The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #40
November 2010
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starIn the Spotlight:

Kathryn Quayle writes in the Flintshire Chronicle: Movie therapy is a blockbusting hit with patients in Glan Clwyd Hospital: “Nursing staff have also noticed some patients seemed more able to cope with pain when they had a film or comedy show to watch and that watching movies has helped to lift people’s spirits."

David Clover interviewed me recently for his article, The Healing Art of Film, in Transformational Entertainment News. He says: "Film in the context of motion picture or cinema with sound, is the last performing art form that’s being utilized in our culture. Music, dance and theater have been in existence since ancient time."

How to turn conflict into creativity through cinematherapy: invites visitors on the new interactive page, Discuss Creativity and Conflict, to share comments and advice. Stacey McCall, one of the website authors, allows contributors to include links to their web sites if the codeword: "Dr. Birgit Fan" is added to the submission.

In the article, Five horror movies prescribed by The Movie Doctor to help you heal this Halloween season, Gary Solomon recommends five horror movies and explains how they help with insight.

On the website 32,000 movies are available through streaming and download.

Various therapists of the Bethany University Counseling Center (run by Bethany University's Graduate Psychology Program) recommend movies on their page, Cinematherapy, "to help you open doors into your own behaviors and feelings". They say about Inception: "This film is a provocative look at implanted ideas and how behaviors can be affected by them."


Birgit Wolz

Sunday, Feb 20 through Friday, Feb 25, 2011
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.

Additional teaching materials are available on CD's for clinicians who want to incorporate these methods into their practice.

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

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

Valerie Igl

Queer Night at the Movies: A Monthly Film and Discussion Series
Sunday evenings, 6:00 - 9:00 pm
3 CEU's available for MFTs and LCSWs
In El Cerrito, California. Exact address and directions sent upon registration.

November 28th    -    MTF Stories (Male to Female)
January 23rd - Lesbians
February 27th - Queer Weddings
March 27th - Queer Youth
April 24th - FTM Stories (Female to Male)
May 22nd - Queer Parents

Registration options:
- Online: QueerFilms
- Email:

Fuat Ulus presented on August 12, 2010 at the ITAA (International Transactional Analysis Association) conference in Montreal, Canada on TA-oriented Prison Group Movie Therapy.

starOnline Courses:

Cinema Therapy Certification Programs

Birgit Wolz

1. One certification program is designed for mental health professionals - click here.
2. Another, shorter, certification course can be taken by anybody (no prerequisites required) - click here.

- Upon completion of a program, students will receive a ready to be framed certificate of completion for their course of study, "Cinema Therapy."
- These programs can be completed in more than one session over a three-year period.
- Continuing education credits can be earned with either program.

The certificate programs are composed of individual courses, which can also be taken separately.

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


Heather McDonough used Cinema Therapy with incarcerated servicemen at Brig at Camp Lejuene in Jacksonville, NC . She wrote in her article: "By using this intervention as part of my clinical experience at the brig, I was able to develop a rapport with group members and individual clients that I had not seen with other interventions."

starNew Blogs and Websites:

In her Bliss Blog - How to Live a Rich, Full, Juicy Life - Edie Weinstein writes about Cinema-Therapy: "How amazing it is to be, not merely an observer of someone's life, but if it is truly a quality film, I feel as if I am playing a role as well." Edie shares how Eat, Pray, Love (2010) and Prelude To A Kiss (1992) affected her.

Health current event students weblog published the article, Life in the Cinema – The Art of Cinema Therapy: "Many films address our common problems. Some very specific answers and decisions in life are provided in 90-180 minutes." A similar article appeared on Mozart Piano Classical Music.

Noah H. Kersey lists his favorite quotes from "fantastic movies" in his article, The Art Of Cinema Therapy – What I Learned From The Movies. For example he mentions: “It is only at the end of a man’s life when he realizes how vital his decisions were at the beginning”. - The King of Denmark from “The Prince & Me”

In the Cinematherapy — Reel Help for Real Problems the unnamed author quotes Amy Phillips saying: "Purposely creating a film that will eventually be used for cinematherapy is best avoided by filmmakers. Good films are created from stories and emotions that come from the heart and often from personal experience. They may represent a form of therapy for the filmmaker, but filmmakers are essentially artists, not psychologists.”

E-CDC posted Movies and healthy living referring to Cinema Therapy in the following way: "The idea involved in this process is that by watching movies that are similar to what the person is going through at the time, the psyche will be stimulated and the person will see other points of view and appreciate them - as viewing his/her situation from the outside."

