Psychiatrist John Beebe has watched film all his life and lectured and written about movies as a way to examine the drama of therapy. His comments below are taken from a 2011 interview with The Huffington Post, in answer to the question he was posed “can watching a movie be like therapy?”
Beebe: Yes, a good film can help us metabolize our life experiences. I think the problem for all of us is finding a coherent narrative out of our existence. Like therapy, a movie does that for us, distilling years of experience into a story. When the story works, it has an animating effect on us. We walk out of the theater feeling better; we don’t know why we feel better, especially when there has been a lot of pain in a movie, but we do. If we don’t, something is wrong with the film!
Movies, which are the reflections of a filmmaker responding to the human condition, are also models that show us how to develop the capacity for reflection. They enable the audience to hold complex states of mind in a creative way — a state that’s not unlike our dreams. We do the same thing when we go into therapy. We’re not master filmmakers, but if we watch our dreams over a period of time, they show a process of reflection on our experience. Working with them in therapy can strengthen our consciousness; as consciousness grows, so does our ability to fully engage with this life that is so perplexing and upsetting, but also marvelous.