03.11.2021
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Films are therapeutic

What is film therapy and can it replace psychotherapy?

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With the onset of autumn often comes a slight sadness and apathy. According to statistics, in the autumn season, one in two people may be in a  depression, or otherwise moping. In this period of grey workaday life and distancing can lift your spirits with the help of films. But is it possible to cure yourself with them?

A movie will brighten up a dull autumn evening (source: Istockphoto.com)
A movie will brighten up a dull autumn evening (source: Istockphoto.com)

HOW CAN CINEMA BE A THERAPEUTIC TOOL

When watching a film, the viewer often associates him- or herself with the main character and notices the similarities between the situations in his or her life and the character’s difficulties. Because of this, there is empathy for the characters. Thus, the behavioral tactics pursued by the film’s protagonist can inspire the viewer and encourage them to solve their own problems. This is called film therapy.

Film therapy is a branch of psychotherapy in which films are used as medicine. Movies reduce anxiety levels and help people find answers to their worries.

HISTORY OF FILM THERAPY

Throughout history, filmmakers have searched for ways to hold an audience’s attention. Hence the interest in the study of the human psyche and methods of influencing it through color correction, sound, editing, and other creative mechanisms of cinema.

The audience’s reaction to the movies they watched was actively studied from the early 50s. Both individual and group perceptions of films have been studied, in conjunction with the psychological processes that can arise during viewing.

The first publication on film therapy came out in 1951. It was an article by M. Prados’ article «The use of films in psychotherapy».

So how does our mind react to films? (Source: Vuzopedia.ru)
So how does our mind react to films? (Source: Vuzopedia.ru)

BASIC METHODS OF FILM THERAPY

«Cinematology» by Antonio Meneghetti: films can be used to analyze people

The first book on film therapy was written by Antonio Meneghetti. One day during a collective discussion of a film, the psychologist noticed a consistent link between the complexes of the participants and the opinions they held. This was the starting point for the discovery of a therapeutic method, which the author called cinematology.

The author believes that from the patient’s reaction to the film he watched, one can draw significant conclusions not only about the person himself but also about his psychological traits.

«The purpose of cinematology is not to teach or critique the director’s work, but to use the film to analyze the people experiencing these images: the viewer is emotionally complicit in exactly that which identifies him,» Meneghetti wrote in his book «Cinema. Theatre. The Unconscious».

Films often make viewers feel strong emotions (source: Bigstockphoto.com)
Films often make viewers feel strong emotions (source: Bigstockphoto.com)

Harry Solomon’s film therapy: films make our problems obvious

American neurologist Harry Solomon tested the effectiveness of film therapy through his own experience. As an adult he became bankrupt, addicted to alcohol and drugs, but he got himself out of this state thanks to films.

But he started to use films as therapy after a particular situation that happened to him at work. A patient’s life story reminded Solomon of a film, so he recommended her to see a film. The practice made a lasting impression on the woman and helped her to cope with the problem.

Solomon found that film therapy was more effective if films were chosen in which patients could recognize themselves. This helps people to recognize problems that they did not want to hear about.

You empathise more with someone who is similar (source: Kinorium.com)
You empathise more with someone who is similar (source: Kinorium.com)

Tav Sparks’ Movie Therapy: Movies as a GPS navigator for self-discovery

Psychologist Tav Sparks also believes in the healing power of film. In his book «Cinema Yoga», the author explained how cinema therapy works. Each person has an inner power, which is expressed in their reactions to the world around them. The task of the patient, therefore, is to learn to control his or her emotions and to stop being a victim of what is going on around him or her.

The author sees watching films as a process of self-knowledge, in which, as in a psychotherapist’s appointment, one works on oneself. However, the advantage of film therapy as a method of healing is that film allows you to learn about yourself in an entertaining and playful way. Interesting fact: In his book, Sparks describes in detail how film therapy takes place using an example of how a navigation system works.

Sergey Krasin’s Directed Film Therapy: The Importance of Film Therapists

Sergey Krasin, PhD and psychologist, has long developed film therapy training programmes for teachers, parents and school students. In the course of his work, the author became convinced that treatment with films can be more effective if patients are psychologically prepared beforehand to watch a film and discuss it afterwards. Thus began the story of Sergei Krasin’s method. The author divided film therapy into three equally important stages: work with the film therapist before, during and after watching the film. The task of the therapist is to help the patient mentally adjust to consciously watching the film in order to gain new information about themselves and their difficulties.

Film therapy can help people cope with their difficulties on their own, without the intervention of psychologists or psychotherapists. It is worth remembering, however, that in serious cases this method is best used strictly under the supervision of a specialist.

 

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