"Discover How You Can Attract Money, Love, Happiness or "ANYTHING" You Want . . . Simply By Watching The RIGHT Kind Of Movies!" is posted on

Turtle Women Rising lists in the article The Art Of CinemaTherapy – What I Learned From The Movies inspirational movie quotes, such as “My momma always said, ‘you got to put the past behind you before you can move on’.” - Forrest from Forrest Gump.

The website Violin Sheet Music - Classical Music posted the article, Life in the Cinema – The Art of Cinema Therapy, explaining: "Many of the films deal with common problems. Some answers are very practical and lifestyle choices are provided in the roles of 90-180 minutes."


Michael Lee Powell and Rebecca A. Newgent published Improving the Empirical Credibility of Cinematherapy: A Single-Subject Interrupted Time-Series Design. "Themes of positivism were highlighted during a 5-week group showing of the movie The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring." Results of his study "suggest that a structured, nondirective group cinematherapy intervention is statistically and clinically effective at decreasing hopelessness".

New Scientist from September 8, 2010 published the article, Brain imaging monitors effect of movie magic. Neurocinematics is a term coined by Uri Hasson at Princeton University, who was among the first to investigate how the brain responds to movies using an fMRI brain scanner. It has the potential to revolutionize the way films are made and help regulatory bodies implement appropriate age restrictions on films.

Ipek Güzide Pur from The Graduate School of Social Science at the Middle East Technical University in his dissertation, Cinematherapy or Alcohol Dependent Patients: "The most striking point for the cinematherapy attendees may have been at the disclosure level because some of them stated that they did not ever emotionally express themselves directly before they watched the movies. ... Talking indirectly may have attenuated the defense mechanisms of the participants which can be used efficiently in all types of therapies." (p. 67)


An Education

Director: Lone Scherfig
Producers: Finola Dwyer, Amanda Posey
Screenwriter: Nick Hornby
Cast: Carey Mulligan, Peter Sarsgaard, Alfred Molina, Dominic Cooper, Rosamund Pike, Olivia Williams, Emma Thompson, Cara Seymour, Matthew Beard, Sally Hawkins
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2009


An Education plays in 1961 and is based on an autobiographical memoir of the same title written by the British journalist Lynn Barber .

Jenny Miller lives in the red-brick-drab London suburb of Twickenham. She is a dutiful 16-year-old student and a passionate consumer of modern novels and French pop records. The teenager is an inquisitive, smart, and beautiful girl, bound for Oxford. But she feels stifled by her starchy private school and her anxious, protective parents.

Following a youth orchestra rehearsal, Jenny meets charming and handsome 35-year-old David Goldman. He sees her standing at a bus stop in the rain, holding a cello case, and offers the girl a lift in his sports car. Jenny responds to his smooth demeanor after some hesitation. He engages her in conversation about the British composer Edward Elgar. David seems quite harmless to her. He is Jewish and fluent in a language of style and culture that she is only beginning to learn. A couple of days later, he "happens" to run into her again, she becomes a target of his sophisticated seduction, and they strike up a relationship.

Jenny's proper, traditional middle-class parents, Jack and Marjorie, generate love in their home and are bursting with pride that their daughter won a scholarship to Oxford. When she springs David on them, the Millers initially respond in a protective fashion, but they are very naive. Like Jenny they, rather surprisingly, become smitten with David. In particular her conservative and unworldly father believes that David offers an opportunity for Jenny's social advancement because Mr. Goldman is good-looking, well dressed, well spoken, and very polite. David tells the parents that he is impressed by their daughter's mind and enjoys sharing his advantages. Because they are so proud of her and he offers implicit guarantees of her safety, they believe a wealthy older man would be interested for purely platonic motives.

David is all that Jenny wants at the time because he opens a door she eagerly wants to enter. Plying her with champagne, broadly cultured, a crack conversationalist possessed of mysterious reserves of cash and no apparent job, he adds one delight after another into Jenny's life: from the imported cigarettes that she self-importantly puffs at school to the pair of dashing friends. On double dates with his business partner Danny and Danny's vapid mistress, Helen, he takes the teenager to art auctions, classical concerts, plays, fine restaurants, and nightclubs. When Jenny shares her school knowledge with them, Helen predicts a boring future for her.

David listens intently to what she has to say and does not demand her virginity yet as payment of all the good times and compliments. In airy, high-minded talk they chat about the great world while the boys at school have nothing to say.

After a while, Jenny finds out that David and his partner steal art pieces from houses for sale. He also makes money by moving black families into flats near elderly women who are afraid of them , so he can buy the flats cheap. On discovering this, Jenny is horrified and threatens to leave the relationship, but she finds her new life so enthralling that she looks past the darker side.

Because Paris embodies Jenny's wildest dreams, David charms and coaxes her protective parents into allowing him to take her to the capital of France. They think that their daughter will be safe with him for a weekend in Paris, because he has an "aunt" who lives there and will be her chaperone.

