The concept of “movie therapy” is gaining steam nowadays.  In search of alternatives to more traditional forms of counseling, many folks are turning to film to find fresh insight into the dilemmas and daily issues that they face.  Even some counselors themselves have begun to incorporate it into their practice, recognizing it as a way to infuse a dose of fun into treatment.

Movie-therapy advocates recommend the following steps as you select and view films, and then invite others to learn from them as well.

Selecting Films 

  1. What resonates with you? Keep an eye out for movies that may speak to what you’re facing.  These days, it’s incredibly quick and easy to Google films from every imaginable genre, that fit into any life stage or category you can imagine.  Capitalize on this tool.

  2. Keep a box of tissues handy. Watching a poignant movie may allow you to process some emotions you’ve been keeping at bay.  For instance, if you’ve been working through the loss of a loved one, you may find it cathartic to take in a film that addresses grief like your own.  It may offer the much-needed chance to let your guard down for a moment.

  3. Identify characters to imitate. If there’s one that you find especially captivating, take note of his or her attributes and consider putting them into practice. There are countless characters out there who are famously inspiring for their courage, kindness, integrity, etc.

  4. Take in the classics. Some of the most renowned films ever made garnered attention because of the profound insights and rich life lessons they offered.  Do a little research and put together a slate of meaningful movies and writers/directors that you’d like to explore.

  5. Have a laugh, if you need it. Often it’s the best medicine.  Perhaps your greatest need right now is comic relief.  Find that old Steve Martin movie you love (or insert comic actor of your choice) and savor some humor.

Viewing Films

  1.  There’s no shame in re-watching. If your first thought is of a movie that you’ve seen a dozen times, don’t automatically dismiss it.  Depending on what you’re going through, it may yield new wisdom that you hadn’t encountered in previous viewings. 
  1. Stay attuned to your natural responses. Your knee-jerk reactions to certain scenes --- a scowl here, a misty eye there --- could offer hints as to what’s tugging on your heart-strings.

  2. What in the movie attracts or repels you? Your answer to this question could open your eyes to desires and aversions you didn’t realize you had.  Once you’re able to recognize them, though, you’ll be in a better position to understand and work through them as needed.

  3. Jot down your takeaways. Writing out your observations is a wonderful way to retain what you’ve seen and heard.  You’ll likely find that character connections, plot points, and general impressions that you capture today take on fresh meaning weeks, months, and even years from now.

  4. Turn observation into action. If you’ve gleaned anything worthwhile from a film, note it, ponder it, and then put it into practice.  Don’t become so preoccupied with the silver screen that you start to pass on golden opportunities for growth.

Inviting Others 

  1. Connect with your partner. A regular movie night can be a great way to enjoy time and inspire discussion with your significant other.  Taking in a thought-provoking film could even spur a sensitive conversation that you’ve been tip-toeing around for a while. 
  1. Huddle up with your loved ones. With wide arms, welcome your family to watch with you.  And as you’re thinking and learning yourself, ask them what thoughts and lessons the movie is bringing to their minds.

  2. Ask other viewers’ opinions. Try to branch outside your silo.  Invite your friends --- especially those who process things differently than you do --- to share their perspectives.  Have fun with this: go to the theater together, grab a meal afterward, and gab like film critics about what you liked and disliked about the feature.

  3. Seek guidance. For the more complex difficulties that you’re facing, consider consulting a counselor and asking their thoughts on movie therapy.  If they think it could serve as a helpful supplement, they’ll be able to assist you in adding it to your toolkit.

Proponents of movie therapy have a message: film offers more than just entertainment.  By watching wisely and intentionally, you may find film to be a useful avenue for introspection and personal development.  At the movies, fun and fresh insights may be just around the box office.