movie therapy

By Karin Leonard

My husband and business partner, Daniel Robin and I, have been reviewing films for quite some years , in the Bay Area’s Connection magazine.  Over time we have discovered that not only is it great fun to go to the movies, but there is much growth, healing and integration that can be gained through strategic film “therapy.” Aside from enjoying a film for its artistic and entertainment value, we can experience a film’s impact on an emotional and spiritual level.  Even Aristotle proclaimed that tragic plays have the capacity to purify the spirit and aid us in coping with those aspects of life that cannot be reconciled by rational thought.  As if you needed more reasons to go to the movies!

Modern Myths

Films provide and perpetuate the myths for life in the 21st century.  All cultures have carried rich legacies of stories that offer insight, guidance and counsel for the people of all ages.  In the past, narratives were whispered during long fire lit nights.  In our times, tales are “broadcast” in crowded movie theaters, or the trusted TV lights the room instead of a fire pit.

Films inspire and influence as we identify with the characters.  They can lead us to new horizons, re-ignite passion for life, strengthen values and help us to make sense out of life.  Movies often deal with universal issues and have the finger on the pulse of our culture as well as the collective psyche.

Healing the Heart

Have you ever gone to the movies with someone who rarely cries in real life, but uses up boxes of Kleenex during certain films (or, maybe you are one of them…)?  In a darkened theater, defenses that are carefully kept intact in everyday life can come down and emotions too scary or taboo to face can be discharged.  Films provide a stage where we can identify with a character and experience how others have solved (or failed to solve) similar challenges.

Romantic comedies such as Bridgid Jones’s Diary, or romantic dramas like Shakespeare in Love, or Moulin Rouge can help us in working through our own love stories and disappointments, or may inspire new hope.  A wonderful example of growing emotionally is Disney’s The Kid, about the transformation of a high powered professional into a more complete human being.

Leading Legacies

As we identify with leading heroes, our own courage, hope and sense of purpose may be strengthened.  Stories of valor, passion and integrity can be found in a variety of films, be it a dramatic Academy Award winning epics, such as Mel Gibson’s Braveheart and Gladiator with Russell Crowe; or inspiring comedies such as the hilarious American remake of the French film Just Visiting, or Patch Adams with Robin Williams.

Taking the lead in one’s life and pursuing a high purpose are beautifully mirrored in Billy Elliot and Pay it forward, as experienced through the lives of young boys.

Leading others to greatness and learning to believe in oneself we find in movies such as Finding Forrester, Good Will Hunting, Save the last Dance, or even Princess Diaries.

Last but not least, there is much to be said for the movies giving us a break from our busy lives and providing a “mini-vacation.”  Travel often!


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Karin Leonard & Associates:  (831) 724-5400  

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