The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #44
November 2011

starIn the Spotlight:

Jennifer Moore writes in Cinema Therapy and the MovieMaking Course of action: "Although Cinema Treatment is usually a tool for assessment, The MovieMaking Process becomes a concrete tool for behavioral adjustment. ... The MovieMaking Course of action begins with the difficulty to be addressed, then turns its concentration for the preferred outcome. The film becomes the hero’s journey toward resolving the issue and demonstrating a lot more constructive behavior. ... The MovieMaking Practice uses the techniques of gorilla filming".

Lynne Shallcross published an informative article Big screen therapy Counseling Today: "Sure, movies are known for offering an avenue of escape, but as part of counseling, they can also wake clients up to the reality of their lives".

Virgie Hoisington's article Life with the Films – The Art of Cinema Treatment was posted on Articleava – Your Free Dofollow Article Directory: "Within the practice of Cinema Treatment, I have discovered that Reality-Based, Rational-Emotive, and Behavioral approaches are most successful. This doesn’t limit the use of other theoretical orientations as favored by some counselors."


The Korean film critic & professor of counseling Psychology at Korea University, Seoul and author of the first Cinematherapy book in Korea (2001), Young Seop Sim, completed the very promising first chapter of her new book, The Theory & practice of Cinematherapy.

Deanna Najera, who works in the medical field while pursuing my degree in mental health counseling put together a list of movies with medical themes that she often references when dealing with patients with different medical conditions.

Movie Therapy: Films to watch after a break-up lists 21 movies about this subject.

Holistic Healing posts Readers Respond: Top Emotionally Healing Films.

Film Education provides teaching resources, teacher training, and cinema based events, which support the use of film within the curriculum at no or nominal cost to teachers.

starUpcoming Workshops and Groups:

Birgit Wolz

Friday, November 18, 2011, 11:15 AM to 1:30 PM
Cinema Therapy - Using the Power of Movies for Healing and Transformation
Santa Clara Vallley Chapter of CAMFT
Location: Michael's at Shoreline, 2960 Shorline Blvd., Mountain View, CA
CEU can be earned
Registration options at Santa Clara Valley Chapter of CAMFT,
Mid-Peninsula Region Luncheon:
Phone: 408/235-0210

Friday, May 11, to Sunday, 2012
Cinema Therapy - Nutzung von Filmen für den therapeutischen Prozess
Location: Berlin, Germany, Schulpsychologisches Beratungszentrum Pankow, Gleimstrasse 49
Friday, 6 - 8 PM, Saturday, 9AM  - 6 PM, Sunday, 9 AM - 5 PM
CEU can be earned
Registration options:
Per email:

Per Fax: 01149- (0)30-40301338
Per mail: H. Bär-Wolz, Pflugstr.10/1B,  10115 Berlin

Valerie Igl

Sunday evening, 6:00 - 9:00 PM
Queer Night at the Movies: A Monthly Film and Discussion Series
3 CEU's available for MFTs and LCSWs
In El Cerrito, California. Exact address and directions sent upon registration.
November 27th - Queer Marriage

Registration options:
- Online: QueerFilms
- Email:

starPast and ongoing Courses and Workshops:

Birgit Wolz

Thursday, September 15, 2011,
Cinema Therapy - Using the Power of Movies for Healing and Transformation
KonKuk University, Seoul, South Korea

Friday, September 16 through Sunday, September 18, 2011 (20 hours)
Cinema Therapy - Using the Power of Movies for Healing and Transformation
Department of Education, Korea University, Seoul, South Korea

Both presentations were very well received. They evoked publicity and interest in Cinema Therapy. Over 200 participants attended my presentation at Konkuk University. Different Korean publications, including Heraldbiz, published articles about this event.

Karyn Perry

Cinema Therapy: Using the Power of Visual Narratives for Healing at the Department of Professional and Community Education of the KU School of Social Welfare at the University of Kansas: "Learn about the innovative technique of Cinema Therapy, which can help enhance client outcomes in therapy."

Teri Busch

The VITAS Innovative Hospice Care of Delaware offered a group called Cinematherapy: "... discover together how our shared experiences with grief and loss can move us forward in our journey of healing. Following the movie there will be an open group discussion."

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.

starA Cinema Therapist's Biography

Bernie Wooder practices Cinema Therapy in England and wrote the book Movie Therapy, How it changes lives: "A film buff from childhood, Bernie Wooder has pioneered the use of movies as an aspect of the therapeutic process for twenty years."

starNew Blogs and Websites:

Cinema Therapy and The Movie Making is available on Uvenet - Use Vise and Easy Net Amaze to See & Feel Proud: "The particular MovieMaking Process becomes a concrete tool for behavior modification. This can be experiential learning from the best, since it is imaginative and requires a kid or even teenager to actively participate in its generation through getting self-aware."

David Glover asks What Is Entertainment? on his Transformational Entertainment News: "Entertainment, as an experience, can be fun and satisfying to our souls, or our wellbeing. Entertainment can weigh high in emotions, taking us to a place of sadness or joy and happiness."

