100 Things To Spot In The Night Sky Baby Animals Life at the Movies – The Art of Cinema Therapy

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Life at the Movies – The Art of Cinema Therapy

More and more counselors are turning old-timey American movies into an effective therapeutic tool. I personally incorporated the use of Cinema Therapy with clients informally over five years ago. However, within the last couple of years, I have begun to use it more consistently as an adjunctive form of service when planning treatment. The films deal with a variety of life issues that are suitable for all ages, cultures and backgrounds. In the ongoing debate, life imitates movies or movies imitate real life? One thing is clear: movies address many of our common problems. Some very practical answers and life choices are provided in the 90 to 180 minute reel. Therefore, movies often give customers insight into their own lives.

After seeing Field of Dreams in 1989, if you build it, they will come became my slogan for the year. Those words of inspiration and hope gave me the encouragement to step out with confidence and accomplish many goals. I’m sure I’ve seen the movie over 20 times and every time is like the first time. I was overwhelmed with emotions. The list of things I needed to build was mind boggling. Sitting in that dark theater, tears streamed down my face as I identified the many things I wanted to do but was afraid to risk. I walked past my friend, entered the hallway, rushed to the back of the theater and cried like a baby. Periodically, I rent the video to remind me to follow my heart, listen to the voice within, and move forward. The film had an incredible healing effect. As customers connect with different characters, they are able to identify similarities and differences from their stories. This is often a great bridge from reel to real.

People watch movies: Cinema is a global phenomenon, seen by millions of people around the world. It has a powerful influence, consciously or unconsciously, on people’s behavior. A 1993 Variety magazine study reported that worldwide box office receipts reached $8 billion and that home video rentals are also a profitable business. Of the 100 highest-grossing films, 88 were American productions. We go to the movies for different reasons: some for magic, others for meaning. Movies can provide entertainment or a temporary escape from our reality. They can be relaxing or exciting and for many they have become a way of coping. As therapists and counselors, we can tap into these old, easily accessible and readily available resources.

What is Cinematherapy?

Cinematherapy is the use of films (actual images or videos) by counselors as a therapeutic tool in the healing process of clients. It is not a discipline that requires specialized training, such as art or music therapy. However, it should be done by a mental health practitioner skilled in processing the client’s cognitive, affective, and behavioral responses. Depending on the client, the concept may be introduced formally or informally at two different points during treatment. The first opportunity comes during the initial evaluation during the collection of historical data. Most new clients usually show changes in behavior (especially in leisure activities). At this time I ask: What do you do for fun? Or do you like movies? This is also a way to build rapport with the customer. I briefly share my interest in movies, their positive therapeutic value, and that other clients have benefited from the experience. The second opportunity to introduce Cinema Therapy is when the client discusses information that reminds the counselor of a particular movie or video. I share some of the similarities in history, views/mindsets and suggest that the client look into it. Then we plan to discuss his or her reaction in the next session.

Life is longer than the movies: Although the worlds of life and fiction have similarities, they are also very different. Films often cover a continuum of development from infancy to adulthood. Realizing that movies can cover an entire life in approximately two hours, customers should be warned that the solutions may take more time to implement than to watch. The real world doesn’t always come neatly packaged. We don’t know what will happen in the end in our life. However, we can become interested in fictional characters, find out what happens to them, and gain insight into solving our problem. Customers are usually able to tell how someone else should have handled a situation. They will then go on to explain what they would have done differently. The films serve as catalysts that drive discussion leading to transparency and discovery.

From Spin to Real: When customers watch movies, they make comparisons with their real-world knowledge of human behavior and what appears to be a plausible, likely, or consistent response from a person in a given situation. If a client decides that the emotions of the actors in the film are appropriate and convincing given the narrative circumstances, he or she may be able to empathically share the emotions of the characters. Customers also engage in a complex set of evaluations about the moral and ethical acceptability of a character’s on-screen behavior and sequence of events. As a result of discovering them, you will be able to determine strengths and weaknesses in the way the individual processes information, as well as his or her ability to abstract, reason and gather knowledge. When a client is watching a movie to use in Cinema Therapy, there are several categories that can be used as catalysts to get the person thinking about his or her issues. Five are mentioned here: Listen for a line (eg, There’s No Place Like Home The Wizard of Oz; You Can’t Handle the Truth Some Good Men; Make My Day Harry; May the Force Be With You Star Wars ). Look for themes (eg, facing your fears, revenge, starting over, extending forgiveness). Observe relational dynamics (eg, obsessive-compulsive, codependency, weak boundaries). Identify important issues (abuse, anxiety, marriage, chronic illness). Give each movie the Bible test by asking, does the movie show a violation or application of Scripture?

