Cinema Therapy – Using the Power of Imagery in Films for the Therapeutic Process

Course materials are available as audio with transcripts.

Movies affect us powerfully because the synergistic impact of music, dialogue, lighting, camera angles and sound effects enables a film to bypass our ordinary defensive censors. They draw us into the viewing experience and at the same time – often more easily than in real life – afford a unique opportunity to retain a perspective outside the experience, the observer’s view.

This unique and innovative intermediate course will teach therapists how to help clients build a bridge between their realizations in “reel” life and their experiences in real life. It will show that this can be therapeutic, transformational and can shorten the course of therapy by facilitating insights and bolstering the therapeutic alliance. Cinema Therapy, a modality drawing increased interest amongst therapists, uses the impact of movies to help clients change negative beliefs, manage destructive emotions, develop self-esteem, discover forgotten strengths and grow in the face of a loss or disappointment.

This intermediate level course consists of two articles with audio versions, Cinema Therapy: Using the Power of Imagery in Films for the Therapeutic Process, which details the background and clinical utility of Cinema Therapy and explains how it can be integrated into the (standard) therapeutic process with individuals, families and groups. Although the films referenced in this course are all older movies, they have been included as they provide outstanding examples of how films can be used in a therapeutic setting. All films discussed are available through streaming services.

Due to copyright laws, this course does not include movie clips, only descriptions of the movies


  • Roots and background of Cinema Therapy
  • How the therapeutic effect of the movie Experience can be explained
  • Watching movies with conscious awareness
  • Doubting voices
  • Therapeutic environments
  • Ways to integrate films into the therapeutic process
  • Ways films aid the therapeutic process
    • Supporting process of diagnosis and assessment
    • Helping to overcome resistance
    • Encouraging insight, self-reflection and understanding
    • Eliciting emotions
    • Identifying and reinforcing inner strength
    • Reinforcing an idea introduced in therapy
  • Film experience and different therapeutic approaches
    • Depth psychotherapy and the movie experience
    • Cognitive therapy and the movie experience
    • Morty Lefkoe’s decision maker process
    • Behavior modification therapy and the movie experience
    • Hypnotherapy and the movie experience
    • Parts work and the movie experience
    • EMDR and the movie experience
    • Narrative therapy and the movie experience
  • Couples and family therapy
  • Therapy groups
  • Self-discovery, healing and growth through work with matrices
    • The film matrix
    • The self matrix
    • The growth matrix
  • Guidelines and limitation
    • Movie examples for cinema therapy work
    • Possible applications of work with certain movies
    • Guidelines for work with prescribed films – preparation
    • Guidelines for prescriptive or the evocative way
    • Guidelines for cinema therapy groups
    • Limitations of cinema therapy

Educational Objectives

  • Define the healing and transformational power certain films have for clients.
  • Utilize a client's film experience in the context of traditional therapeutic orientations with individuals, couples, families and groups.
  • Illustrate Cinema Therapy techniques and how to use them.
  • List the guidelines to give to clients.