Michelle Pendlelton posted Cinematherapy: Healing by Watching Movies on Free Content Article Directory saying: "After all, movies have long been tools to help people undergoing therapy achieve their goals, such as overcoming sadness or grief." On, she also published Maintaining Ones Well-being With Cinematherapy.: "Movies have the uncanny ability to take viewers' minds temporarily to a place where they can express a wide range of emotions in a way that connects them with the main characters or movie theme without the concreteness of their own life dilemmas."

Randi Fredricks writes in her article Cinematherapy: "As an exercise, sit down and write out the 10 best films you have ever seen. Then perform a mini Thematic Content Analysis - that is look for themes that the movies have in order to determine why they have meaning to you."

starNew Cinema Therapist:

Lital Joselovitch practices Cinema Therapy in Studio City, California. She developed a new group called, Cinema Therapy. "This approach assists clients to identify their inner process and recognize how not only addiction works in their lives but the connection between thoughts, feelings, actions, and their beliefs."


Hope worldwide in Singapore "uses movies as a counselling tool to help people work through issues in their lives with a counsellor. More than just a novel idea, it will prove to be just as effective as (if not more effective than) traditional counselling tools when it comes to helping clients attain the self-awareness necessary in the healing process."


Ros Johnson

In her article, “Prime” (The Movie) Therapy: More, Ros Johnson writes: "The film features a therapist named Lisa who has a client named Rafi whose new boyfriend happens to be Lisa’s son, David. Although Rafi is talking about David in therapy, she hasn’t yet put a name to him; thus, neither therapist nor client knows that the man in question is who he is to Lisa. A weird boundary issue not likely to happen in the real world. Could it happen? Yes. Likely? No."

Miriam Bellamy

Sarah's Key

In her article Sarah’s Key: Cinema-Therapy for the Anxious at Heart, Miriam writes: "Think about this theory of mine – that avoiding pain is actually what is causing so much pain in our lives. We are raising a generation of kids more in pain than we have seen in generations, if not ever. Why?"

Birgit Wolz


Director: Mike Mills
Producers: Miranda de Pencier, Lars Knudsen, Leslie Urdang, Jay Van Hoy, Dean Vanech
Screenplay: Mike Mills
Cast: Ewan McGregor, Christopher Plummer, Melanie Laurent , Goran Visnjic , Kai Lennox, Mary Page Keller, Keegan Boos, China Shavers
MPAA Rating: R (for language and some sexual content)
Year of Release: 2011 (the film premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival)


Beginners is based on the true-life-story of director Mike Mills, and his father's coming out at the age of 75, five years before his death.

The movie starts when Oliver's father Hal has just passed away. Oliver, the protagonist, is a Los Angeles graphic designer. The non-linear plot goes back and forth in time from his point of view. During Oliver's young life, the family consists of the absent father and husband, Hal, his melancholic wife, Georgia, and the introvert boy that spends quite some time taking care of his mother.

Moving forward in time again, six months after Georgia's death and after 44 years of marriage, the 75-year-old retired dad tells his son that he is gay. This is only a revelation for Oliver, as his parents had always known. Hal shares with his son how difficult the times for homosexuals were in the 50s: an analyst told him his condition can be cured and his wife said: "I will fix it".

Oliver's mother appeared to have never been truly happy and seemed to have lived an embittered life throughout her marriage with her gay husband. Her perseverance in trying to fix Hal's "illness" and his lack of courage in taking control of his own life sooner cost both of them decades of their lives.

For many years, Hal tried to fit within a society that did not accept his sexual orientation. Therefore he wants his son to understand that he, as a heterosexual, has it so much easier than Hal did. But Oliver does not think that life is that simple for him either. In fact, he mostly appears with a subdued mood that he expresses by saying: "Our good fortune allowed us to feel the sadness our parents never had time for."

Hal announces that he is making a fresh start in regards to his love life. He wants to embrace his homosexuality freely and unabashedly by beginning a relationship with Andy, who is about Oliver's age.

Not long after this announcement, in a tragic twist of events, Hal learns that he has lung cancer. Cheering him up and taking care of him, Andy shows his love for the old man with a depth that almost shames Oliver. His father remains a liberated man. He is not devoid of flaws, but he is determined to live his life fully, even when, or possibly because, he is confronted with the inescapability of his death.

Suddenly, Hal becomes a real presence in Oliver's life and vice versa. In one scene, Oliver points out lovingly: "there is no stage 5 dad!" Stage 4 means in his eyes that Hal has been strong enough to go through three previous stages of a terminal illness, and that is no little consolation. Hal's final months are full of kindness, tenderness, and the small joys of life. The son reads a book to his father. The young lover kisses repeatedly and affectionately his much older and dying partner. They have a party among friends and a shopping spree in a bookstore.

His father's death is a great loss for Oliver. At the same time, the tragic end of Hal's life only a few years after he found a way to happiness that he had never thought possible, forces Oliver to look at life with a fresh, new perspective. Am I being true to myself? Is there anything I need to do differently?

