Cinema Therapy

At Milwaukee Women’s Recovery Center, our counselors use Cinema Therapy as adjunct therapy to enable clients to introspect and learn about themselves, achieve emotional release, and to change their thoughts and feelings.

Cinema therapy or movie therapy is a form of expressive therapy – like art, music and dance therapy – for medical and mental health issues.

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.

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.

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.

Cinema therapy has been said by its proponents to change individual’s thoughts, feelings and ability to manage life events.

Movies are used in some prisons to help individuals understand what led them to commit and be convicted of crimes.

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?

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.

“Cinema Therapy” – accessed on May 8, 2021 from