Cinema therapy

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Cinema therapy or movie therapy is a form of expressive therapy – like art, music and dance therapy – for medical and mental health issues. It is also used as a form of self-help.


Cinema therapy is defined by Segen's Medical Dictionary as:

A form of therapy or self-help that uses movies, particularly videos, as therapeutic tools. Cinema therapy can be a catalyst for healing and growth for those who are open to learning how movies affect people and to watching certain films with conscious awareness. Cinema therapy allows one to use the effect of imagery, plot, music, etc. in films on the psyche for insight, inspiration, emotional release or relief and natural change. Used as part of psychotherapy, cinema therapy is an innovative method based on traditional therapeutic principles.[1]

There are several types of cinema therapy, with varying degrees of entertainment and therapeutic value. Popcorn cinema therapy is primarily cinema entertainment, that may result in an emotional release. Evocative cinema therapy, helps individuals connect with story lines and the movie characters. In the process they "learn about themselves in more profound ways." Cathartic cinema therapy helps a person access their emotions, for instance if they are in a depression, and may be used early stage in psychotherapy.[2]


Cinema therapy is the use of cinema or movies to manage medical, mental health, and life management. It has been used as a form of self-help and to aid in inmate rehabilitation.[2] Cinema therapy has been said by its proponents to change individual's thoughts, feelings and ability to manage life events.[2] Movies are used in some prisons to help individuals understand what led them to commit and be convicted of crimes.[2]

After viewing the movie, it is recommended to assess one's reaction to the movie, such as: What did you like or not like about the movie? Who did you find to be attractive and unattractive characters? Was there someone in the film that you'd like to be more like?[2]

Like art, music and dance therapy, cinema therapy is supplemental means of therapy to be used within traditional therapy, according to Dr. Bruce Skalarew, a psychoanalyst and psychiatrist. He is also co-chair of the Forum for Psychoanalytic Study of Film.[2]

Cinematherapy (one word) as a form of self-help for women using a variety of movies was popularized by the humorous series by Nancy Peske and Beverly West. Cinematherapy inspired a wraparound television show of the same name on Romance Classics (later Women's Entertainment).[3]

Films or movies[edit]

Examples of cinema therapy categories and movies are:[4]

Category Movie Other themes
Addiction 28 Days (2000) Alcoholism, starting over
Gia (1998)
Leaving Las Vegas (1995) Alcoholism, suicide, fired or laid off
The Panic in Needle Park (1971) Self-destructive romance
When a Man Loves a Woman (1994) Alcoholism, marriage
Domestic violence or rape The Accused (1988) Haunted by the past, redemption, social injustice
Enough (2002) Stalkers
Frankie and Johnny (1991) Haunted by the past, romantic relationship struggles, starting over, workplace romance
Sleeping with the Enemy (1991) Haunted by the past, stalkers, starting over
Thelma & Louise (1991) Revenge, self-discovery
Obsessive–compulsive disorder As Good as It Gets (1997) Love, opposites attract, redemption, romantic relationship struggles, unlikely friendships    
Matchstick Men (2003) Cons and scams, fathers and daughters, therapy
What About Bob? (1991)
Romantic relationship struggles The Accidental Tourist (1988) Haunted by the past, opposites attract, starting over
Pretty Woman (1990) Cinderella stories, opposites attract, prostitutes
The Way We Were (1973) Crumbling marriages, opposites attract
Stanley & Iris (1990) Death of a partner, opposites attract, teachers and students
When Harry Met Sally... (1989) Faltering friendships, opposites attract, single life

Other categories include coping with prejudice, childhood trauma, eating disorders, suicide, family issues and relationships, loss, psychological thriller, and gay and lesbian relationships.[4]



MediCinema is a UK-based registered charity that places cinemas in hospital buildings and screens films for patients, caregivers and family members during the patient's hospital stay. The first installation was the St Thomas' Hospital in London in 1999. It allows individuals to leave what can be isolating rooms and wards for a period of entertainment.[5][6][7]

Another of the other complexes is at Defence Medical Rehabilitation Centre at Headley Court. The Health and Welfare Director at the Royal British Legion, Sue Freeth, stated "Rehabilitation is not only a huge physical challenge, but involves recuperating mentally as well. This excellent new facility will assist our brave Service personnel in doing just that."[8]

