The Cinema Therapy Newsletter #57
Febuary 2015

starIn the Spotlight:

The world has lost a pioneer in media psychology: Stuart Fischoff has died. Stuart was the Senior Editor of the Journal of Media Psychology, Emeritus Professor of Media Psychology at Cal State, Los Angeles, American Psychological Association Fellow, author of the Psychology Today blog, The Media Zone, and an award-winning screenwriter. Read more about his life and influential work in Remembering Dr. Stuart Fischoff by Rachel Fischoff.

In their critical article, Caddyshack is therapy for drug abusers?, Wendy Ruderman and Barbara Laker write: "People battling drug and alcohol addiction in Philadelphia are watching Hollywood movies in outpatient group therapy - on your dime. ... Although some city officials and treatment providers contend that watching movies can be helpful, national experts on substance abuse said there is no scientific research to support it as an effective treatment method. In fact, some movie scenes could actually trigger setbacks for people in recovery, the experts said."

starNew Resources:

Movie therapy: 8 films that might save your troubled marriage by Linda Carroll makes movie suggestions based on a study by the University of Rochester. More about this study is published in Divorce Rate Cut in Half for Couples Who Discussed Relationship Movies.

Movie Therapy For Law Students is a fun legal study aid and law school preparatory text, which surveys about 35 legal movies, focusing on the substantive areas of law and legal issues that the movies raise.

The YouTube video History of Film/Film Therapy Project illustrates elements of Cinema Therapy.

MC Kelby lists some health-related movies, including Oscar contenders in Cinema Therapy: Movies about Health Issues.

starOnline Certification Programs:

Savanna Ellis

Savanna Ellis offers a 6 week online relationship course How Watching One “Chick Flick” Movie Per Week Can Totally Save Your Relationship! She introduces her Course on YouTube here.

Birgit Wolz

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:

The new blog Film Psychology introduces us to the science behind filmmaking. lists the Top 10 Films of 2014.

Jungian Analyst and psychotherapist, Lucy Sikes, offers Cinema Therapy in Kansas.


Uttam Dave reviews the Indian movie Lagaan: Once Upon a Time in India (2001), empasizes the film's healing themes and recommends it for Cinema Therapy.


Harry Haun

Harry Haun reviews Still Alice in his article Through the Looking Glass: Westmoreland and Glatzer’s ‘Still Alice’ stars Julianne Moore as a professor facing early Alzheimer’s. He states, "now you can see what living with Alzheimer’s looks like and feels like".

Taryn Southernan

On YouTube, Taryn Southernan, an American singer, actress and comedian, describes and analyzes the following movies in a humorous fashion: Exodus: Gods and Kings & Inherent Vice and The Pyramid, Top Five & Dying of the Light! and Dumb And Dumber To & Foxcatcher and No Good Deed, Dolphin Tale 2 & The Drop and Kicking ***, Riding Buds & Cracking Nuts and Saving, Spaceships & Science and Creepy Dolls, Missings & Sibling Rescue and Fury, The Book of Life, The Best of Me & Men, Women & Children and The Identical, Forrest Gump & The Congress and Interstellar, Big Hero 6 & The Theory of Everything and Horrible Bosses 2 & Penguins of Madagascar and Fury, The Book of Life, The Best of Me & Men, Women & Children and The Hobbit, Night at the Museum & Annie and Mortdecai, The Boy next Door & Strange Magic and and Annabelle, Gone Girl & The Good Lie and Paddington, The Wedding Ringer & Blackhat as well asTaken 3 & Selma.

Stacy and Maureen

After demonstrating movie therapy in a humerous way, they review Into the Woods, Taken 3, Boyhood, and Mockingjay.

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

Big Hero 6

With the voices of Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung

Entertainment: 4.5 Message: 4

Wildly creative and innovative, with amazing animation and meaningful messages splattered and embedded throughout, this Disney California/Japan amalgam in the streets of "San Fransokyo" is sure to delight the whole family. Inspiring kids towards careers in science and technology, and making "nerddom" cool, pointing to ethical choices, makes this both educational and entertaining. Baymax, an oddly huggable nurse-robot, is uncompromisingly dedicated to healing and nurturing. He's sure to steal your heart and comfort kids going through difficult times. Then the inevitable conflict begins and Baymax goes full-tilt healthcare warrior? Hmmm. The lengthy battle scenes and vengeful violence - though not "to the death" (no cartoon blood spills) there is elaborate attention to armaments - are nonetheless overdone, given the otherwise compassionate and socially responsible purpose. Solving conflicts without such extreme violence - while still keeping kids engaged - could be the next step in superhero evolution (1 hr 42 min).

Horrible Bosses 2

With Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis

Entertainment: 2.5 Message: 2

Comedy. Mostly. The topic of inappropriate bosses fueled the first installment, already a hard-to-take "fantasy" premise involving their murder, this sequel goes "beyond the beyond." There are indeed some good laughs, as our naïve stars attempt to start their own company, but the story so overshoots the credibility-meter, that even great comedy would not make up for it. If you are in the mood for a silly, mindless spoof, either hate venture capitalists or just want to blank out for a couple hours, this could be your ticket (1 hr 48 min).


With Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway

Entertainment: 4 Message: 4.5

For once a visionary SciFi film that is not based on violence or going to war with hostile aliens! Brilliantly executed and visually stunning, intelligent and emotionally rich, this is both an intellectual exploration and a journey of the heart. Director/writer/producer Chris Nolan's work (Memento, Inception) tends to be more low key and thoughtful while being no less entertaining or imaginative. Making tangible some of the mindboggling concepts of the Theory of Relativity and Quantum Physics, we are treated to experience time as a dimension of space as we travel through a wormhole. Powerful messages drive home many of our shared, humanistic values and make a point about sustainability in agriculture, for example, that cannot be missed. Powerful archetypes, evolutionary forces of what might be in humanity's future, and the intimacy of family relations (a father in search of his daughter) are all at play here. Be prepared to be stunned, challenged with great ideas and touched deeply (2 hrs 49 min).


With Bill Murray, Melissa McCarthy, Naomi Watts

Entertainment: 3 Message: 3.5

In this story of redemption, Bill Murray is almost too convincing as Vincent, the ornery, messy and selfish-seeming Vietnam Vet, living next to a single mom and her 12 year old son. While seeing this rough character as a saint is a far stretch, as the journey unfolds, there is more to him than meets the eye. Predictable and schmaltzy at times, genuine moments of heart and humanity are the gems. Naomi Watts as a Russian prostitute adds to the comic relief, while this is one of Melissa McCarthy's more serious and sensitive roles to date (1 hr 43 min).

The Theory of Everything

With Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, Maxine Peake, Charlie Cox, Emily Watson

Entertainment: 4 Message: 4.5

Based on cosmologist Stephen Hawking's extraordinary life of scientific brilliance and courage, and Jane Hawking's 2007 memoir Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen. Let us count the ways in which this masterpiece biopic is amazing: (1) Fantastic performances by both lead actors, especially award-winning Eddie Redmayne - it seems as if you are watching Hawking himself. (2) Showing the human and humorous side of the great scientist, his great life and love story, and (3) the incredible resilience of this couple to deal with a harsh fate, adding deep dimensions to the public persona of a contemporary genius (2 hrs 3 min).


Birgit Wolz:

Pride and Prejudice (Trailer)

Director: Joe Wright
Producers: Tim Bevan, Liza Chasin, Eric Fellner, Debra Hayward, Paul Webster
Screenwriter: Deborah Moggach
Stars: Keira Knightley, Talulah Riley, Rosamund Pike, Jena Malone, Carey Mulligan, Donald Sutherland, Brenda Blythen, Simon Woods, Matthew MacFadyen, Tom Hollander, Kelly Reilly
MPAA Rating: PG
Year of Release: 2005


         This sumptuous new screen adaptation of Pride and Prejudice shows a fresh take on the story of Jane Austen's novel.

         Social mobility is the goal for the hysteric Mrs. Bennet in marrying off her five well-brought-up daughters. But her second-born, Lizzie, and her older sister, Jane, stubbornly stick to their romantic ideals. Conveniently, the objects of their affections, Mr. Bingley for Jane, and his best friend, the standoffish and snobbish Mr. Darcy for the intelligent, outspoken Lizzie, are rich and come into town to stir up trouble and steal hearts. When they first meet, Lizzie starts disliking Darcy because he slights her at a ball.

         Not long after this ball, Jane is invited to dine at the house in which Bingley, his sisters, and Darcy are staying. Upon her arrival, she falls ill with a fever and Lizzie goes and cares for her sister. As Darcy comes to know her better during the course of her visit, his unfavorable opinion of Lizzie is challenged. In spite of himself, Darcy begins to find her playful manners intriguing.

         After the sisters arrive back home, it appears that Jane will soon marry Mr. Bingley. But Lizzie hears that Mr. Darcy talks his friend out of proposing because he believes that Mrs. Bennet and the younger girls are boorish and predatory. Lizzie becomes furious with Darcy for interfering. At a party, a handsome and charming officer, George Wickham, reveals to her a scandalous story about how Mr. Darcy ruined Wickam's prospects by refusing to give him a valuable living that had been bequeathed to the officer in Mr. Darcy's late father's will. Lizzie is shocked at Mr. Darcy's callous nature and her dislike of him increases.

         In her time, women were not allowed to own property or inherit estate assets. Getting married was their best chance for financial security. Passive, docile women accepted dull, boring husbands in exchange for security, but Lizzie is unwilling to compromise. When a wealthy cousin, Mr. Collins, proposes to her, she rebels and refuses his offer, although her mother is upset and angry.

