The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #54
May 2014

starIn the Spotlight:

The New York Times reports in the article, Movie Date Night Can Double as Therapy by Tara Parker-Pope:
"A University of Rochester study found that couples who watched and talked about issues raised in movies like “Steel Magnolias” and “Love Story” were less likely to divorce or separate than couples in a control group. Surprisingly, the “Love Story” intervention was as effective at keeping couples together as two intensive therapist-led methods. The findings, while preliminary, have important implications for marriage counseling efforts. The movie intervention could become a self-help option for couples who are reluctant to join formal therapy sessions or could be used by couples who live in areas with less access to therapists. ..."
The couples who were assigned to watch movies were told to pick five from a list and then to discuss with their partner questions provided by the researchers, such as:
What main problems did this couple face?
Are any of these similar to the problems that the two of you have faced?
How did the couple handle arguments or differences of opinion?
How did the couple in the movie handle hurt feelings?
Comments on this research can also be found here, here, and on Youtube.

Home Movie Therapy is an innovative approach "designed to treat a variety of emotional and interpersonal issues through the aid of home movies and other photographic media". Julia Gekhter "developed the concept of Home Movie Therapy after witnessing family, friends, and strangers express strong positive emotions at the moment of viewing home movies unseen for many years ... Grown-ups watching themselves as children, children watching their parents when they were young, as well as tapes of children growing up that have sat in a shoebox in neglect for years; these are the types of memories that can unleash the positive transformative effects that Home Movie Therapy offers".

Aruna Jethwani writes in the article, Cinema Therapy, which was published by the The Times of India: "As early as 1938, a research study was conducted in Moscow, to find the effect of cinema on 'certain type' of patients. Consequently, a special cinema studio was built at the psychiatric hospital in Podolsk, near Moscow. Experiments carried out on patients showed that under the influence of the quiet rhythm of a film, epileptics became calm and felt better for some days after seeing the film. Violent mental cases behaved well after seeing a light comedy."


In her article, Movie therapy: 8 films that might save your troubled marriage, Linda Carroll reports about film recommendations resulting from the above-mentioned research:
"There's no clear data on which movies work best as marriage therapist substitutes, but Rogge (the study’s lead author) suggests movies like:
Couples Retreat
Four Christmases
Terms of Endearment
When a Man Loves a Woman
Funny Girl
Two for the Road
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Yours, Mine and Ours

Addison Cooper created and operates a website which recommends films and guides discussions for adoptive and foster families: Adoption at the Movies.

The Do-It-Yourself Personal Growth Using Movie Therapy teaches to "learn how to focus on films that can teach you surprising new things about yourself and strengthen yourself."

A group of behavioral health clinicians, academicians and trainees/students communicate with each other on the Facebook page, Cinetherapy. The members of this group use copyright secured commercial films and/or their clips at educative & therapeutic behavioral health settings. If you are interested in joining the Cinetherapy group, search on Facebook for "Mehmet Fuat Ulus" and send him a message requesting an invitation.

The Wikipedia's recent definition of cinema therapy or movie therapy is "a form of supplemental therapy - like art, music and dance therapy - for medical and mental health issues". This website also refers to Segen's Medical Dictionary: "A form of therapy or self-help that uses movies, particularly videos, as therapeutic tools. Cinema therapy can be a catalyst for healing and growth for those who are open to learning how movies affect people and to watching certain films with conscious awareness. Cinema therapy allows one to use the effect of imagery, plot, music, etc. in films on the psyche for insight, inspiration, emotional release or relief and natural change. Used as part of psychotherapy, cinema therapy is an innovative method based on traditional therapeutic principles".

Cinematherapy: The Girl's Guide for Every Mood by Beverly West can now be downloaded as a PDF.


