Barely able to breathe, a young man battling a panic attack hesitantly enters the group room and makes his way to an empty chair. He and a dozen others “check in” and are then guided through a simple, calming breathing exercise. The lights are dimmed and the group members are asked to focus their attention on the flickering images and pulsating sounds coming from a screen in front of them. Transfixed by these moving images and sounds, the young man’s anxiety begins fading away. He is no longer in the throes of a panic attack.
Robertson goes on to describe the powerful healing effect of films and TV shows in her work as a therapist. “Cinema can be a powerful, transformative catalyst,” she writes. “As a licensed professional counselor, I have found that the therapeutic use of this catalyst, otherwise known as cinematherapy, can be profoundly effective with even the most troubled or resistant clients.”
Movies and TV Shows as Therapeutic Tools
Robertson has used everything from the 1939 classic The Wizard of Oz to the 1993 science-fiction television series The X-Files with more than 1,000 clients. She integrates cinematherapy with an experiential, mindfulness-oriented approach in clients ranging in age from 3 to 70 in both individual and group therapy. Her evaluation of the results? “Remarkable.”