The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #33
February, 2009
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starIn the Spotlight:

In the Colleague Alumni Magazine (Summer 2008), Carin Chapin describes in the article, Cinema Therapy, how Lisa Bahar became a cinematherapist and her style of practicing this subject. She also gives frequent lectures on cinema therapy and is an associate faculty member at Saddleback College in the Human Services Division.

Steffanie Alexander writes on her page Personal Narratives - Narrative Medicine: "Narratives provide one person with a rich and resonant sense of another person's experience as it unfolds. While the subject matter and voice maybe uniquely the author's, they speak of universal truths of the human condition and experience: illness, crisis, catastrophe, loss, adventure, and accident. Narratives can be books (sometimes called bibliotherapy), movies (sometimes called cinema therapy), music, or photographic essays."

Bernie Wooder gave another interview titled Silver screen has golden results. He says: "Sitting down to watch a good movie can make you giggle, sob, jump with fright, or thank heaven you’re not having to deal with aliens attacking the Earth. But they can also help you recognize, and deal with, your innermost feelings."

Stephen Holden wrote in the New York Times on Jan. 16, 2009 Sometimes Groucho’s Cigar Is Not Just a Cigar: "If you embrace the notion that Hollywood is literally a 'dream factory,' then Freud stands as a proto movie critic who taught us how to decipher the hidden meanings of its celluloid fantasies. ..."

According to the blog, ImagiNations, Cinema Therapy is now integrated into Drama Therapy.

And Cinema Therapy is now also taught in English classes. The blog, English 124: Film and/as Literature, recomments in the blogroll.

Ever since she was in high school, Christmas has been tough for Amanda Pleau. She never quite got over that first sad holiday following her parents' divorce. But after years of feeling sad around Christmas, she came up with a plan. In the weeks leading up to Christmas of 2007, Pleau watched practically every Christmas movie she could think of. Her boyfriend, independent producer Josh Gleason, recorded the experiment for NPR.


Crow Information Design offers the new e-book: Cinema Therapy by Charlene Kingston, which is available for downloading. This book aims to "help readers solve their life challenges through movies." has launched a new e-book and 7 CE-hour course titled "Transgenderism: A Case Study of the movie Transamerica by Francine R Goldberg. It explains, demonstrates, and guides participants in the application of knowledge about transgenderism, including definitions, assessment, diagnosis, gender reassignment surgery, standards of care, trauma, victimization, as well as medical and mental health treatment addressing family, parenting, vocational, substance abuse and HIV issues.

Film recommendations for specific life situations can be found in the following articles: Reflecting and Movie Therapy--Sliding Doors and Movie therapy: Five films that heal and Top 10 Resolutions for a Movie Buff and Using Media for Post-Holiday Stress Reduction.

starWorkshops and Online Courses:

Birgit Wolz

Sunday, February 15 through Friday, February 20, 2009
Esalen Institute, Big Sur, California

Using the Power of Movies for Healing and Transformation
Inquiries into our emotional responses to movies open a window to our soul. How we relate to a film's archetypal motifs reveals our inner life. Together we build a bridge between our realizations in "reel" life and our experiences in real life. Watching films with conscious awareness makes us recognize aspects of our shadow self, and helps us find our authentic self and essence.

Find complete workshop description here.

Clinical training material will be provided on CDs.

Psychologists, Counselors, other Psychotherapists, Nurses, and Teachers earn 26 CEU.

Fee: depends on choice of accommodation
Registration: 831-667-3005 or
General information about Esalen can be found here.

Continuing Education Online Courses:

New: Positive Psychology and the Movies: Transformational Effects of Movies through Positive Cinema Therapy
Positive psychology is a recent branch of psychology that studies the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. Recently, researchers and practitioners in the field of positive psychotherapy have developed interventions for the clinical setting to treat psychological problems effectively by building positive resources and by buffering against their future reoccurrence. Because film characters frequently model the development of the desired virtues and strengths, movies can become natural vehicles for the processes of Positive Cinema Therapy.