         A subsequent scene shows Lizzie surprised about Darcy's proposal to marry her in the soaking rain. Both seem infused with spontaneous passion as they break into heated shouting. Later, at home, when Lizzie is in the midst of pondering over Darcy's arrogant conduct, he visits her again. The suitor begins pacing around the room until, suddenly, he bursts out into a declaration of love for Lizzie. She is amazed and stunned, not only by this announcement, but also by Darcy's insulting method of a second proposal. Angrily, she refuses him again.

         Because he deeply cares about Lizzie, Mr. Darcy is upset and writes a letter convincingly defending himself against the accusations that she leveled at him in her refusal of his offer of marriage. When she receives the letter, she finds its contents difficult to believe. However, gradually she comes to understand Darcy's point of view and her hatred of him dissipates.

         Some time later, Lizzie and her Aunt and Uncle Gardiner are invited to visit Darcy's estate. They mistakenly believe that the Darcy family is away from home for the summer. When Lizzie and Mr. Darcy see each other she is astonished at the drastic change in his character and recognizes her love with him. Later she enjoys learning about Darcy's role in uniting her younger sister Lydia with Wickham who had abandoned the girl earlier.

         Lady Catherine, Darcy's aunt, visits to gain a promise from Lizzie never to enter into an engagement with Mr. Darcy. The young woman, of course, refuses to oblige the aunt's imperious demands. Instead, she overcomes her pride and prejudice, acknowledges her love for Darcy, and marries him.

Theoretical Contemplations:

         When we watch a film, we know that we are seeing a highly edited version of reality. The film's creators have selectively chosen to highlight some events and leave out others, in order to evoke certain feelings and focus our attention on certain themes. They create an illusion of reality and we make a decision to accept it as real. In a similar way, we look at our own reality through a highly personal lens. We may think and feel as if we are seeing an objective reality but, in fact, we choose to edit out certain information and experiences and focus on others. We see life through the filter of our own personal histories, beliefs, and blindspots.

         I use this movie analogy as a tool to help clients become conscious of, question, and eventually release, negative views about themselves and their lives. I explain to them that their beliefs can help them or mislead them and that they are usually formed in childhood, as an adaptive response to their reality at that time. These beliefs are often not accurate reflections of the current reality. In other words, they are cognitive distortions. These distortions can prevent clients from developing healthy self-esteem and realizing their goals in life. I teach my clients that what they take to be real is, in fact, often a filtered version of reality, and encourage them to think of it as their personal myth of reality or their old inner movie.

Cinema Alchemy:

         I had used Cinema Alchemy with Miriam before to work with her General Anxiety Disorder, Dysthymia, and self-esteem issues. But I did not expect that she would be fascinated with a movie like Pride and Prejudice . This client is a modern day, artistically inclined 33-year-old with a history in the punk community.  

         Her intense response to this film confirmed for me that the effect of metaphors in movies can be powerful even if the characters lead completely different lives than our clients. Miriam told me that she had "become obsessed" with this motion picture after watching it. I encouraged her to describe what moved her so deeply. She told me that she loved how "certain characters walk away from certain incidents, say 'I fucked that up', and then things work out at the end." Early in the movie," she continued, "Lizzie gets very angry when she cordially asks Mr. Darcy to dance, and he refuses. She feels even more hurt when he continues to insult her. Pride is a guard for her because people are disappointing Lizzie. But she has to overcome her ego-driven behavior."

         At this point, I asked Miriam in which way this reminded her of herself. She responded, "this movie made me aware that I always take things personally and that I often beat myself up when I get rejected. Then I intensely defend my public image". When I wondered about the possible roots of the underlying negative view of herself, Miriam said: "The message in my childhood was eternal condemnation when I screwed things up. That's why I rarely try new things and why I always put myself down after I speak up." During our subsequent exploration, she recognized how her view of herself was based on a cognitive distortion and on an old inner movie that had its roots early in her life. My client also understood that she responded to the character, Lizzie, so strongly because a mature part of her recognized that there really is no eternal condemnation when she makes a mistake. The faith, strength, and courage that she saw in Lizzie helped her recognize a new, more appropriate inner movie . This new perspective sank in during our subsequent explorations.  

         I encouraged Miriam to watch Pride and Prejudice again with this new understanding in mind. During our following sessions, she continued to refer to the effect that the movie had on her. Within a few weeks, she was able to start letting go of her defensive guard in her interactions with friends and family, which improved the quality of her relationships. Her self-esteem increased and her anxiety and depression symptoms appeared significantly less.

Guidelines for Questions:

•  What character did you admire most?

•  Do you have a negative view of yourself or your life that this character does not have?

•  Could this cognitive distortion be based on an old inner movie that has its roots early in your life?

Possible Interventions:

•  Describe the following metaphor to clients: By watching the movie character with this awareness, his or her admired qualities are "copied" into your own "inner movie screen" with a new, more appropriate inner movie . At the same time the old, undesired inner movie gets "erased".

•  Instruct clients to write their new, healthy view or belief on cards, and to place these notes at prominent places around their house so that they can be seen frequently throughout the day.


starThanks for reading. I encourage and welcome feedback.

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