Although Oliver is an introvert artist, he has gained some fame with his work. Now everyone wants him to do the same thing over and over again. He is trapped in his past and does not know how to move forward. The memories of his parents inspire Oliver to start a new project, a graphic representation of the history of sadness. But he is disappointed that neither his clients nor his partners seem too keen on it.

Oliver has never committed to a romantic relationship. In fact, he always broke away from his girlfriends when they got too serious. Still suffering from grief, he meets Anna when he attends a costume party dressed as Sigmund Freud. He stations himself next to a sofa and acquires her as a patient. Anna cannot talk because of laryngitis. Therefore she communicates by scribbling notes on a little notepad. Her silence, however, sounds like the echo of Oliver's consciousness. The young woman seems to know what he thinks and feels. "Why," she writes, "did you come to a party when you were so sad?"

Meanwhile, Anna also has family issues. When she finally starts speaking, it becomes obvious that they seem to like each other very much. Both want to be happier. But because of their undermined faith in long-lasting romantic love, they are initially unsure where to go from there.

The final years of his dad's life had been a great lesson for Oliver. He wants to take a risk, follow his heart, and make a commitment. An unfortunate misunderstanding that resulted from the couples' fear of intimacy leads to a temporary separation. But eventually they dare a new beginning, open up to their love for each other, and learn to trust each other.

Cinema Alchemy

I encouraged the participants of my weekly Cinema Therapy process group to suggest movies that touched them on a deep level. Sarah, a 30-year-old group member, told us that she was intensely moved by certain scenes in Beginners. She had just watched this film in a theater. Subsequently everybody else watched this film before our next meeting.

Sarah had joined the group because she felt awkward in social situations, and because she felt fearful when she met a man who was interested in her. She told the group that she was afraid that men fall for her because she would have to disappoint them. Mostly this concern prevented her from returning their affection. After some failed relationships, she had stopped dating even though she dreamt of having a family some day.

Sarah's parents got divorced after a year of bitter fighting about her dad's affairs when she was 10.   Since that time, she believed that her father had destroyed the family and resented him for it. Therefore Sarah had broken off contact with him for several years. As a young child, she had enjoyed being a daddy's girl. Recently, she started missing the relationship with him and feared that he might die before they are able to reconnect and reconcile.

Sarah was well liked in the group. Through the positive feedback she received over time, she started to become increasingly more comfortable in the group and began to share more. Sarah also told us that she began to feel less cautious in social situations because the group had helped her feel less afraid of rejection.

After everybody saw Beginners, another group member asked Sarah why she had suggested the movie and which part touched her most. She explained to us that almost all interactions between father and son affected her deeply. She liked that Hal's new beginning as a gay man and his fight with cancer gives a second chance to father and son to build anew their relationship. She was touched when she saw that Oliver's reflection on his father's life, with its joys and failures, makes him questions the choices he has made thus far. "He brakes through his old patterns and risks committing to the person he loved," she said.

I asked Sarah how this relates to her own life. She responded spontaneously that the movie made her wonder whether she might be ready for a new beginning too. Should she initiate closer contact to her dad and start dating again? "The movie reminded me that disappointment is part of life. I don't want to keep avoiding relationships," she said. She smiled when other group members responded with supportive statements.

I asked each participant in which aspect of their life they would benefit from a new beginning. Listening to their responses helped Sarah to become even clearer and more determined to take the risks that she had previously avoided.

Then I encouraged the other group members to share what parts of the movie inspired them. Jim told us that he was touched by the fact that Hal's illness seemed to have given way to the joy of life and love. This had special meaning for him, because he struggled with a chronic illness. With the support of Beginners and the subsequent group interactions, he began to recognize and appreciate how his relationships had deepened since he got sick.

During subsequent sessions, Sarah told us that she had initiated contact with her father, which made him very happy. His joy touched her and made her feel closer to him. This successful experience inspired her to take steps toward dating again.

Theoretical Contemplations

The impact of films as catalysts for psychological processes dovetails well with the therapeutic effects of group dynamics. Group members' reflections about their emotional response to a movie are an added component that enriches group therapy. By understanding and sharing what moves them about certain movie scenes or characters, participants acquire an effective tool to get to know themselves and others. After leaving the group, they are able to continue using what they have learned about self-discovery when watching films.

Guidelines for Facilitators of Cinema Therapy Groups

Depending on time availability and goals for the group, decide whether movies or movie clips are watched during the meeting or members view the films at home.  

Choice of movies for groups in which members watch them at home:

•  Depending on your primary goal for the group (primarily teaching or evoking), decide whether you suggest a film or allow group members to choose the movie for everybody to watch at home. If members make the choice, instruct them to decide on a film that touched or had a special meaning for them. If you as a facilitator decide to make the choice and need guidance, check the film index or cinema therapy books.

•  Make sure movies are available for rent from video stores, order from Netflix , or play in local theaters.

•  Foreign films with subtitles are not recommended because reading can interfere with the multi-sensory experience.

Decide how many meetings you want to spend on processing responses to one specific film.

Help group members avoid getting stuck in critiquing the movie. Instead, help them focus on their process.


starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT
Loch Lomond, CA, USA