Positive Psychology & The Movies: Transformational Effects of Movies through Positive Cinema Therapy
Online Course Materials: Articles
Developed by Birgit Wolz, Ph.D., MFT
General Course Description
Positive psychology is a recent branch of psychology that studies the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to thrive. Recently, researchers and practitioners in the field of positive psychotherapy have developed interventions for the clinical setting to treat psychological problems effectively by building positive resources and buffer against their future reoccurrence. Because film characters frequently model the development of the desired virtues and strengths, movies can become natural vehicles for the processes of Positive Cinema Therapy.
Films like Grand Canyon or Crash, for example, can be used to support and strengthen open-mindedness. People who are able to forgive easily and those who frequently experience gratitude tend to be less depressed than individuals without these strengths. Movies like The Story of Us or The Straight Story support forgiveness, and gratitude is powerfully displayed in It’s a Wonderful Life. When a client struggles with anxiety and self-esteem issues, films like Places in the Heart or Billy Elliot are recommended in combination with positive psychotherapy exercises because they can support the development of courage. The capacity to love can be developed or supported by viewing movies like Kolya or Before Sunset in the context of Positive Cinema Therapy.
This unique and innovative course will teach therapists how to use films effectively in combination with positive psychotherapy. Cinema Therapy, a therapeutic modality that uses clients’ experiences with movies for the therapeutic process, lends itself very well to be combined with or integrated into positive psychotherapy.
The course consists of two parts. The first part explains the theoretical background of positive psychology, positive psychotherapy, and Positive Cinema Therapy. This part also summarizes research results and discusses critical voices in historical context. After positive psychotherapy exercises and guidelines for Positive Cinema Therapy are introduced, the second part of this course presents extensive case material followed by categorized movie descriptions with viewing suggestions as well as guidelines for questions and interventions for clinical work. Brief descriptions of these categorized films offer a valuable resource for mental health practitioners and anybody who wants to use this course for their personal development. A comprehensive system of six classes of core virtues, made up of 24 measurable character strengths, provides a basic structure for this categorization. Additional resources and references are provided for further study, but they are not part of the course.
Due to copyright laws, this course does not include movie clips, only descriptions of the movies.
Disclaimer: This course is purely educational and does not intend to serve as a license (or permission) to mental health professionals to prescribe or practice any of the approaches discussed in this course unless they fall within the scope of practice of your profession. Check with your licensing board about the scope of practice of your profession to make sure you practice within that scope. It also does not serve as a permission to title yourself in any specific way.
- This course will teach the participant to
- Discuss positive psychology, positive psychotherapy, and Positive Cinema Therapy.
- Summarize relevant research results and critical views in a historical context.
- Explain how Positive Cinema Therapy can be integrated into the traditional therapeutic process.
- Explain why and how Positive Cinema Therapy works.
- Define criteria for choosing movies.
- Select appropriate positive psychotherapy exercises and films.
- Extrapolate Positive Cinema Therapy techniques and how to use them through case examples.
Part I – Theory
- Positive Psychology
- Benefits of Optimism, Positive Emotions and Values
- Classifications of Virtues and Strengths
- Positive Psychology Coaching
- Positive Psychotherapy
- Positive Psychotherapy Exercises
- Positive Cinema Therapy
- Why Films Aid the Positive Psychotherapy Process
- Why Positive Cinema Therapy Works
- How Positive Cinema Therapy Works
- Criteria for Choosing Movies
Part II – Applications
- Wisdom and Knowledge Brokeback Mountain
- Creativity: Billy Elliot, Sliding Doors, The Piano
- Curiosity: The Truman Show
- Open-mindedness: Grand Canyon
- Love of Learning: Good Will Hunting
- Perspective: Dead Poets Society, Mr. Holland’s Opus
- Courage: 28 Days
- Bravery: The Accused, A Thousand Acres, Defending Your Life, Places in the Heart, Ruby in Paradise
- Persistence: A Beautiful Mind, I Am Sam, Lorenzo’s Oil, Seabiscuit, Shine
- Integrity: The Insider, Where the Heart Is
- Vitality: Fried Green Tomatoes, Real Women Have Curves, Waiting to Exhale
- Humanity: Before Sunset
- Love: Kolya, When Harry Met Sally
- Kindness: Groundhog Day
- Social Intelligence: About Schmidt, Parenthood
- Justice: Lars and the Real Girl
- Citizenship: Erin Brockovich
- Fairness: Changing Lanes
- Leadership: Malcolm X
- Temperance: When Did You Last See Your Father?
- Forgiveness and Mercy: The Story of Us, A Walk On The Moon, Courage Under Fire
- Humility: Bounce, Thirteen Conversations About One Thing
- Prudence: The Horse Whisperer
- Self Control: My Left Foot: The Story of Christy Brown
- Transcendence: Under the Tuscan Sun
- Appreciation of Beauty and Excellence: Il Postino (The Postman)
- Gratitude: It’s a Wonderful Life
- Hope: Muriel’s Wedding, Ordinary People, The Other Sister, The Shawshank Redemption
- Spirituality: Jonathan Livingston Seagull