Movie Homework Assignment: If a picture is worth a thousand words, imagine the value of a movie. When movies are assigned as homework, the counselor should have a clear objective. Ask yourself, what do I hope to achieve with my client through this film? Cinematherapy is not just watching movies, but watching with a purpose. The films selected should address issues (Figure 1) facing customers or be based on their areas of interest (eg action, drama, romance, comedy, western, science fiction, fairy tale, etc.). Counselors should be warned that the film’s rating system (G Audience General, PG Parental Guidance, PG-13 Suitable for Teens, R Restricted/no one under 18 admitted without a parent or guardian) does not always accurately reflect the content of a the movie. Be sure to watch the film first and advise your client of material that may be unpleasant or offensive (eg profanity, nudity, graphic violence). Common sense must be used. Again, ask yourself, is the film clinically, spiritually, and age appropriate? Customers can watch a first-run movie at a local movie theater or rent a home video. There are advantages for both countries.

In the theater, they have widescreen and uninterrupted (interruption) views. Advantages of home video include the ability to pause and replay certain scenes, as well as viewing in the privacy and comfort of home. Whatever your customers’ country of choice, ask them to fill out a Movie Review Sheet (Figure 2). Beyond the obvious, customers can be moved by a variety of details in the film. Be prepared to deal with concepts that a client may identify that you have no intention of addressing. Customers can also watch the movie and not want to discuss it. No pressure should be applied to make something happen. Information documented from the Film Review Sheet can be used in a later session. If the customer has seen the movie, he or she has been affected (positively or negatively). Reality sets in Caroline’s case In the practice of Cinematherapy, I have found reality-based, rational-emotive and behavioral approaches to be most effective. This does not limit the use of other theoretical orientations as preferred by some counselors. Below is a brief summary of a case using a reality-based therapeutic intervention related to Cinema Therapy.

Caroline is a 38-year-old mother of three daughters between the ages of 5 and 10. She is recently divorced from a physically, verbally and emotionally abusive narcissistic, bipolar husband. During one of our sessions, Caroline was discussing how her husband was impulsive and obsessive. Some of the things she said reminded me of the movie, As Good As It Gets. Before sharing the similarities, I asked her if she had seen the movie and her take on it. To my surprise, she hated the movie (I’ve seen it five or six times and recommended it to several other clients). It was a big moment. Caroline fumed as she pointed out how unrealistic the film looked. She was worried that Helen Hunts character would marry Jack Nicholson’s character because he was charming, but that she might forget about his character flaws. Then Helen would end up like Caroline, 10 years later, wondering how she had missed the obvious signs of dysfunction. As a result of domestic violence, Caroline suffers from low self-esteem and severe depression. This was the first time she had expressed a strong opinion about anything. We discussed the questions from the Movie Review Sheet right then in the session. This opened a door through which we could work more effectively. Caroline wasn’t angry at the movie, but at herself for her poor judgment and wrong choices. Because she felt embarrassed and ashamed of her situation, she withdrew from others (even those who cared about her well-being).

The film helped Caroline to accept that although she was deeply hurt, she needed to connect with people in order to heal. At the same time, she had to create new patterns of relationships. She was also challenged to answer the question, What if this is as good as it gets? Caroline began to assess her current reality and ask additional questions, such as Who am I? What have I learned from my past experiences that can help me in the present? What do I want from life? What do I want from relationships? Will my current behavior help me achieve my desired goals? What am I willing to change? During treatment, Caroline began to accept personal responsibility for her life and make a plan. She is learning to step outside and trust her new found knowledge. Find a therapist to find solutions to your problems.

While Kinema Therapy can be used with a wide range of clients, it is not recommended for those with severe psychiatric disorders. Counselors should be aware that watching certain actions in a movie can cause clients to relive their pain. Be sensitive. Instead of assigning movies as homework, movie clips (5 to 10 minutes) can be watched in session. Then the content can be processed Immediately. Cinematherapy is an underutilized intervention that I believe will grow in popularity as its implementation and effectiveness are better understood. Our lives can be watched like a long movie without interruption. Consider the story of The Truman Show. Meeting a new client is like stepping into the middle of a movie. Sometimes it takes a while to figure out what’s going on, even when the customer offers a refund. Using Cinema Therapy is a way for counselors to engage clients in non-threatening ways as they share the plots of their stories.

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