Watch Two Movies and Call Me in the Morning

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Why pop a couple pills when you can pop some flicks into your DVD player instead? WebMD writer, Denise Mann, recently evaluated the emotional benefits of movie-watching, and argues that "movies can and will change the way we think, feel, and ultimately deal with life's ups and downs."

Why pop a couple pills when you can pop some flicks into your DVD player and suction yourself to the couch?

That's right, cinema therapy is opening in a home entertainment center near you. WebMD writer, Denise Mann, recently evaluated the emotional benefits of movie-watching, and argues that “movies can and will change the way we think, feel, and ultimately deal with life's ups and downs.” While this may come as no particular shock to movie lovers everywhere, what you may find surprising is that an increasing number of therapists are actually “prescribing” movies to their patients as a supplement to medication.

Says Gary Solomon, PhD, MPH, MSW, author of The Motion Picture Prescription and Reel Therapy, "Cinema therapy is the process of using movies made for the big screen or television for therapeutic purposes” and serves as an opportunity to self-administer 'therapeutic intervention.'”

There is even a website devoted to the cause, naturally tagged CinemaTherapy.com. Site creator Birgit Wolz, PhD, MFT, makes a pretty good case for the use of cinema therapy in acting as a “powerful catalyst for healing and growth for anybody who is open to learning how movies affect us and to watching certain films with conscious awareness.” In fact, such outpatient therapy may support personal and spiritual growth.

The concept is not a new one, but it has recently spawned a series of cinematic therapy areas:

Popcorn therapy — watching a movie with the purpose of a much-needed emotional release.

Evocative therapy — watching a movie with the intention of learning more about yourself based on how you respond to characters and scenes.

Cathartic therapy — laughing or crying after watching a movie to open up different levels of the psyche.

Movies serve as allegories, or extended metaphors, in much the same way most stories and dreams inspire creative thinking and emotional response. For example, Legends of the Fall is my can't-get-enough flick. Depressing? Yes. But the cinematography, gorgeous soundtrack and equally stunning cast leave me wanting more.

And who doesn't have their guilty pleasure movie - one we know we shouldn't really enjoy because technically, it's pure garbage - yet we find ourselves hitting "PLAY" again and again. Swingers is a great example. How do you not love Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau living the LA social scene in the mid-90s, getting rejected over and over by the "beautiful babies?" The feminist in me wants to be offended by the barrage of masogynist slang; the movie-goer in me simply empathizes with Mikey's run of bad luck with women.

Whatever the case may be, movies are and will always be a twofold scenario: you can watch them to escape reality, or force yourself to come to grips with it. (World Trade Center anyone?)

Are there any films that have succeeded in evoking such a significant emotional response from you? Share your comments or e-mail eromanski@mdng.com.

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