5 CE credits can be earned.

For the Movie Lover:
A package of six online courses for CE credits that are based on popular movies:
- Cinema Therapy
- Cinema Therapy with Children and Adolescents

- Positive Psychology and the Movies
- Therapeutic Ethics in Movies
- Therapeutic Boundaries in Films
- Learn About the DSM Through the Movies

30 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.

Transgender Night at the Movies:

4th Sunday of the month
6:00 - 9:00 pm
Popcorn included!
Pre-registration required
Scent-free site near El Cerrito, CA
Exact address and directions sent upon registration

The series schedule:
FTM Stories (Female to Male): January 25, 2009
MTF Stories (Male to Female): February 22, 2009
Other Genders: March 22, 2009
Transgender Families: April 26, 2009
FTM Stories (Female to Male): May 31, 2009
MTF Stories (Male to Female): July 26, 2009

Facilitator: Valerie Igl, MFT
Contact: or 510-527-5662 x3
Audit rate: $25 each, 3 for $70, or 5 for $115.
CEU rate: $50 each, 3 workshops for $140 (save $10) , or 5 for $230 (save $20)

Shoshanna April

E-Motion Picture Circles - Where Reel Life is a Metaphor 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 affirm life
The E-motion Picture Circle meets once a month and the films that are chosen raise consciousness and awareness about your humanity.
If interested in joining, call Shoshanna April 510-502-4164 or write to

Canadian Mental Health Association

The Canadian Mental Health Association in Vancouver hosts a monthly movie night for psych ward patients and their families, if interested. Each night has a specific mental-health related theme.

Danny Pettry

Danny Pettry’s Independent Education Program includes Cinema therapy and refers to movies that could promote empathy at this website.

Fuat Ulus

Fuat Ulus, MD presented workshops and conferences about using cinema and movie clips in therapeutic and educational settings in Turkey, September-October-November 2008. His itinerary is available here.

starCinema Therapy Research

Several studies recently appeared about the effect of romantic comedies on love life: Rom-coms 'spoil your love life' here and here. Watching romantic comedies can spoil your love life, a study by a university in Edinburgh has claimed. The underlying research can be found in Bjarne M. Holmes' article Romance Media and Relationship Destiny and in Content Analysis of Romanic Comedies by Kimberly R. Johnson and Bjarne M. Holmes. Holmes's dissertation is available upon request.

starCinema Therapy International:

Congratulations, Claudia Rusu, for publishing your book, Psychology & Cinema, creating your own website, being elected as a Deputy Dean at your faculty at the Spiru Haret University in Bucharest, Rumania, and finishing your PhD!

Die Bildzeitung, the newspaper with the biggest circulation in Germany, just published an articel about Cinema Therapy: Mut durch Movies: Kinofilme als Therapie - funktioniert das wirklich? (Courage through Movies: Fims as Therapy - does it really work? They mention in the article.

Starting January 2009, one of my Cinema Alchemy articles will be published every other month in the Polish bimonthly psychological magazine Sens. The editor chose The Truman Show for January. A major Polish lifestyle magazines, called Zwierciado (Mirror) is publishing this special, psychologically oriented edition. Sens focuses on personal development issues and features articles on psychology, education, and personal development. The magazin addresses 25-45 year old women and men with higher education and has a circulation of 40 000.

After Karolina Giedrys published an interview titled Filmowa Alchemia (Cinema Alchemy) with me on the website Kinoterapia (Cinema Therapy), she wrote me: "More and more people ask about the approach every day, you may get some patients from Poland soon."

Starting from 21 February 2009, the Centre for Contemporary Art in Warsaw, Poland in alliance with the Warsaw School of Social Sciences and Humanities starts a series of film meetings called Kinoterapia". The meetings combine advantages of an artistic event with the healing potential of cinematherapy.
The meetings comprise: presentation of films grouped according to their content, discussions related to the given problem and personal development workshops. Every series comprises six screenings held every three weeks. The first two series will last throughout 2009. The former is called "Otherness" and is devoted to the theme of self, identity and its broader social context with emphasis on excluded environments, intercultural dialogue and tolerance.
The project is intended to bring together film buffs and persons keen on personal development work. It features an original repertoire with films, which have never or rarely been shown in Poland ("Zelig", "Lars and the Real Girl", "Darling", "Together"). The panels following each screening will assemble academics and practitioners in the field of humanistic studies, psychology and psychotherapy. The workshops are developed on the basis of the process psychology stemming from: Taoism, C.G. Junga's theories, Gestalt therapy, NLP, system therapy, communication therapy and discoveries of various body work schools.
A Powerpoint presentation about this project is available upon request.

