Positive Psychology & the Movies

By Ofer Zur, Ph.D.


Positive Psychology & The Movies:
Transformational Effects of Movies through Positive Cinema Therapy course (3 CE Credit Hours)


Even in the best of years, the holiday season has its challenges. Along with the joy of the season comes the social imperative to “be joyful.” Indeed, the phrase “coerced joy” may seem oxymoronic, but it truly describes a significant aspect of the holiday experience. In more affluent times, we have been accustomed to seeing clients struggle with painful feelings related to the gap between what they have and what they want. This is especially so in a culture that associates the holidays with excessive gifts and exuberant spending.

With the current economic crisis, the stress of the holidays is greatly intensified. People are not so much lusting for what they want: they are fearful of losing what they have. Many of our clients, friends and neighbors have lost, or are about to lose, their homes, jobs or life savings. There is a deep crisis of faith in our institutions, government, and economic system. Yet even in this situation, tradition dictates that we are supposed to feel joy, gratitude, and closeness. Many people feel none of it. Nevertheless, the challenges of these times may bring with them great opportunities.

Positive Psychology focuses on the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities 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 for the therapeutic process. It is an approach that lends itself well to be integrated into positive psychotherapy.

Our new online course is designed to help clinicians attend to the pressing issues of our time: Positive Psychology and the Movies: Transformational Effects of Movies through Positive Cinema Therapy.


Positive Cinema Therapy offers a powerful tool to help clients recognize latent resources that can be very effective in coping with the current crises.

  • Films that are effective in this approach can be dark and intense, as they drive home important issues of the struggle of human suffering, and the painful acceptance of reality.
  • 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.
  • Films and Positive Psychology can help us change our priorities by defining what is important, necessary, essential, and sustaining in contrast to what is unnecessary, frivolous or lacking in essential quality.
  • By bringing our focus toward our virtues and strengths, we learn to appreciate what we have, and what can never be taken away from us and our clients, even during challenging times.


Positive Cinema Therapy uses movies that are entertaining and deeply engaging as therapeutic resources.For instance:

  • Films like Places in the Heart or Where the Heart Is can help clients evaluate priorities, struggle with anxiety, and find and develop needed courage.
  • Creativity and perspective are also important to prevail over challenges. They are demonstrated in Billy Elliott, The Piano, and Dead Poets Society.
  • Persistence can be learned by watching A Beautiful Mind, I Am Sam, Lorenzo’s Oil, or Seabiscuit.
  • Hope is conveyed through such movies as It’s a Wonderful Life, The Other Sister, or The Shawshank Redemption.
  • Blessing and opportunity in crisis as well as the value of deep human connection are presented in movies like Kolya or In America.


The course, Positive Psychology & The Movies: Transformational Effects of Movies through Positive Cinema Therapy teaches how to develop clinical interventions by using films effectively in combination with positive psychotherapy. This course will:

  • Review Positive Psychology, Positive Psychotherapy, and Positive Cinema Therapy.
  • Define criteria for choosing movies.
  • Select appropriate positive psychotherapy exercises and films.
  • Explain Positive Cinema Therapy techniques
  • Provide extensive resources

A basic course on Cinema Therapy for 4 CE credits.


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