Use of Cinema in Therapy

For well over a year I have been interested in the use of Cinema in Therapy.

While pursuing my graduate studies one of my professors assigned at least three movies for the use with Career Counseling Clients.  As I recall this was the first time I recall seriously contemplating using movies in this format.  The professor, John Garcia, PhD assigned us “The Office” , “A River Runs Through It”, “Brother Sun, Sister Moon” “Cinema Paradiso” .  I had already seen half of these movies but watching them again from the perspective of someone who may be looking for a career and exploring career options was energizing.  These are movies and others have mimicked slices of my life, or parts of my life.

Movies can challenge us.  One of the movies that has challenged me at different times in my life has been “Men of Honor” with Cuba Gooding, Jr ( ).  It is historical non-fiction movie that challenges me, as Charles Brashear, the main character, dealt with many significant challenges and was successful.

Cinema can help bring definition to aspects of our lives, for example Careers.  Sometimes I find myself referring to movies to describe to students a particular career.  I know and describe for clients that sometimes these roles are dramatized and may not give accurate reflections, but it gives us an idea of a person in a role.  Often times students ask me what a Child Life Specialist does and I refer to the movie “Patch Adams” with Robin Williams.

A group of friends and I get together once a week and watch a movie.  They take turns choosing a movie for the group.  Sometimes a member may have already seen the movie, but we try to choose movies the others have not seen.  One of the rules of the group is you have to watch the movie, regardless of any preconceived notions.  Another guideline in choosing a movie to share with the group is that it needs to be a movie that inspires or moves you. These friends tend to be literary and can easily find the analogy in the story line.  It has been fun to meet with a group of non-counseling friends and watch a movie and then talk about it.  Most of the movies have been ones I have never heard of before and I often contemplate how I might build it into a counseling practice.  This past week we watched “Stranger than Fiction” where one of the main characters is having his life dictated to him.  One of the quotes that has struck me is “Art mimics life and life mimics art.”  At least that is the way I remember the quote.  I see this time and time again in counseling practice as well.

Earlier this week I was having a conversation with a counselor about putting together a database for movies that could be used in therapy and what populations they would be appropriate for.  In looking at the populations to use a particular movie looking at age groups, counseling issues, racial/ethnicity dialogue, etc.  Prior to this discussion I had begun a database with movies I want to watch that may be specific for certain counseling issues.  It is a work in progress and I will share it when it is more developed.

I invite you to share your thoughts and suggestions with me.  Feel free to contact me if you have a movie that inspires you, motivates you or that you think addresses an issue that may be addressed in a counseling setting.  I have not attended any training on the use of cinema therapy and if you become aware of one invite you to let me know about it.