What is Cinema Therapy: Benefits & Types of Movie Therapy

What is cinema therapy?

Cinema therapy is also known as movie therapy or film therapy. It is a new therapeutic approach that uses the power of movies to enhance psychological well-being, emotional healing, and personal growth. It involves the use of a specific movie or film as a tool for therapeutic exploration and treatment.  

In cinema therapy, movies are selected based on an individual’s experience, emotions and therapeutic goals. In this process, the individual is told to connect both emotionally and intellectually with the characters, storylines and themes that are depicted in the movie. With the help of this process, individuals gain insights in their own lives and develop a good understanding of their relatives.

 Cinema therapy can be performed in various settings such as individual therapy, group therapy, support group, community programs and educational institutions. During cinema therapy, the facilitator or therapist gives a reflection on the movie’s theme, characters, storylines and output and then encourages the individuals to explore their feelings, thoughts, and reactions that are stimulated by the cinematic experience.

History of cinema therapy

The history of cinema therapy dates back to the early 1900s when psychiatrists in Germany and France started to use films and movies as a tool for therapeutic purposes.   The word “cinema therapy” was first time coined by a famous psychiatrist Louis Breger in the 1940s.

Over time cinema therapy is evolved into an evidence-based form of therapy. Dr. Robert Cohen, founder of the American Association of Cinematherapy played a key role the development and promotion of cinema therapy.

It is an emerging field in the healthcare setting and needs more scientific research to prevail in the world. But it is hoped that soon it would first-line therapy in psychological interventions.  

Benefits of cinema therapy

The most important benefits of cinema therapy include:

Improve self-awareness

Cinema therapy helps people to know more about their feeling, experiences and thoughts. If you are struggling for self-awareness or people who want to know more about themselves then cinema therapy is a good option.

 Increase coping skills

Cinema therapy improves coping skills that people use for dealing with difficult emotions. If you are struggling with stress, depression, anxiety or other mental disorder then cinema therapy is the best option for you.

Enhance empathy

Cinema therapy is developed feelings for other people and increases empathy. This therapy can be helpful for volunteers, and social workers who want to work for unaided people and develop social skills.

 Improve communication skills

Cinema therapy is used to develop communication skills. If you want to improve your communication skills and express yourself among people then cinema therapy is the best option for you.

Reduced mental stress

Cinema therapy is used to treat stress, depression, anxiety and other mental illness. If you are struggling with a mental ailment then cinema therapy is the best treatment for you along with other traditional treatments.

Stimulate motivation

Cinema therapy increases self-confidence and motivation. This therapy is good for those individuals who are less confident and motivated.

How to do cinema therapy

The basic steps that are involved in cinema therapy include:

Choose a movie

The first step in cinema therapy is to select a film that is relevant to your need, issues and goals. You can also choose a film that is relevant to your level. In cinema therapy either the therapist chooses a movie for you after hearing about your condition or you can select on your own a movie that you believe that this movie is similar to your issue.

Watch the movie

Once you select a movie, then watch it carefully and pay attention to your feelings, reactions, and thoughts. After the movie, you should answer these questions

  • What do identify in the film?
  • What emotions do you feel during watching the film?
  • What characters do you relate to?

Reflection on the movie

When the movie is finished, take some rest and then reflect on the experience which you gain during watching the movie.

  • What did you learn from the movie?
  • What insights did you gain?
  • How did the movie make you feel?

 These are the few questions that you should answer after the end of the movie.

Discuss the film with a therapist or group

When you watched the movie then discuss it with the therapist or group. This discussion would help you to further explore your feelings, thoughts, and reaction to the film.

Implement what you learned from the movie

Now it is the final step in cinema therapy. Apply all that you learned from the movie in your own practical life. The experience which you gained from the movie will change your practical life with proper implementation.  

Cinema therapy is a helpful tool for individuals who are struggling with mental health disorders, stress, anxiety, and depression. It is a supportive therapy and does not replace conventional therapy with it.

Types of cinema therapy

There are three different types of cinema therapy which include:

Individual cinema therapy

It is that type of cinema therapy in which the patient and therapist watch a movie together and discuss the movie in one on one setting. This type of therapy is useful for those who are struggling to explore their thoughts, feelings, and experiences in a supportive and safe environment.

Group cinema therapy

Generally, this therapy is the best option for all patients. In this type of therapy group of individuals watch a movie together with a therapist and discuss the movie in a group setting.

If you are living alone and want to connect with people then group cinema therapy is just made for you. For people who want to know their feelings, and expression with different perspectives then group cinema therapy is a good option for them.

Family cinema therapy

In this type of therapy, the whole family watches a film together and then talks about the movie in a family setting. This therapy can be beneficial for a family who wants to improve their communication skills or to address a specific problem that the family is facing. This therapy also creates a funny and friendly environment where anybody can speak and express himself without any hesitation. 

How to choose the right movies for cinema therapy

Here are some crucial tips on how to choose the right movie for cinema therapy;

Focus on the patient’s goals

When you are choosing a movie for an individual always focus on the patient’s goal such as;

  • Why patient is attending cinema therapy?
  • Do patients want to increase empathy, communication skills, or connections?
  • Will cinema therapy achieve the goals of the patient?

When you understand the goals of the patient then start watching the movie.  

Select a relevant film to the patient’s experiences

It is the responsibility of the therapist to choose the relevant movie. For example, if the patient is facing trauma or addiction then the therapist should choose a movie that addresses a specific issue. This can help the patient to feel less stressed, alone and understand that you are not the only one to have such type issues in life.

Select an emotionally evocative movie

Always choose movies that evoke emotions. This can help patients to connect with their own emotions and explore their inner feeling in a friendly and supportive environment. Emotionally evocative movies are a super powerful tool for growth and psychological healing.

Here are some additional important tips you should while choosing movies for cinema therapy:

  • Select movie according to the age of the patient because some movie has mature content which is not licit for young people.
  • Select movies that are not violating the cultural background of clients.
  • Always focus on that movie that you have watched before and know everything about it.

There is no specific tool that selects the right movie for the clients during cinema therapy but the best movies are the ones that address the specific issues of clients and achieve their goals.

How to lead a cinema therapy session

Here are some important tips on how to lead a cinema therapy session for achieving good results:

Movie introduction

Before watching the movie it is best to tell information about the movie to the clients such as the actors, directors, the story, and other co-actors. You should also ask the client whether you have seen the movie before or not and what you know about it if you have watched it before.

Ask questions from clients about the movie

Ask these questions from the clients about the movie:

  • What is your perception of the movie?
  • What do you like or dislike in the film?
  • What you have identified in the movie?
  • What did you learn from the movie?

These questions can help the clients to think more deeply about the film and share their inner thoughts and feelings openly.

Facilitate a discussion about the film

This discussion can help the individuals to share their thoughts and feeling with others without any hesitation and to get different perspectives on the movie. Through this discussion, both therapist and clients can explore the topics, ideas, lessons, and perceptions that were raised in the film.  


Cinema therapy is a unique form of psychological therapy that uses movies to treat the stress, anxiety, and depression of patients. Through this therapy, you can explore your thoughts, feelings, and experiences.

Cinema therapy is based on the fact that it provides a safe and supportive environment for people to learn about themselves and others.

 Before trying cinema therapy it is necessary to discuss your case with a therapist, whether cinema therapy will work for you or not. Once you have decided that cinema therapy is good for you do proper research to choose a movie that is relevant to your problem this will facilitate your therapist.

In short, cinema therapy is a useful tool for those people who are struggling to improve their mental health, communication skills, coping skills, empathy, and motivation and reduce stress and anxiety.


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