Cinema Therapy Group for Teens
This special adolescent therapy group uses movies to help start discussions with teens about social, emotional, and life issues.
The group announcement reads:
"Teens in movies can touch us to the heart and soul of matters with a single quote. They can make us laugh, make us cry, and make us think.
'I hate it. I hate having to go along with everything my friends say.' - Claire, The Breakfast Club".
Fourth Tuesday of every month - 5:30pm to 8:30pm
5608 Parkcres Dr. Suite 100
Austin, TX 78731
(512) 466-2239

Mehmet Fuat Ulus

Dr. Ulus conducted and moderated an 8 session closed-ended movie group therapy program between January and March 2014 at the Community Counseling Center of Mercer County in New Jersey. The theme of the sessions was relationship and communication problems. The participants have been stabilized, were maintaining their recovery, and were willing to improve their skills in communication skills. The use of films in combination with Transactional Analysis was very helpful for the participants. Copyright secured film clips were watched during each session and discussion ensued. The attendees were given homework that was briefly reviewed in the following session. "Using movie clips has once again proven to be very useful: first generating an entertaining climate, then helping to educate the participants, and finally empowering them to apply what was learned to their real life difficulties to help resolve problems."

James Lucas

James Lucas, a mental health counselor at Centennial Peaks Hospital in Louisville Colorado, started a Cinema Therapy group at his work place. James wrote me that the group was a success. He received a lot of positive feedback from his patients. James loves movies and used my book as inspiration for his group work. He has written about his experiences on his blog, Popcorn Optional.

starOnline Course and Programs:

Online Course

Birgit Wolz

DSM-5: Diagnoses Seen in Movies: Using Movies to Understand Common DSM Diagnoses
Movies are particularly well suited to depict psychological phenomena. The combination of images, music, dialogue, lighting, camera angles, and sound effects in a film mimic thoughts and feelings that occur in our consciousness. The viewer experiences what a character sees and feels. Since characters in many popular films portray persons who live with mental disorders, these depictions offer a unique learning opportunity.
This course provides up-to-date information about common DSM-5 diagnoses by exploring the most relevant changes in the diagnosis of psychopathology from the DSM IV-TR to the DSM-5. It offers an effective tool to help clinicians use the DSM-5 for effective treatment planning, and for communicating with colleagues as well as with insurance companies.

Cinema Therapy Certification Programs

1. For information about all Cinema Therapy online courses click here.
2. One certification program is designed for mental health professionals - click here.
3. 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.


Ruth Manasseh successfully completed her research on applied cinematherapy to the psychoanalytic treatment of chronic trauma patients. Information about her paper, Applied Cinematherapy: The Patient-Audience Relationship and the Space in Between and her research in general can be acquired here:


The article, Use of movies for group therapy of psychiatric inpatients: theory and practice, was published in the International Journal of Group Psychotherapy, 2014 April, (64)2-254-70. It was authored by Esrâ Yazici, Ahmet Bülent Yazici, Kocaeli, Nazan Aydin, Rabia Selvitop, Kocaeli, and Mehmet Fuat Ulus. For further information please contact Fuat Ulus at

Jorjesús Blanco from Campo de Gibraltar, Spain spent a lot of time developing the project "Cinema can change the world". An important step has been Hell Chess, a 28-minute movie. This film has the quality of touching our inner problems and the outer conflicts, mysticism, and society. Jorjesús thinks that cinema can change the vision of life and restore the truth to our eyes.

Olga Rueda from Madrid, Spain presents Videoterapia.

She also wrote a research article that was published in the Journal of Art Therapy, The sequence of film as subjective technique in audiovisual psychotherapy.
"The present work is a summary of a study based on applying the Sequence Technique in Cinema (TSC) as a subjective tool with clients of the Experimental Videotherapy Workshop, at 'espaciointerno psicología' in Madrid. A descriptive methodology, of qualitative orientation, through an open participative observation has been used to elaborate this study. To be able to generate some subjective, narrative information with the power to clarify the experience of the participants, a retro and prospective review of the selectedfilmic material has been done. Hints for future investigations show themselves as being the conclusion of this study."

