Annals of Indian Psychiatry

: 2017  |  Volume : 1  |  Issue : 2  |  Page : 65--67

Thank God It's Friday

Vijay Arjanbhai Nagecha 
 Consultant Psychiatrist, Rajkot, India

Correspondence Address:
Vijay Arjanbhai Nagecha
Creative Chamber, Kanak Road, Behind Bus Station, Rajkot  -  360  001, Gujarat

How to cite this article:
Nagecha VA. Thank God It's Friday.Ann Indian Psychiatry 2017;1:65-67

How to cite this URL:
Nagecha VA. Thank God It's Friday. Ann Indian Psychiatry [serial online] 2017 [cited 2023 Feb 7 ];1:65-67
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Full Text

“Put Your Pencils Down and Close Your Books. No More Teachers, No More School, You Are! Go Lay Down in the Sun or Watch A Movie. It's A Friday and You Deserve A Break.”

What Friday means to us - A start of a great weekend, relaxation, family time, going to a restaurant, and obviously a new movie. Films possess an extraordinary power and offer an unrivaled medium for entertainment, relaxation, and escapism. They make us laugh, they make us cry, and we are fascinated by the story that the movie carries. The use of movies for personal growth and healing carries forward a long-standing connection between storytelling and self-reflection, which in all probability dates back to the beginning of spoken language. The ancient Greeks used drama in their visual and performance arts as a catharsis to deal with their emotions.

There are many films which revolve around a theme of mental illness with psychiatry being the most commonly featured speciality in cinema. Over the past few decades, films have been increasingly used as an educational tool in the teaching of psychiatry topics. Films also have the power to heal and the term cinema therapy has been coined to reflect this. We always wonder why a particular movie ends up having more impact on us than others. Or why some scenes stick in our memory? Or why do certain movies, characters or scenes intend to move us more deeply than others? Or most importantly what can we learn about ourselves from our responses to films?

Films depict our basic human instincts and drives. Even though movies are a part of the outside world they end up reflecting our inner world. It is as though our unconscious communicates with our conscious mind. Filmmaker Ingmar Bergman, said, “No form of art goes beyond ordinary consciousness as film does, straight to our emotions, deep into the twilight room of the soul.” What describes the urge that makes us search for new movies in newspapers or search an older movie online? What makes us watch a movie-whether for entertainment, inspiration, or motivation?

Movies not only act as a stress buster but are also a new way of learning and exposure to the outside world which could even include a horror experience. Films remain the most pervasive form of communication and entertainment with most profound thoughts and intimate secrets constantly expressed via moving pictures on the big and small screens. If we look back over the years, we have been watching motion pictures be it on big screen or our television sets, and we find that they have assisted us in multiple ways be it in processing grief or regaining hope. Movies have also stimulated self-awareness about anger, fear, hopelessness, or sadness.

 Cinema Is the Mirror of Society

When the camera follows the desires, dreams, activities, and dialogues, it also captures and explores the vague and complicated association with the society. It shows how community influences, directs, and controls the individual. Movies have reflected the changing scenario of politics and economy in India over the decades; depicting the rise of middle class, emergence of small towns or the gradual breakdown of the old feudal order, despair, anger, alienation and separation, resurrection and a new resurgence with renewed confidence. Bollywood also reflects the transformation of the Indian psyche from a postcolonial pastiche of different politeness of the 1950s to the confident global Indian of the present century.

The pros of cinema range from the depiction of reality, a source of recreation, educative, social, and political importance which mould the opinions and change the system. Although cinema itself is not negative, sometimes its content could cause undue effects like the glorifi cation of violence & criminal activities, sense of dissatisfaction with life, premature sexual consciousness, large than life portrayal of the protagonist etc.

 Psychiatrist Portrayal in Cinema

Although cinema has been unfair in its portrayal of mental health professionals (psychiatrists, psychologist, and other health professionals), Hindi movies have depicted psychiatrists as most likely to be male, middle-aged, and friendly in their attitude toward the patients.[1] Some researchers have stated that in movies psychiatrists (42.4%) were clinically incompetent and only 30.3% could make an accurate diagnosis, whereas 39.4% breached professional ethics. Psychiatrists are often portrayed as arrogant, ineffective, cold-hearted, apathetic, authoritative, passive, and manipulative.

 What Is Cinema Therapy?

It is a therapeutic intervention using scenes or entire movies to assist clients in their healing/growing process. It is an extension of bibliotherapy, a technique developed by psychiatrist Karl Menninger. Dr. Gary Solomon, also known as The Movie Doctor, was the first to write on the topic of using movies as therapy. He coined the term “Cinema therapy.” His first book, The Motion Picture Prescription: Watch this movie and call me in the morning, was written as a therapeutic tool for therapists to use for treating patients, clients, and groups.