starCommunity Development:

Frederick E. Miller MD, PhD is very interested in helping to establish something akin to the American Society for the Visual Arts in Psychiatry. His hope would be that this would lead to an annual meeting dedicated to this topic, a journal of sorts, etc. He is the chairman of the board of directors and endowed chair of the Department of Psychiatry Northshore University HealthSystem, authored three feature length screenplays, and produced three short films focusing on mental health in young adults. These range from documentaries to original dramas. He has received some national recognition for these and was awarded the Voice Award and theTelly Award. For feedback please email to Frederick E. Miller at

starReflections on Movies:

Fuat Ulus, MD provided thoughtful reflections on the recently release movie The Visitor (2008).


Therapeutic Movie Review Column
By Birgit Wolz

When Did You Last See Your Father?

Director: Anand Tucker
Producer: Stephen Woolley
Screenwriters: Blake Morrison, Dave Nicholls
Cast: Jim Broadbent, Colin Firth, Juliet Stevenson, Matthew Beard, Gina McKee, Carey Mulligan, Elaine Cassidy, Tilly Curtis, Sarah Lancashire, Justin McDonald
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Year of Release: 2007


This movie is based on British author Blake Morrison's 1993 literary exploration of his relationship with his father. Arthur Morrison, Blake's dad, was a jovial country physician in England. He was beloved by acquaintances and a mistress. At home Arthur was aggressive, bombastic, and pig headed.

The movie first introduces Arthur, his wife Kim, and their two kids, Gillian and his older brother Blake, who is now a successful professional writer in his 40s with two children of his own. When Arthur is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he has only a few weeks left to live. Blake travels to Yorkshire to stay with his mother in the small town where he grew up. He visits his father at the hospital where his dad had spent much time as a doctor. As Arthur's condition worsens, Blake contemplates their shared experiences, their intimacies, and the irritations of their relationship.

The narrative regularly shifts between the present, with the adult Blake confronting death, and the past, with the younger Blake confronting life. Blake and his father had been close during the early days of his life. They spent outings together, during which Arthur was boisterous and domineering. Still, his son was in awe of him. Five-year-old Blake's big, adoring eyes say it all.

But when the boy became a teenager in the 1960s, he started to experience his relationship with his father as strained and uncomfortable. Arthur teased him frequently. Almost nothing worked between them, except when Arthur gave him the keys to the car and taught him his first driving lesson, and during a rare bonding experience in the Yorkshire Dales. The rest was unbearable for Blake. His father never seemed to notice this and kept laying it on. He routinely called his son "fathead" and blundered into his private life whenever it suited him.

The movie takes us deep inside Blake's thinking and emotions. He confronts his resentments as he looks back at Arthur's oppressive parenting by reflecting on much emotional pain. During one night, when Arthur forced his 14-year-old son to camp outside in pouring rain, the river flooded their tent. At this occasion, Blake discovered that Arthur had a long-term mistress, "aunt" Beaty. This confused him and deepened his hatred.

A couple of years later, father and son experienced a rivalry for the affection of the family's Scottish maid. What troubled Blake most was watching his mother putting up with her husband's behavior and still suffering through. When Arthur frequently publicly humiliated his wife, Kim responded by smoking many cigarettes and retiring to her bedroom with a migraine.

Although Blake ridiculed Arthur for never finishing a book, he just wished his dad would utter two words to him sometime: "well done." But Arthur was not able understand why his son did not want to pursue a lucrative profession as a doctor or a scientist. Instead, as a constant bookworm, Blake went off to the university to study English, following his dream to be a writer and a poet.