Nicole Gast wrote the article, Kinofilme als Therapie – funktioniert das wirklich?

starNew Blogs and Websites

Ernest Holmes writes in Movie Therapy: Laugh Away the Blues: "The beauty of comedies is that they help us cope with tragedy. It takes an ordinarily horrific situation, in this case mental illness and a hate crime, and somehow paints a smile with funny punch lines and irony.

Randi Fredricks offers her thoughts about Cinema Therapy: Incorporating Film in Psychotherapy on her website: "There are different types of cinema therapy, such as simply watching a movie to experience an emotional release. In therapy, movies can help clients to learn about themselves in more profound ways based on how they respond to different characters and scenes. The therapist may ask about their personal situation and get a sense of where they are at in their lives and then recommend a specific movie."

Drew Chial presents his story in Andrew: A Story About Cinema Therapy: "Cinema therapy can help you escape reality, but reality is not always so easy to get back to. ... This essay reveals my coping mechanism for dark times, side effects and all."


Cedric Wood

Cedric Wood reviewed films in his following articles on his Cinema Therapy blog: Watching 'Her' leaves unanswered questions, 'Pompeii' relives history brilliantly, Great cast sets one 'Grand' movie apart (“The Grand Budapest Hotel” is Wes Anderson’s ode to the old world ...), 'Monuments Men' fails to be great art, Abandoned son has 'Bad words' for dad, Recent releases bring history to life: “Son of God", 'Noah' angst-filled but still fabulous, 'Joe' leaves reviewer saying: Buyer beware, 'Railway Man' filled with power, emotions, 'Heaven is for Real' has heart but lacks soul, and 'Winter's Tale' warms the heart.

Taryn Southernan

On YouTube, Taryn Southernan, an American singer, actress and comedian, describes and analyzes the following movies in a humorous fashion: Delivery Man, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire and Bettie Page Reveals All and Grudge Match, Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, American Hustle and The Wolf of Wall Street and Draft Day, Rio 2 and Oculus and 3 Days to Kill, Pompeii and The Wind Rises and 300: Rise of an Empire, Mr. Peabody & Sherman and The Grand Budapest Hotel and RoboCop, About Last Night, Endless Love and Vampire Academy and Inside Llewyn Davis, Long Walk to Freedom and Black Nativity and The Other Woman For No Good Reason and Brick Mansions as well as The Lego Movie, Monuments Men and Welcome to the Jungle.

Review by Birgit Wolz:

Fried Green Tomatoes (Trailer)

Director: Jon Avnet
Producers: Jon Avnet and Norman Lear
Screenplay: Fannie Flagg and Carol Sobieski
Cast: Kathy Bates, Mary Stuart Masterson, Mary-Louise Parker Jessica Tandy, Cicely Tyson, Chris O'Donnell, Stan Shaw, Gailard Sartain, Timothy Scott, Gary Basaraba, and Lois Smith
MPAA Rating: PG-13

Year of Release: 1991


Fried Green Tomatoes is based on the novel, Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Café, by Fannie Flagg.

Evelyn Couch, a timid, depressed, and unhappily married housewife in her forties, visits her husband's aunt in a Birmingham, Alabama nursing home. After being thrown out of the rather cranky aunt's room, she is approached by a kind and sparkling 83-year-old lady, Ninny Threadgoode. From now on, every Wednesday, Ninny tells Evelyn tales about the colorful folks surrounding the mysterious now-abandoned Whistle Stop Café, a landmark that caught Evelyn's eye on her way to the nursing home.

The movie flashes back to half a century ago when tomboy Imogene "Idgie" Threadgoode, the youngest of the Threadgoode children, wore pants, a tie, and cut her hair short. Ninny describes Idgie as her sister-in-law. The girl's charming older brother Buddy had been hit by a train and killed. Devastated by her grief, Idgie withdrew from the world during her childhood and adolescence.

