The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #55
August 2014

starIn the Spotlight:

Cinema Therapy was discussed and demonstrated on the TV show The Doctors. The recording of this show can be watched here.

Keith Bussey writes in his article, Movie Therapy: "...There are several reasons why movie therapy is so successful. Watching a movie allows one to open up a space to explore an issue without the fear of being judged. For example, there are movies that help with substance abuse issues in which a person can watch a movie about a character struggling with drugs or alcohol and develop empathy and understanding of the character, and then realize that they can apply those things to their self. ..." offers a Do-It-Yourself Personal Growth Using Movie Therapy: "How can movie therapy help me?", "What movies should I watch?", "I love the idea of movie therapy. How can it work for me?", "I never heard of movie therapy, but it sounds helpful and fast?" and other questions are discussed.

HomeMovieTherapy offers services to resolve family conflict, to relieve emotional distress, and to help with loss and bereavement.

In his article Movies are powerful things and Good Will Hunting in particular is an exceptional movie, Bart Breen finds three lessons in Good Will Hunting: 1. Genius is not a substitute for inner peace, 2. Vocation is not a substitute for healthy relationships and 3. There are things in life which are not our fault, for which we bear responsibility for how we respond.

starNew Resources:

Continuity Family Business Consulting uses movies with families who are struggling to work together but don't have, or recognize the importance of having, an aligned vision. One of their recommendations is Big Night.

Toward Improving the Film Selection Process in Cinematherapy by James Franklin Jr Knickerbocker can now be downloaded as a PDF.

Information about Rememberance, therapeutic and interactive films for dementia patients and caregivers is available here.

Cinematherapy as a Clinical Intervention: Theoretical Rationale and Empirical Credibility by Michael Lee Powell can now be downloaded as a PDF.

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

Cinematherapy for the Soul: The Girl's Guide to Finding Inspiration One Movie at a Time by Nancy Peske and Beverly West can now be downloaded as a PDF.

Cinematherapy for Lovers: The Girl's Guide to Finding True Love One Movie at a Time by Nancy Peske and Beverly West can now be downloaded as a PDF.

On Movie Date podcast, "Rafer and Kristen review Woody Allen's new romantic comedy, 'Magic in the Moonlight,' Rob Reiner's 'And So It Goes,' and the new Scarlett Johansson sci-fi flick, 'Lucy.' They also offer some Movie Therapy to a listener who's recovering from cancer, and in need of films that don't mention cancer."

Monthly Cinema Therapy Podcasts with Don and Christina explores characters, relationships, emotions, and metaphors in movies to help explore "the human condition and tap into emotional issues such as: grief, love, anger and understanding, discover new ways of thinking and feeling, evoke personal and relational qualities like commitment, courage, authenticity, flexibility, mindfulness and spiritual awareness". Examples of their subjects are: "Bucket List Flicks", "The Hero’s Journey", Therapists Behaving Badly", and "A Couples Guide to Love in the Zombie Apocalypse".

Through Trusted Insight Movies, films in different languages can be streamed and downloaded.

Pick & Download offers online free movies that not purely for entertainment. "With the emergence of cinematherapy, which is an evolving psychological approach for therapy, a well-written and acted movie often provides a cathartic experience that has a therapeutic value to a particular viewer. If he can relate to a situation portrayed in the movie and is resolved in a satisfying and realistic way, that movie may be a solution to his problems or illnesses."

Another online source for downloading movies is available on Download Cinema Movies.


Inner-Work Counseling in Tempe AZ offers Cinema Therapy in the treatment of substance abuse and addiction: "In the intensive outpatient program we watch clips of various movies for many therapeutic reasons. Recently I showed a scene from the movie “My name is Bill W.” to depict the nature of loss of control. People feel powerfully understood when they see that they’re not alone with such a mighty illness."

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


In the last issue of this newsletter I reported about Dr. Ulus' 8-session movie group therapy program. He conducted this program at the Community Counseling Center in Hermitage, Pennsylvania, not in New Jersey.

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.

starNew Blogs and Websites:

Manasi Vaidya posts in her article, Reel Therapy: "Do you feel frustrated when people get their facts completely wrong while showing disability at the movies? ... That’s why when Tranquilli, a ’01 alumnus of the post professional program in OT at NYU, got the opportunity to use his technical knowledge to consult on a Hollywood movie, he seized it. Read on to find out about his experience understanding movie scripts, working with actors and attending the film premiere at Sundance. ..."

