In the most general sense, Cinema Therapy is the process of watching a movie for a therapeutic purpose and discussing it in therapy. One of the foremost authorities on Cinema Therapy, Birgit Wolz, has helped to expand this definition. Wolz (2005) the author of E-Motion Picture Magic: A Movie Lover’s Guide To Healing And Transformation, has explained that there are several types of cinema therapy.
For example, watching a movie has substantial therapeutic value even if it is only being watched for an emotional release. Wolz has referred to this as “popcorn cinema therapy,” suggesting that is not a true therapy experience as cited in. Wolz point is well taken because, in order for anything to have value in therapy, there technically needs to be a therapist involved with the overall experience.
Therefore, in true Cinema Therapy, the therapist may not present when the client watched the movie, but some of the movies content, such as a specific character, will be discussed later with the therapist in therapy. An exception to this would, of course, be group Cinema Therapy in which a therapist would be present during therapy.
Another way in which Wolz defines Cinema Therapy is categorized is what she calls evocative cinema therapy. According to Wolz, this is a “way of utilizing movies in a therapeutic and growth-provoking manner borrows from dream work.” (p. 15). Unfortunately, these definitions can become a little challenging to understand especially for the layperson.
Kuriansky, Vallarelli, DelBuono, and Ortman (2010) clarified these definitions in a very clear way in their article Cinematherapy: Using Movie Metaphors to Explore Real Relationships in Counseling:
It has been noted that there are different levels of intensity in using films for therapeutic change . . . Specifically, “popcorn therapy” involves watching a moving for needed emotional release, “evocative cinema therapy: involves using films to help people lean about themselves sin more profound ways base on how they respond to different character and scenes; and “cathartic cinema therapy” serves as a precursor or first stage in psychotherapy to open of different levels of emotions and the psyche. (p. 91)
These are useful Cinema Therapy definitions and categories, however, there are other experiences, particularly in the realm of transpersonal psychology and Cinema Therapy. This would involve looking at the therapeutic value of film as it pertains to a person’s experiences, such as peak experience, exceptional human experiences, the concept of flow, and self-actualization.
Kuriansky, J., Vallarelli, A., DelBuono, J. & Ortman, J, (2010). Cinematherapy: Using Movie Metaphors to Explore Real Relationships in Counseling. In Gregerson, M. B. (Ed.). The Cinematic Mirror for Psychology and Life Coaching. (pp. 89-122). New York, NY: Springer.
Powell, M.L. (2008). Cinematherapy as a clinical intervention: Theoretical rationale and empirical credibility. University of Arkansas. ProQuest Dissertations. UMI 3341245.
Wolz, Birgit (2005). E-Motion Picture Magic: A Movie Lover’s Guide to Healing and Transformation. Centennial, CO: Glenbridge.