Igdie's mother persuaded the straitlaced Ruth Jamison, Buddy's former girlfriend, to spend time with her "wild" daughter, hoping some ladylike influence will rub off. Idgie initially resisted Ruth's attempts at friendship, but then gradually allowed a deep attachment to develop. The girls spent the summer together gathering wild honey and falling in love. Igdie taught Ruth to play baseball, drink liquor, and offered wild honey on a romantic picnic to her proclaiming, "I got it just for you!" Much to Igdie's dismay, Ruth made a shocking declaration during a midnight swim: she plans to get married to Frank Bennett in Valdosta, Georgia at the end of the summer.

Igdie refused to go to the wedding, but she spied from afar, appearing like a jilted lover. She thought that Frank was a violent, drunken lout of a racist redneck. Although Idgie struggled to forget Ruth, she decided to visit her friend after some time. She found her pregnant and physically abused by her husband. Against Frank's wishes, Idgie persuaded Ruth to leave him and return to Whistle Stop.

Back at home Papa Threadgoode gave Idgie money to open the Whistle Stop Café. When the young women insisted on serving Big George, a black man whose mother had raised Idgie, the local Klansmen got riled. Ruth gave birth to a son named Buddy Jr., whom the women raised together. They employed Big George and his mother Sipsey. According to the mores of the South at the time it remained unspoken that Idgie was a lesbian and she and Ruth were a couple. By deciding for themselves who they were and how they led their lives, they were a threat to the hidebound locals. Therefore they considered Sipsey and George better company than most of the white folks in town.

After a while, Ruth's husband came to Whistle Stop in an attempt to kidnap Buddy Jr., but was thwarted by an unseen assailant. Frank disappeared and his car was found at the bottom of a nearby lake. Idgie was immediately a suspect, because she publicly threatened violence against Frank because he had beaten Ruth. Because the local KKK decided to blame the "uppity" Big George, both were arrested for Frank's murder. The police offered to release Idgie and pin the crime solely on Big George, but she refused to sacrifice her friend.

During the subsequent trial, the local minister lied, providing Idgie and Big George with an alibi for the time of Frank's disappearance. Taking into account Frank's reputation for drunkenness, the judge ruled his death an accident and Idgie and Big George were cleared of all charges. After the trial, Ruth developed cancer and died, the café was closed, and over time, many Whistle Stop residents moved away.

Before Ninny ends her story, she reveals what really happened to Frank: Sipsey had accidentally killed him with a cast-iron skillet while trying to stop him from kidnapping Buddy Jr. Big. George then barbecued Frank's body and served it to the Georgia police officer who was searching for Frank.

Breaking up Ninny's story about nonconformity in an intolerant society , which was set between World War I and World War II , the film's subplot shows present-day segments, during the 1980s: Inspired by Igdie and Ruth, Evelyn tries to extricate herself from her unsatisfying marriage, depression, and compulsive overeating. The story has powerful curative affects on Evelyn by gradually giving her the courage to deal with her own life. Despite her husband's lack of support, she takes self-empowerment classes, learns to stand up for herself, and begins to take charge over her body and her life in general with growing confidence. She even makes use of Igdie's war cry of "Towanda!" whenever she needs motivation and strength.

When Evelyn learns that, during Ninny's temporary stay at the nursing home, her house was condemned and torn down, she offers her friend a room in her home. As the two friends walk home, they pass Ruth's grave, which is freshly adorned with honeycomb and a card from "The Bee Charmer". Because this was Ruth's old nickname for Idgie, it becomes obvious that Ninny and Idgie are the same person.

Cinema Alchemy

After I showed Fried Green Tomatoes during a Cinema Alchemy workshop for personal growth, I explained to the group how our awareness of projections onto film characters can support our self-discovery. Understanding these projections can help us start accessing parts of our psyche that we were not aware of before.