Chicago Institute for the Moving Image[edit]

Chicago Institute for the Moving Image (CIMI) uses creation of films as a means for therapy for individuals in therapeutic care with depression, amnesia, schizophrenia and other psychiatric illnesses. Writing, producing and directing movies "provides a certain amount of therapy, organization, and order that people with psychological diseases need, and it helps the therapist see what the conflicts are within their patients lives," said CIMI's executive director, Joshua Flanders. The result provides a view of the filmmaker's world and has resulted in "enormous breakthroughs".[2]


  1. ^ "Cinema Therapy definition from Segen's Medical Dictionary". Free Dictionary - Medical Dictionary. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Movie Therapy: Using Movies for Mental Health: Therapists recommend movies to help change the way we think and feel". Web MD. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
  3. ^ Dempsey, John (2000-02-09). "'Cinematherapy' on couch". Variety. Retrieved 2020-02-20.
  4. ^ a b "Psyho Cinema". Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS), Florida Institute of Technology. Retrieved 12 June 2013.
  5. ^ Karen Shead (16 June 2003). "MediCinema puts a new take on hospital therapy". The Scotsman (accessed via HighBeam Research). ECM Publishers, Inc.
  6. ^ "MediCinema at St Thomas' Hospital". St Thomas' Hospital. Retrieved 6 June 2013.
  7. ^ "Medicinema - Big screen therapy". JuniorDr. Retrieved 6 June 2013.[permanent dead link]
  8. ^ "New MediCinema to Help Rehabilitation at Headley Court". States News Service (accessed via HighBeam Research). 17 May 2013.

Further reading[edit]

Clinical intervention[edit]


  • Dei Paola (2008) Eros Thanatos e cibo al Lido. Dalla Psicologia dell'Arte alla Cinematografia Prefazione di Roberto Barzanti Edizioni MEF ISBN 9788851717049
  • Dei Paola (2009) Figli al cinema. prevenire il bullismo......Prefazione di R. Barzanti, G. Napoli, G. Ippoliti Edizioni Zona ISBN 9788864380230
  • Dei Paola Gregorio Napoli: (2910) Lanterna magica. Cineterapia e poesia al Lido fra sogni e bisogno. Prefazione di G. Blandini Edizioni Boocksprint ISBN 8896344999
  • Dei Paola ( a cura di) (2011) Neuroni specchio. Cinematerapia del lutto fra Venezia Roma e Walt Disney Prefazione di N. Borrelli Edizioni Scientifiche STILL ISBN 978-88-906183-1-4
  • Dei Paola ( a cura di) (2012) Il potere al cinema. Dall'architettura del Lido all'Auditorium di Renzo Piano Prefazione di N. Borrelli Edizioni Scientifiche STILL ISBN 978-88-906183-6-9
  • Dei Paola ( a cura di) (2013) MMelato forever with Pupi Avati, Massimo Ranieri, Oriella Dorella, Massimo Ghini, Lina Wertmuller, Franca Valeri, Giancarlo Giannini, Callisto Cosulich, Maurizio Porro Prefazione N. Borrelli Edizioni Falsopiano ISBN 9788898137251
  • Dei Paola (a cura di) (2014) Nostoi Ritorni Cinema Comunicazione Neuroni Specchio Edizioni Altravista Prefazione di N. Borrelli ISBN 9788895458755
  • Dei Paola ( a cura di) (2015) Il male al cinema Movies Shadows and Lights Prefazione di N. Borrelli ISBN 978-1-329-97240-7
  • Dei Paola ( a cura di) Ettore Scola e dintorni Edizioni Falsopiano Prefazione di N. Borrelli ISBN 978-8893040563
  • Dei Paola (a cura di) Bulli ed eroi nella filmografia di Caligari e Mainetti Efesto Edizioni ISBN 9788894855302
  • Dei Paola (a cura di) (2018) Le forme della violenza. Cinema e dintorni .Edizioni Efesto Roma
  • Dei Paola (a cura di) (2019) I cannibali. Questioni di famiglia nel cinema nell’arte nella letteratura Edizioni Efesto Roma
  • Dei Paola (2020) Cinema e psico-oncologia. Il Metodo Psycofilm in Phenomena Journal Rivista Internazionale di Psicopatologia Neuroscienze Psicoterapia