ALL YOU Editors quotes Lori Schade in Working on Your Relationship? Give Movie Therapy a Try: "Employ this simple, inexpensive strategy by watching a romantic flick together once a month, then talk through the plot after the credits roll. Try not to force any issues—just chat about which characters or dialogue you relate to or what you each thought of a particular scene."

See more about this subject here.

In her article, Movie Night = Couples Therapy?, CafeMom writes about Cinema Therapy with couples: "The key to it, I guess, is to be sure to watch together and discuss it after. No just watching and going to bed. It's a little like movie therapy homework."


António Roma Torres reports about his recent activities on cinema and health:
1) the 2014 edition of São João Hospital (Oporto - Portugal) "Cinema Health Illness" exhibition;
2) his presentation on Cinedrama at the 9th Federation of European Psychodrama Training Organizations (FEPTO) Conference 2014 in Lisbon (Portugal)

Vijay Diwas: Paraplegics, quadriplegics inspired by videos: In Pune, India, a Cinema Therapy session was conducted by the Global Healing Foundation at the Paraplegic Rehabilitation Centre. 50 paraplegics and quadriplegics watched motivational videos of the differently-abled who have surmounted all odds to follow their dreams.

Cinema Therapy will soon be reality at the Gemelli Hospital in Rome, Italy: A collaboration between the university hospital and the charity MediCinema Italy offers a program of Cinema Therapy intended for patients and their families.

The German reader, Markus Brüggenolte, recommended the following exceptional Canadian movie, Gabrielle, or in German: Gabrielle - (K)eine ganz normale Liebe.


A Korean study of The Effects of Cinema Therapy on Depression and Self-Esteem in People with Schizophrenia by Sung Eun Lee and Sung Hee Kofound that after Cinema Therapy, depression of schizophrenia patients in an experimental group was lowered compared with that of patients in a control group. After Cinema Therapy the self esteem of schizophrenia patients in the experimental group had also improved compared with that of patients in the control group. The results indicate that Cinema Therapy was a useful program leading to positive effects on depression and self esteem in schizophrenia patients.


Cedric Wood

Cedric Wood reviewed films in his following articles on his Cinema Therapy blog: 'Edge of Tomorrow' a thrill ride for viewers, 'Ida' a rare film that truly moves viewers brilliantly, 'Chef' filled with emotional treats, Stay home for 'Mom's Night Out', 'The Immigrant' is uninspiring, 'Locke' takes viewers on a great road trip, 'Fading Gigolo' worth the price, 'Earth to Eco' not worth orbiting around, 'Wish I was here' paints by the numbers, 'Life Itself' shows the man behind the magic and 'The Immigrant' is uninspiring.

Taryn Southernan

On YouTube, Taryn Southernan, an American singer, actress and comedian, describes and analyzes the following movies in a humorous fashion: 22 Jump Street & How To Train Your Dragon2 and Edge of Tomorrow & The Fault in Our Stars and A Million Ways To Die In The West & Maleficent and Godzilla & Million Dollar Arm and Neighbors, Moms' Night Out & Chef and Divergent & Muppets Nymphomaniacs and Transformers: Age of Extinction & America: Imagine the World Without Her and Tammy, Deliver Us from Evil & Earth to Echo and Ripped Greek Gods, Brilliant Dogs & Hipster Hotels and Think Like A Man Too, Jersey Boys & The Rover and Maleficent, A Million Ways & To Die In The West a well as a summary of these.

Thumbnail Reviews by Karin Leonard & Daniel Robin:

Each month, Karin and Daniel select their favorite or otherwise important films. They rate them, subjectively, on a scale from 1 (worthless) to 5 (awesome) in terms of their entertainment and message. They leave the plot details and storytelling to the filmmakers and instead attempt to highlight strengths and flaws, and hint at purpose. You can reach them at


With Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey
Entertainment: 3.5 Message: 3

Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler star in their third romantic comedy together, and there is plenty here to like, even though there are certainly flaws - most critics passionately hated this movie. Certainly no great achievement, but it made us laugh, a lot. Despite a fairly trite plot, stereotyping, clichés, and schmaltz at times, it was still quite heart-warming and fun - and easy to enjoy a vicarious tour of S. Africa. Anyone who has experienced a "blended" family in their own life will probably relate well to the many challenges and hilarious moments. Barrymore and Sandler do have their very own chemistry and charm, which work well here, once again. The beautiful nature and animal scenes add much to the appeal (1 hr 57 min).


With Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston
Entertainment: 2.5 Message: 2

While amazing digital effects turn the campy, earlier Japanese version into a 21
st Century extravaganza, the plot complication of too many monsters is confusing and detracts from the impact of Godzilla's presence and power. There is so much going on here that it is hard to keep track of the storyline (you may be asking yourself "what storyline?"). Potentially laudable environmental messages get lost in the turbulence of action, and cataclysmic scale of it all. Even the substantial cast can't save the essence of Godzilla. A missed opportunity to drive home a cautionary tale, while preserving the original appeal of the Japanese, ground-shaking masterpiece. That said, if its big monster action you're after, you'll get that here - especially in the last 20 or so minutes (2 hrs 3 min).


With Angelina Jolie, Elle Fanning, Sharlto Copley
Entertainment: 4.5 Message: 3.5

Powerful, visually stunning and transformative, this retelling and backstory to the Grimm's beloved "Sleeping Beauty" fairy tale, organizes itself around Angelina Jolie's magnetic performance as uber-fairy, Maleficent. Never has the charismatic actress been more darkly beautiful and commanding, while at the same time revealing the vulnerable heart of the Wounded Feminine. Updated from her previous Disney movie incarnations, Maleficent represents the archetype of nature scorned, rather than the previous "evil" sorceress. The lovely Elle Fanning (Dakota Fanning's sister) as Princess Aurora, delightful digital Fairy Folk and mythical nature creatures (even the trees get into the act), which seem reminiscent of
Lord of the Rings, captivate and enhance the spell (1 hr 37 min).

X-Men: Days of Future Past

With Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman
Entertainment: 4 Message: 4

Brilliantly executed and gripping, this may well be the best of the series. Visiting the past, discovering the early "future history," and meeting the well-known characters' younger selves deliver a whole new perspective - a treat all by itself. Not only are the visual effects dazzling, the action tightly paced, the character well developed and engaging, but there is a deeper psychological, emotional and ethical current that ripens and matures the individual players. Witnessing the evolution of morality and coming to terms with their powers yields a powerful metaphor for becoming a responsible adult - perfect for the adolescent target audience (2 hrs 11 min).


Birgit Wolz:

Grand Canyon (Trailer)

Director: Lawrence Kasdan
Producers: Michael Grillo, Lawrence Kasdan, Charles Okun
Screenwriters: Lawrence Kasdan, Meg Kasdan
Cast: Danny Glover, Kevin Kline, Steve Martin, Mary McDonnell, Mary-Louise Parker, Alfre Woodard, Jeremy Sisto, Tina Lifford, Patrick Malone, Randle Mell, Sarah Trigger
MPAA Rating: R
Year of Release: 1991


A white and wealthy accountant, Mack, is stranded in the ghetto when his car breaks down. A black gang sets upon him. But at the last minute, Simon, a black tow-truck driver, arrives to rescue him. This takes place in a Los Angeles that is painted as ominous and threatening, an alienating landscape where rich people pile up bulwarks of money and distance to protect them from the dangers of poverty and despair. His brush with death or serious injury causes the otherwise happy Mack to reexamine his values. He believes that he has been granted a new life, and he wants to lead it a little differently this time. Mack decides to repay Simon's kindness by getting involved in his life, helping him locate a better apartment, and setting him up on a blind date. Thus begins an unlikely friendship between these two men, which serves as the centerpiece in a web of interconnected stories, many of which illustrate the possibilities when people allow themselves to go beyond society's barriers.

Simon is a divorced, hardworking man. He is a caring soul who keeps in constant touch with his deaf daughter in Washington, D.C. and looks after his sister, who lives in a violence-ridden ghetto. Her teenage son is convinced that he will not live to be twenty-five.

At the same time as the friendship develops between Mack and Simon, Mack's wife, Claire, has an extraordinary experience that opens her heart too. Their son is about to leave for college, and as the empty nest looms, a miracle falls into her life: She hears crying in the bushes along her daily jogging route and finds an abandoned baby. She brings it home, falls in love with it, and wants to keep the infant. Following the advice of her friends and family, she hesitantly lets go of this dream.

Mack's best friend Davis is a producer of violent movies. Early in Grand Canyon , he complains because an editor has left out the "money shot" (a bus driver graphically shot in the head) in one of his movies. Then a mugger shoots Davis in the leg. When he feels the pain, he has a strong awakening, vowing to not make any more violent movies. After his recovery, however, Davis goes back to his old ways.

