Monday, November 07, 2005


Films to Heal By

Have you ever heard of Cinema Therapy? I was recently introduced to this concept, and I find it fascinating. The basic idea is for psychiatrists, psychologists, or social workers to use the viewing of certain films as a tool in either group therapy or one-on-one sessions to promote discussion; help bring certain issues to the surface; gage individual reactions to the behavior of characters on screen; and serve as a catalyst for emotional release. It's been argued that most movies serve as allegories, which can then be utilized in therapy. Others have further outlined that the cognitive effect of cinema therapy can be validated by recent theories of learning and creativity which suggest that people have seven separate "intelligences." Watching movies can engage all seven at once: the logical (plot), the linguistic (dialogue), the visual-spatial (pictures, colors, symbols, visual effects), the musical (sound effects and music), the interpersonal (storytelling), the kinesthetic (moving images), and the intra-psychic (inner guidance). The more of these intelligences that are accessed, it's hypothesized, the faster people learn, because each intelligence employs a different method of information processing. This is the kind of power I have always believed movies contained. Haven't you ever gone to a film and felt a catharsis? Or left a movie theater with your head swimming with reactions to the film, or find yourself wanting to talk with someone else about it? Cinema Therapy seems to codify these reactions and harness them for further psycho-analysis when needed for an individual to heal. A number of different sites on the web including,,, offer additional information on this approach.

Recently, I attended a conference on school based mental health. I had the opportunity to speak with a social worker who is using this method to work with children and adolescents. Interestingly, her take on it was that watching movies and talking only about the characters in the film was far more advantageous than relating the work directly back to the student.

After some thought I believe the another purpose is served by not only allowing us to understand ourselves better but to give us insight into how another person may be feeling or why he/she responded in such a way. Sometimes when we take ourselves out of the middle of the picture it is easier to see the whole. Movies can allow us to do just that.
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