At some point, it becomes clear to Jenny that David wants to sleep with her if he can, but by now she is open to it. What she seems to crave is not primarily sex -- though she schedules the loss of her virginity for her 17 th birthday in Paris -- but an ideal of sexiness, a world that is the opposite of the little life in England she loathes. David is taking advantage of her innocence, while she is, at first unwittingly and then more brazenly, using him to find her way to that world, which she identifies especially with France.

With her friends, Jenny makes no secret of her relationship. She becomes the talk of her school, attracting the concern of a sad, kind young teacher, Miss Stubbs, and the fierce disapproval of the starchy headmistress, Ms. Walters. The fact that David's being Jewish mortifies Ms. Walters is just a bonus for Jenny.

After seeing Jenny dance and flirt with Danny, David becomes jealous and hastily proposes to her. Mr. Miller agrees to the engagement, and Jenny drops out of school without taking her final courses .

While searching for cigarettes in David's glove compartment, Jenny finds a stack of letters addressed to "Mr. and Mrs. David Goldman." She is shocked and demands that he tell her parents that he is already married so she won't have to do it herself, but instead he drives off. The whole family is devastated, but soon Jenny remembers her ambition before she met David. Now she is determined to go to college.

Because Ms. Walters refuses to allow her to finish her final year of school, Jenny visits Miss Stubbs at home. She helps the girl to study and pass her A-levels. Although Jenny struggles because she is not used to studying hard any more, she succeeds and gets accepted to study English at Oxford.

The final scene shows her riding her bike on the streets of Oxford with a new boyfriend. Jenny narrates in the background: "So, I went to read English books, and did my best to avoid the insipid fate that Helen had predicted for me. I probably looked as wide-eyed, fresh, and artless as any other student. But I wasn't. One of the boys I went out with, and they really were boys, once asked me to go to Paris with him. And I told him I'd love to, I was dying to see Paris ... as if I'd never been." In hindsight, Jenny considers her time with David a valuable experience for her.

Cinema Alchemy

I had seen Ellen, who was in her mid twenties, for several months to help her improve self-confidence in her career as well as her self-doubts about her capacity to create and maintain a romantic relationship. Her work had progressed well when she came to one of our sessions very excited. An Education had struck a cord for her when she had watched it the day before.

I encouraged Ellen to tell me more about her response to the movie. After some hesitation, she acknowledged that her heart beat strongly and she felt shame when she remembered some of the scenes about Jenny's adventures with David. Upon further probing, Ellen told me that these scenes reminded her of her first relationship, when she was 17 years old: "I secretly had an affair with Eric for a year. He was married, had children, and was twice my age at the time. I delayed going to college because he was all I could think about. Then this relationship ended badly when his wife found out about it." I was surprised hearing about Eric for the first time in this context. Because Ellen was afraid of her parents' reaction, embarrassed about the age difference, and didn't want to get him into legal trouble, she had never told anybody about this relationship. In fact, she said that she had forgotten about it. Watching the movie brought her memories back and gave her the courage to tell me about her secret.

This opened the door to our subsequent work during which Ellen started to understand that her shame and self-criticism about her relationship with an older married man had undermined her confidence as a woman in romantic relationships. Over time, she was able to let go of her self-doubts and her confidence grew. My client reframed her experience saying: "This helps me to look at my first relationship from a different angle. I think that my relationship with Eric entirely cured my craving for sophistication. Now I want, like Jenny, nothing more than to meet a kind and decent man. I have a feeling that I will meet this person soon."

Theoretical Contemplations

Talking about An Education served as a catalyst for Ellen's self-exploration. Her emotional and physical response (increased heartbeat) to certain scenes in the movie indicated that preconscious material was starting to surface. After watching Jenny, my client did not feel as isolated any more with her own, previously forgotten experience. Our subsequent exploration allowed her to look at her first relationship without self-criticism.

Movies connect the clients' world to the film's characters and plots--furnishing role models, providing inspiration and hope, and offering creative solutions to problems. They assure them that they are not alone and that others have experienced similar problems and triumphed. Therefore clients often experience movie characters like a support group. Going back and forth between their inner experiences and observing the movie characters can help them overcome issues around guilt and shame.

Guiding Questions for Clients

•  Do you remember your feelings and sensations, or whether your breathing or heartbeat changed throughout the movie? In all likelihood, what affects you in the film is similar to whatever influences you in your life.

•  Did you identify with one or several characters?

•  Notice what you liked and what you did not like or even hated about the movie. Which characters or actions seemed especially attractive or unattractive to you?

•  Notice whether any aspect of the film was especially hard to watch. Could this be related to something that you might have repressed?

starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

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