Psychoanalysis, Psychotherapy and
Marital Therapy Centre

Why Films are Therapeutic

Why Films are Therapeutic

Sometimes, a book or a film can change your life. Nearly everyone has a movie that they can watch repeatedly without getting bored. Think of that film now; who is your favourite character? What do you like or loathe most about them? 

Film therapy can be practiced by watching a movie by yourself, thinking deeply about it and writing down your thoughts. You can also watch a film suggested by your psychotherapist and talk about it in the session, or watch it with friends and discuss it together afterwards. 

There is usually a main character that we feel close to in the films that affect us emotionally. Because of our identification with that character, we feel as if we are experiencing the events in the film. We may laugh or cry while watching it. On the other hand, we're not usually drawn to movies featuring characters we can't “identify” with, because we can't find anything of ourselves in these films. 

When we identify closely with a character in a movie, we'll nearly always put ourselves in that character's shoes. This often happens without us realising it. "Would I do that if I were him?" and "What would happen if I did?" are questions we'll ask ourselves internally. Through films we can explore our hopes, desires and the consequences of our actions before we perform them. This can help us decide how to act in real-life situations. In short, films can change us. For example, after observing a film character, we might say to ourselves “If he stopped drinking, so can I”, or “If someone as broken as her can find love, so can I”. That hope feeds a belief in change and builds the foundation for it.

Film therapy is a technique you can use in everyday life and in therapy. The first step is deciding which movie to watch. The films we choose to watch often reveal our psychological needs. If you're feeling low, you may need a romantic comedy to give you hope. If you're anxious, you can re-watch a film you love that will help take you out of yourself. If your life feels monotonous, you can liven it up with a sci-fi film or a horror movie. If you've had a fight with your spouse, you can choose a film with their favourite actor in to help lighten the mood. Films can help regulate your emotions.

It's perfectly normal to experience all these emotions; any abnormality depends on how you express them. For example, anger can make you take action to solve a problem, or it can overwhelm you and stop you from thinking rationally. If you don't realise that you're thinking irrationally and that you need to calm down, you may do or say something that will hurt you or someone else. A better way to deal with anger is stopping for a moment, calming yourself down and thinking about why you are angry.

Anger is a good example of an emotion that can disrupt our lives if not acknowledged and handled properly. When people aren't aware of the underlying reason for anger, especially couples, they can overreact to insignificant events and start arguing over nothing. 

“The Story of Us” is a good example of this. The movie depicts a married couple’s life, going backwards in time from the moment they start a trial separation to their first date. At the beginning, they are the 'perfect' couple. Their relationship is full of sex, laughter and mutual understanding. But when they have children and their responsibilities increase, both have a difficult time adjusting. Character traits that used to provoke laughter, now provoke fury. Attempts at peace-making only make things worse. During the break-up process, they both realise their mistakes and decide to compromise. Similarly, relationships can only improve when couples become aware of the real reasons for their difficulties. Couples that are having relationship problems can watch this movie, talk about it, and take lessons from it.

Even when we don't discuss them, every film we watch influences and changes us at an unconscious level. We know that “drifting apart” is one reason why romantic relationships start to fail. The best cure is to spend more time together, even when we don't feel like it. And one of the easiest ways to do this? Watching a film together.

Uzm. Psk. İpek Güzide PUR

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