reserve your space.

starCinema Therapy Research

Participants Needed for Cinematherapy Research Study
If you are an experienced therapist or coach who has used film in your work with at least 5 clients, there is a research study on the use of film for personal growth that might interest you. For more information, contact Jim Knickerbocker, doctoral candidate at Fielding Graduate University, at or

Elena-Claudia Biris Rusu recently presented her dissertation Psychosocial coordinates of films' functions in self-development and psychotherapy at the Romanian Academy of Philosophy and Psychology in Bucharest, Rumania. She is looking for American psychology journals who are interested in publishing articles about her work. Claudia can be contacted at

Fuat Ulus, M.D. from Erie, PA conducted research while facilitating Cinema Therapy with groups at the St. Vincent Hospital and Health Services in Erie. Dr. Ulus can be reached at

starCinema Therapy Application

Since July 2007 the enlarged concept of Cinema Therapy of Birgit Wolz is being applied in the psychosomatic rehabilitation hospital in the historic castle of Waldleiningen. Wolfgang Ellenberger, a medical doctor at this hospital describes their Cinema Therapy applications in English and in German here. Wolfgang Ellenberger can be reached at


Therapeutic Movie Review Column
By Birgit Wolz


Director: Paul Schrader
Producers: Linda Reisman
Paul Schrader
Nick Nolte, Sissy Spacek, James Coburn, Willem Dafoe, Mary Beth Hurt, Jim True, Marian Seldes
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1997


Wade Whitehouse is a part-time cop and part-time handyman in a small New Hampshire town. He plows the road, holds up traffic for the school bus, and hands out tickets. His uniform, gun and stature do not make up for the fact that he views himself as a worthless, incompetent loser. He just goes through the motions, numbed out, and doesn't follow-through with almost anything. When Wade first appears on screen, he runs late through the blue New England twilight, having forgotten an appointment, arguing with his young daughter Jill, whom he loves desperately, but he has disappointed her over and over again. She looks at him as if he is crazy because he is not capable of really listening to her.

His ex-wife Lillian feels a deep contempt for Wade. He is a heavy drinker and smokes pot on the job. Although he is a bad father and sheriff, he retains enough qualities to inspire the loyalty of his girlfriend Margie Fogg. She accepts him the way he is.

When Wade's father Glen appears on the screen, we understand the source of his defeat. Glen Whitehouse is a cauldron of alcoholic venom, a violent man whose consolation in life has been to dominate and terrorize his family. In flashbacks to Wade's childhood, we observe that Glen sometimes beat his son when he was sober but more usually when he was drunk while belittling him mercilessly. His wife watched the cruelty. "Women like this, it's like they live their lives with the sound turned off. And then they're gone,'' says the film's narrator, Wade's brother Rolfe.

Wade has grown big in body but remains small in mind. He appears as if he feels at any moment that his dad is going to burst in, tell him he is no good, and start abusing him again. There are scenes where both men are on the screen together, and the sheriff is shrinking, as if afraid of a sudden blow.

In one scene, Wade and Margie go to his dad's house and find him sitting in his living room in a stuporous state with his door open in the middle of the winter. His wife, Wade's mother, lies frozen to death upstairs. Because he is drunk, Glen is unable to acknowledge the situation. He seems not aware that his wife has died and tries to rouse her. None of his children, who come back to their hometown for their mother's funeral, mention that their dad might have had a role in her death. Their denial might be so great because they are still fearful of their father.

Later, at the funeral, Wade tries to lead the family in a semblance of a dignified service, while drinking beer. His father had already been drinking straight whiskey. He demonstrates many signs of intoxication, including slurred speech, swearing, unsteady gait, and labile mood. And he provokes a physical fight, dragging others down to his level.

Months later, on the first day of the deer hunting season, Wade's friend Jack takes a wealthy vacationer to hunt and returns as the only one alive with the man's expensive gun and some bloodstains. Jack insists it was an accidental self-inflicted shot. Wade doesn't believe him and begins an investigation that stirs up the stagnant town. This investigation also shakes up his life. He grabs the chance to discover meaning in his life. This process triggers many insights about how things have gone wrong, and what he can do about it. Wade experiences healing from his emotional childhood wounds and develops into a stronger person.

Cinema Alchemy

My 41-year-old client Peter struggled with symptoms of dysthymic disorder and insomnia. In his intake interview he told me that his father was addicted to alcohol. During alcohol binges Peter's dad frequently lost control and terrorized his three sons. When I heard this, I started to wonder whether a major reason for Peter's symptoms were his childhood trauma that resulted from his father's verbal and physical abuse.

My client believed that his father's behavior had no effect on him. He told me that he had struggled with drinking too much alcohol himself for many years because that's what he learned from watching his dad. "Since I have been clean and sober, I left my past behind. The beatings during my childhood have long been forgotten," said Peter.

I had used the movie Affliction to illustrate the serious consequences of alcoholism and childhood abuse on the lives of the survivors of childhood trauma successfully before. Peter's passive attitude and negative self-image reminded me of the character Wade in the movie. Therefore I recommended this film to him. When he watched it, he was surprised about the similarities to his own experiences. He told me that feelings resurfaced that he used to have when he grew up. When I inquired more into this, my client was able to acknowledge the impact of his father's alcoholism and physical abuse on his emotional development for the first time.

During the course of his treatment I also used a technique that I call Film Re-entry .   In trance, my client entered the story of the movie in the scenes that had impacted him the most when he had watched the film. For Peter this was a scene that showed Wade in a flashback getting abused by his dad as a child. Then I encouraged Peter to let his own story unfold while I guided him along. Through this process preconscious material about the impact of the abuse was revealed. Subsequently I used EMDR to work with his trauma.

The movie, in combination with Film Re-entry as well as client-centered therapeutic work helped Peter to break through his denial safely. This allowed him to start working on the recovery from his childhood trauma. Through the EMDR treatment he was able to tap into previously hidden inner strengths. Not long after that he started sleeping better. His negative self-image, his passive attitude, and consequently his dysthymia gradually dissipated.

Theoretical Contemplation

In my Cinema Alchemy work with Peter I drew from hypnotherapy and dream work. Dream Re-entry through hypnosis is an effective method for opening up communication with dream characters, exploring different responses to a dream situation, completing a dream story, and re-experiencing a state of being from a dream. It enables the client to track inner imagery to the core of an issue or symptom and transform the issue or symptom at its source.

Like dreams, our emotional responses to movies can be considered "windows to our soul." Therefore similarly to Dream Re-entry, Film Re-entry is a powerful process of therapeutic imaging in which clients "become" a movie character. As they enter the imaginal domain, they describe themselves as the character and get a sense of what it is like for them to "be" this film character. On this visionary journey, they experience and embody the character's issues or qualities. Clients can also engage in a dialogue between characters. Or they can alternately "be" and give a voice to one or more film characters. Frequently, unconscious material gets revealed.

In the Film Re-entry process the therapist tracks the inner path of progressive imagery to a place where the client is able to reconnect to the essential resources and the source needed to transform or release a previously unconscious pattern.

Guidelines for Questions and Suggestions for Clients who Struggle with Childhood Trauma

•  Did you see a character experience a similar trauma as you had in your childhood?

•  How was your story similar or different from the story of this character?

•  How did the character's childhood experience impact his or her life as an adult? Do you see any similarities to your life?

•  Did the film character eventually develop certain strengths or other capacities that showed that he or she was able to heal?

•  Imagine yourself starting to heal and being able to experience these strengths or other positive qualities. How would your life change?


starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

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