When Arthur's health deteriorates and he becomes a shell of himself, he is still saying hurtful things to his bewildered son. Although Blake finally attempts to connect with his dad, they keep putting off real communication and are unable to set things straight. "Stupid really," Blake says to his wife Kathy over the phone from the house of his parents. "You spend your whole life trying to avoid talking to someone, and when you want to, it's too late."

After his father's death, Blake questions the nature of their relationship, articulately expressing the contradictions, frustrations, love and loss bound into this complicated bond. He remembers how his dad was overcome and teared up sending his son to college. Blake starts seeing that Arthur was not a monster, but simply a needy, somewhat desperate man with a colorful and overbearing personality whose bullying ways and boorishness obscured his other qualities, making him careless and sometimes cruel. Compassionately he comes to terms with his contradictory feelings, letting the love and the hurt pour out of him. After watching the harshness and intensity of Blake's suffering, we witness his transcendence, acceptance, and joy.

One of the central themes in the film is the question Blake asks himself: Can he remember the last time he saw his father in a whole way? The title refers to this question - figuratively and literally.

Cinema Alchemy

Valerie came to see me because she felt stressed and emotionally overwhelmed. She lived with her husband and her two rebellious teenage daughters. Recently her 87-year-old father, Edwin, had moved into their house. He became too frail to live on his own after his wife had died. Valerie invited Edwin to live with them because she couldn't "stand the idea of sending him to a nursing home", although she was aware of the potential difficulties that can be associated with this kind of "sandwich" situation.

During the first couple of months, things worked out well. Since they were small children, Valerie's daughters had a good relationship with their grandfather. My client noticed with surprise that his presence helped shift the family dynamics in a positive way. Despite this positive development, Valerie had become increasingly irritable and emotionally stressed lately.

When I inquired more into the cause of these symptoms, my client started to become aware of the resentment that she felt toward her dad. She remembered feeling deeply hurt about his impatience during her upbringing as a young child. "It's really hard to be patient with him now, after he was so impatient with me sometimes," she said. "I have tried to talk to him about it, but he always gets defensive. I wish I could forgive him and let go of the past."  

After spending a couple of sessions processing the negative childhood experiences with her dad, I asked Valerie to watch When Did You Last See Your Father? at home. At the beginning of our subsequent session, she told me, "after watching this movie, I really got it. Like Arthur before his death, my father is really a frail old man now and not the bigger-than-life authority figure any more that he was when I grew up. I want to do everything I can to heal my relationship with my father before he dies."

Very soon, Valerie's resentment subsided and compassion for her dad started to arise. This allowed us to shift the focus of our work to exploring how she can start communicating with her dad more successfully to develop the closeness with him that she desired.

Theoretical Contemplation

My Cinema Alchemy work with Valerie drew from hypnotherapy as well as from dream work. In hypnotherapy, teaching tales can be used in formal trance states, as well as in open-eye-trance when stories are told without formal induction. Listening to these stories in a focused way creates a form of trance. They enter into this state, while listening, because they let go of distracting thoughts and issues. Metaphoric tales include a form of indirect suggestion , in which subliminal commands are conveyed. These embedded commands are used to circumvent resistance to hypnotic suggestions through unconscious learning . During unconscious learning, clients intuitively understand the meaning of dreams and symbols and other unconscious expressions. People tend to resist commands, but they don't resist descriptions. Therefore clients accept suggestions with a reduced critical sense.

Being "drawn into" a movie while watching can be considered a light trance state too, similar to the state often achieved via guided visualizations or hypnotherapy. Specific films can be prescribed to model specific problem-solving behavior or to access and develop a client's potential. The concept of teaching tales with their embedded suggestions underlies this form of Cinema therapy.

Guidelines and Questions for Questions and Suggestions to Clients

•  Did you see a character who modeled behavior in certain parts of the film that you would like to emulate?

•  Did this character develop certain capacities or qualities that you would like to gain as well?

•  Imagine yourself as this character. Imagine yourself with the mature or wise aspects of the character's personality.

•  How would your life look like if you had the character's qualities or capacities?

•  Imagine yourself using these qualities or capacities in your life.


starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

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