Grand Canyon is a movie about daily life in a big American city and about several characters who would not, in the ordinary course of events , meet one another. This film is also about breaking down the barriers that society erects between people.

Cinema Alchemy

Evelyn was a member of my Cinema Alchemy group. After the group watched Grand Canyon between our weekly meetings , I explained to them what we can learn about ourselves through developing awareness of our projections.

Evelyn liked Mack. Of all the characters, she saw herself most in him. She perceived Mack as grateful and caring. He reminded her of the fact that she also cares a lot for others and their well-being. When she shared these reflections with the group, the other group members agreed with Evelyn's perspective.

This process helped her appreciate herself more fully for her friendliness, openheartedness, ability to commit, and so on. It became obvious to everyone that this sharing process helped her strengthen these positive qualities.

Evelyn could also relate to Claire's thinking and behavior. She identified with the naïveté that she saw in Claire concerning the baby. But she often hates herself for being such a dreamer and believes that she should be more "down to earth." When she shared this analysis with the group, several group members responded with surprise. They didn't see Evelyn as not in touch with reality. They saw her as idealistic but in a positive way and even admired her for it. When she heard this, Evelyn remembered that some friends had given her similar feedback. She tended to forget those kinds of responses.

Following my guidance, Evelyn also remembered that she had been very dreamy as a child and received frequent criticism for it from her mother at the time. In the meantime, she had become significantly more balanced. Now it all made sense to her. Evelyn understood that she had held on to a negative view of herself ( perceived shortcoming) that no longer applied. This process encouraged her to start working on her "inner critic".

Evelyn saw courage in Simon, which at first she could not recognize in herself. I encouraged her to remember a time -- even if it were long ago or under unusual circumstances -- when she felt courageous. Now she remembered that, many years ago, she had been quite courageous when she confronted her older brother because he had lied to her. He was much bigger than Evelyn. She was afraid of him but confronted him anyway because it seemed the right thing to do.

Now Evelyn understood that her courage had been hidden from her awareness and that she had projected this positive quality onto Simon. In subsequent sessions she reported that her altered self-image helped her to be more assertive.

Evelyn disliked the character Davis in Grand Canyon very much because she saw him as selfish, rude, heartless, ruthless, and abusing his power. She believed that she is very different from Davis. Her strong negative reaction made me wonder whether the Davis character might indirectly confront Evelyn with disowned parts of herself. Consequently I asked her how aggression was handled in her family of origin. She remembered that, most of the time, everyone was nice to everyone else. When Evelyn tried to express disagreement, her mom told her, "Do not say anything if you cannot say something nice."

After some probing, Evelyn told the group that although she has very good relationships with her colleagues and her boss at work, she is not completely happy there. Pushier colleagues, who have also taken more initiative in certain projects, have been promoted instead of her. This puzzles her because she always completes her tasks diligently.

At first it was hard for Evelyn to allow for the possibility that some of the characteristics she saw in Davis could be part of her disowned and repressed self. But reflecting on her family history helped her to open up to this possibility. Now Evelyn started to consider that she might have repressed her anger and aggression. She also surmised that her assertiveness, strength, and creativity might have also ended up in her "shadow" self. This awareness supported her process toward wholeness.

Theoretical Contemplations

AUsually we identify with film characters when we recognize ourselves in them. Whatever we like or dislike in a character is usually what we like or dislike in ourselves. In the therapeutic hour, this understanding can be of great assistance with our efforts to help clients expand positive qualities and to help them work with perceived or real shortcomings which they are consciously aware of.

Clients may also project their disowned positive qualities onto film characters, as they admire or idealize them. Admiring the actions may point to our clients' qualities that are hidden from their full awareness. Gaining recognition of these positive traits in this indirect way helps clients to own these previously hidden qualities.

If clients strongly dislike certain movie characters or their behavior, we need to consider that they might project their own not fully conscious shortcomings onto the characters. To the clients, the despised characters seem different from how they perceive themselves. Our clients develop toward more wholeness and authenticity as they become conscious of the disowned "shadow" self that they project onto the characters or their behavior.

Guidelines for Suggestions and Questions for Clients

• Have you seen a character that you especially liked and with whom you especially identified?

• Has there been a different character in which you saw yourself, but disliked overall?

• Look also for a character that strikes you as being different from yourself but whom you liked or admired.

• Did you recognize a character you could not identify with, or could only identify with very little and about whom you had negative feelings, perhaps because of their demeanor, expressions, or actions?

These questions can be asked after clients watched a specific movie with multiple characters or while reflecting on several films.


starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

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