Positive Cinema Therapy with Children & Adolescents

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.

During the recent decades, mental health providers, parents, and teachers have been confronted with the effects of a sharp increase of depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders in children and adolescents. Teenagers always have been at the mercy of powerful physiological changes, as well as psychosocial developmental challenges, that can affect their mental health.

No matter how they act and what they say, young people want to be healthy and live a happy and fulfilling life. This is a fundamental human desire. But often, young people do not know how to find happiness and meaning in the right place and in the right way.

Positive Psychology and Positive Psychotherapy focus on the strengths and virtues that enable young individuals to cope and thrive, especially in times of stress and upheaval. Using this approach, clinicians help clients become more resilient and hopeful and find meaning and joy in their lives.

Cinema Therapy is an innovative therapeutic modality that uses clients’ experiences with popular movies as part of the therapeutic process. It is an approach that lends itself well to being integrated into Positive Psychotherapy.

Since almost all children and youth feel attracted to movies, Positive Cinema Therapy interventions provide significant support for successful therapy. Many film characters demonstrate certain strengths or development of strengths. This helps young clients to dissolve their resistance to therapy and identify their own strengths as well as the weaknesses that need to be addressed when they recognize these strengths and weaknesses in movie characters.

Did you know…
  • Depression and anxiety among the young is ten times more common than it was fifty years ago.Positive Cinema Therapy with Children
  • Scientific studies have reported a correlation between this decline in mental health and the increases of individualism and materialism, as well as a shift from “intrinsic” to “extrinsic” goals in the Western culture.
  • Besides other factors, the self-esteem movement and today’s children’s increased deprivation of free play may have made the young more vulnerable to depression.
  • Positive Psychology grew out of the theories, research, and practice of humanistic psychology. It respects the complexity of mental illness, and acknowledges the need to alleviate pathology while it attempts to adopt a more appreciative perspective regarding human potentials, motives, and capacities.
  • The effects of the early human potential movement can be found today in the general public’s attraction to self-help books. Ultimately, however, this movement failed to impact the direction of psychology strongly because it did not attract a cumulative, empirical body of research to ground its ideas as did Positive Psychology.
  • The Athenian philosophers already asked how good character can be built among children and youth, and Positive Psychology has refocused scientific attention on character, identifying it as one of the pillars of this new field.
  • By bringing their focus toward their virtues and strengths, young clients learn to appreciate what they have, and what can never be taken away from them, even during challenging times.
  • Researchers tell us that people who found their individual strengths (Signature Strengths) and learned to use them in novel ways became less depressed and happier as a result. The effects of these interventions were still obvious 6 months later.
  • Movies played an important role in some of the pilot studies with middle school students who were offered group versions of Positive Psychotherapy.
  • Many movies follow the pattern of the mythological Hero’s Journey: Despite initial resistance, the hero has to fight and overcome challenges, and experiences an inner transformation in the process.

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