Cinema therapy is a modern therapy technique where therapists use the films as a tool in therapy. Some therapists think that cinema therapy can have a positive influence on clients suffering from a wide variety of psychiatric disorders including anxiety disorders like PTSD and OCD, depression, addiction, eating disorders and even relationship issues.

Metaphors from a film are often used in cinema therapy. For example, in cognitive behavior therapy, a film might help by playing an important role in helping the client to understand the maladaptive thinking and beliefs as well as to reconstruct the cognition.

Cinema therapy can also be instructive to clients as they gain insights that can be motivating. Often, a character in a film behaves in a way that displays courage in the face of a particular challenge. In this manner, the client can model the behavior from the film which in turn can make therapy more effective.

Many therapists use cinema therapy as a supporting tool for their therapeutic approach. Movies can be psycho-educational as they present unfamiliar concepts of family and organizational systems. Sometimes, films are better than words alone when it comes to helping a client to reach a new understanding.

Another interesting application of cinema therapy has to do with the theory of learning. According to this theory people are made up of several types of intelligences. When we use more than one type of intelligence, we actually learn faster. Watching movies can affect seven types of intelligence which are the following:

• interpersonal (storytelling)
• intrapsychic (inner guidance)
• kinesthetic (moving)
• linguistic (dialogue)
• logical (plot)
• musical (sounds and music)
• visual-spatial (pictures, colors, symbols)

Therapists have long known that films have powerful effect on our psyche. However, some movies may be too traumatic for some people. Because of this, there are guidelines for choosing a film for cinema therapy. First of all, it is important to choose a film that reflects the client’s present situation. Movies chosen for cinema therapy should be contain the therapeutic context such as anxiety, marriage problems, or depression.

The therapist’s experience using cinema therapy may be limited. In this case, the therapist may simply begin by talking about how a particular scene or character in a movie made the client feel. A more experienced cinema therapist might take more of a psychoanalytical approach and actually use psychodynamic and cognitive-behavioral approaches in conjunction with discussing a film.

Therapists often give clients some guidelines for watching a film for cinema therapy. Such guidelines usually include asking the client to get as comfortable as possible and to reduce the amount of distractions and interruptions while watching the film. After the film is over, journal about your reactions to the film. Ask yourself what you liked and disliked about the film. If you identified with any of the film’s character, how did that affect you? Finally, make sure to discuss whatever you write down with your therapist in your next session.

To learn more about using cinema therapy in counseling and psychotherapy, visit

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Randi Fredricks, Ph.D. is the author of Healing and Wholeness: Complementary and Alternative Therapies for Mental Health and Fasting: An Exceptional Human Experience. She has a Ph.D. in Psychology, a Doctorate in Naturopathy and accreditations as a Nutritionist, Herbalist, Hypnotherapist, and Registered Addiction Specialist. She provides counseling and psychotherapy in San Jose, California. To learn about her private practice, visit her website