I continued to explain that we sometimes project positive qualities onto film characters that we do not recognize easily in ourselves. Our ability to notice and value these qualities in others might be an indication that we at least carry a trace of them, or the potential to develop these traits, in ourselves. This awareness can help us tap into our potential that we have not yet fully developed.

I will describe the process of one workshop participant here. Eric admired Idgie, because he perceived her as courageous, openhearted, and caring. He did not think that he had any similarities with her. I encouraged Eric to recall "exceptional" life experiences during which he experienced one or more of Idgie's qualities inside himself. This sparked a couple of memories. As a child, he had been quite courageous when he confronted his older sister after she had lied to him. Although he was scared of his big sibling, he confronted her because it seemed the right thing to do. He also shared that he had recently asked his boss for a promotion, which had made him nervous and required courage.

Then Eric told the group that he could not recognize much openheartedness in himself. In response, other group members shared that they perceived him as very openhearted and caring in his reflections to their processes. Eric was surprised to hear this, but he eventually internalized the feedback.

A little later, I explained to the group that different conclusions are possible when we dislike behaviors or traits in movie characters that we do not recognize in ourselves. We might not have these traits. But, especially when we have a strong negative emotional reaction to watching the characters, we might project our own unconscious deficiencies onto them. These "negative" traits might be part of our repressed shadow self. Becoming conscious of these disowned parts prevents us from acting them out in an involuntary and undesired way. Accepting our shadow qualities can help us become more authentic and whole human beings, and access our hidden potential.

Eric had a strong negative emotional reaction to the character Evelyn. He did not like her and could not identify with her at all because she seemed so needy in the first part of the movie. While listening to my explanations about the shadow self, Eric already had some ideas about his possibly disowned unconscious parts. In his family, independence was encouraged because both parents were often gone for work. He was very proud of the fact that, since childhood, he never really needed anybody.

When I asked him how this impacted his relationships, he admitted that that previous girlfriends as well as his wife sometimes complained that he was aloof. In return, he sometimes found them too needy and did not always understand what they wanted from him emotionally. I encouraged Eric to consider whether he might sometimes be afraid of emotional closeness. By gaining awareness of how he had "put his neediness into his shadow bag" , he might open a door to more emotional intimacy in his relationships. It made sense to him that being emotionally vulnerable and available is different from being needy.

As Eric slowly accepted that he in fact needed people sometimes, he started to experience more emotional intimacy in his marriage and opened up in his relationships in general. He also became increasingly more able to bring his newly owned and integrated qualities of courage, openheartedness, and caring into these relationships.

Theoretical Contemplations

The shadow is an unconscious complex defined as the repressed, suppressed or disowned qualities of the conscious self.

In general, I found that exploring projections onto movie characters is easier than working with their projections on "real people", because unrelated aspects of real relationships can distort the picture. Clients or group members are more able to explore and own difficult emotions in response to a character on the screen than feelings that are directed toward a spouse, friend, or colleague. The lack of emotional entanglement helps them take responsibility for their strong reactions and recognize these as shadow material more easily.

Clients sometimes project disowned positive qualities onto film characters, as they admire or idealize them. This may point to qualities that are hidden from the their awareness. Therefore, I find it useful to explore the projection of desirable characteristics that do not "fit" into the clients' or group members' self-image. When these qualities are discovered and developed, they move closer to realizing their full potential.

Guidelines for Questions and Suggestions for Clients or Group Members

• What did you not like or even hate about the movie?

• Was any aspect of the film especially hard to watch?

• Which characters or actions seemed especially unattractive to you?

• Examine whether your response to a character, their behavior, or attributes might be part of your not-yet-fully-recognized repressed shadow self.

• Explore ways to embrace projected positive qualities in order to realize your full potential as well as acknowledging your repressed shadow material.


starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT
Author of E-Motion Picture Magic
Loch Lomond, CA, USA