Watch this Movie and Call Me in the Morning By Lawrence Rubin, PhD, ABPP on 7/20/21 - 11:43 AM

I am a self-professed “scripter,” but not in the echolalic sense. I am also quite fond of popular culture, particularly movies, and have written extensively on integrating their fruits into clinical practice, training, and supervision. Put these two peccadillos, passions, or pastimes together, and you have me, or at least part of me: someone who can seamlessly integrate movie lines into conversation. As much sense as doing so has made in my life, I must admit that dropping a line from Rocky, Downton Abbey, or Toy Story into a lecture can leave students dumbfounded, and that asking a client if they have seen so-and-so movie has often been met with a quizzical and apologetic, “Sorry, I haven’t.”

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Nevertheless, I believe in the therapeutic power of cinematherapy (the prescription of movies, or parts thereof) to help clients disentangle inner conflicts and have, at times, when therapeutically appropriate, prescribed the likes of Steel Magnolias or Ordinary People to a client who was wrestling with loss, or assigned Good Will Hunting, The Snake Pit, or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest to counseling trainees to help them better understand clinical theories and applications. While popular culture, whether art, music, or movies, has often been relegated to the basement of culture studies, I believe that its stories, songs, images, and words are non-gilded reflections of the human experience.

Oh, I forgot, I love golf, and devote a good deal of time to learning it, practicing it, playing at it, and dreaming about it (worrisome by many standards, I know!). And just today, as I was reflecting on the loft angles of the various “wedges” in my bag with my teacher, the image of Nanny McPhee came to mind. What I found interesting was that at the moment I asked her if she had seen the movie, my prescient instructor knew exactly what I meant. That is because the relationship between Emma Thompson, as Nanny McPhee evolves from the outset, when she is not wanted by the children she is hired to care for, to the end, when they cling to her as she prepares to leave them. To paraphrase, she says to them, “When you need me but do not want me, that is when I will be there; but when you want me but no longer need me, then I shall go.”

I guess at that moment I was wondering when the time would come to let go of my teacher, “who has taken me from crayons to perfume” (sorry, couldn’t help it, for all of you “To Sir with Love” fans). I have also reflected on this particular movie line when working with clinical trainees in order to help them understand the vicissitudes of the therapeutic relationship.

Clearly, I could go on and on and on about the multitude of movies that have etched themselves deeply into my neuronal pathways, and how I have used them, their characters, and their “lines” in both the therapy room and classroom, but instead I direct you to a website called Therapy Route, created by South African clinician Enzo Sinisi. There you will find a veritable cornucopia of cinematic gold which you can mine in your own clinical practice and/or clinical training.

There, and in Enzo’s words, you will find “links to pages that contains a list of films that address mental health concerns/issues [and a] brief description and an abridged version of the relevant diagnostic criteria to help the reader get a sense of how these disorders are defined and what their symptoms look like.” Enzo, in the creation of this impressive compendium, will lead you to the doorstep, but the next step will be yours, and how you use this resource in your own work will be up to you.

Don’t forget the popcorn! 

File under: Therapy Humor, Musings and Reflections