Cinema therapy can be a powerful catalyst for healing and growth for anybody who is open to learning how movies affect us and to watching certain films with conscious awareness. Cinema therapy allows us to use the effect of imagery, plot, music, etc., in films on our psyche for insight, inspiration, emotional release or relief, and natural change. Used as part of psychotherapy, cinema therapy is an innovative method based on traditional therapeutic principles. Even outside a therapist's office, following certain guidelines for choosing films and watching them consciously can support personal and spiritual growth. In the case of long-standing psychological problems this is only recommended in the context of psychotherapy.[2]

Movies tend to go deeper than self-defense, provide a stimulus for creative solutions, remind us of what we know, help us change/model traits we have or have not nurtured, offer stories of resilience, and stimulate emotional release. Movies help in reframing problems, prioritizing values, and offer hope and encouragement in worst of times. They help in illustrating the grief process and further understanding of them.

 Different Uses for Cinema Therapy

The evocative way

One way of utilizing movies in a therapeutic and growth-provoking manner borrows from dream work. As it is possible to gain insights from any dream, emotional responses to almost any kind of movie can teach clients to understand themselves better. Films can be seen as the “collective dreams” of our times. When certain movies resonate with clients, they touch into the unconscious part of their psyche. A film may move them deeply. A character or a scene might also upset them intensely. Understanding the emotional responses to movies, just as understanding nighttime dreams, could therefore serve as a window to their unconscious. Both are ways to bring their unconscious inner world to a conscious level. As clients understand their responses to movie characters, they will get to know themselves in ways they were previously unaware. Consequently, these responses will teach them how to achieve increased emotional health. This is possible because expanded awareness alone often helps to let go of unhealthy patterns and reconnect with the authentic self.

The prescriptive way

The prescriptive way is based on the assumption that watching a movie can put clients into a light trance state, similar to the state often achieved through guided visualizations. This kind of trance work is designed to help clients get in touch with a mature part of them that helps to overcome problems and strengthen their positive qualities. In the prescriptive way, specific films are prescribed to model specific problem-solving behavior or to access and develop a client's potential. Milton Erickson's concept of Teaching Tales with their embedded suggestions is applied in the prescriptive way.

Through the prescriptive way clients can also learn “by proxy” how not to do something or not to behave because they see the negative consequences of a character's action. This can be used when working with clients who struggle with addictions or when working with couples on their communication. Here, films can be used as cautionary tales.

The cathartic way

Cathartic therapeutic techniques allow therapists to help clients access these stored emotions and release them. These methods are based on the assumption that more the catharsis experienced by the clients the faster they move through the healing process.[3]

Painful emotions can do more than produce tears; they have also been proven to create stress chemicals in our bodies. Catharsis helps to counter these by releasing buried feelings. Nature has provided us natural cathartic processes such as laughing and crying to move us through and beyond our pain. Since many films transmit ideas through emotion rather than intellect, they can neutralize the instinct to suppress feelings and trigger emotional release. By eliciting emotions, watching movies can open doors that otherwise might stay closed. For many of our clients it is safer and therefore easier to let go of their defenses while watching a movie than it is in real life with real people. By identifying with certain characters and their predicaments, they can experience emotions that lie hidden from their awareness.

 Process of Cinema Therapy

Effective cinema therapy begins with careful selection of the movie to be assigned for viewing. Certainly, there is no easy formula for movie selection, as each client's situation needs to be considered on an individual basis. With the release of new movies every year addressing issues in a different manner makes it more difficult to make a standard list. Selection of movie for cinema therapy can be a rather time-consuming. It is imperative that the therapist has previewed the movie and is thoroughly familiar with the content of the movie. It is important that the movie selected for prescription has also affected the therapist in some way. Ideally, the therapist should watch the movie for a second time before using, this time in a “metaposition.”

It is preferable that the movie be relevant on a metaphorical level rather than in terms of literal content. If the content is identical to the client's own difficulties, then there is increased likelihood for defense mechanisms to interfere with the process of cinema therapy.

An additional consideration in the selection of movies is the possibility of inappropriate content. The therapeutic value of a film always needs to be weighed against the level of profanity, violent content, or other content that a client may potentially find offensive.

In giving movies to watch as a homework assignment, the therapist should prescribe the movie rather than simply making a suggestion. It is important that the task be described precisely and in the client's own language. This will increase the likelihood that the client will be clear about what is expected of them. In the session following the homework assignment, the therapist needs to process the client's experience. Simply viewing a movie does not constitute cinema therapy. It is recommended that characters in the movie be the focal point of discussion in the therapy session.

 Theoretical Basis of Cinema Therapy

Cinema therapy offers a shared story between therapist and client. The story is presented through the movie and is chosen to provide a means for greater self-understanding insight or functioning for the client. The story is not intended to represent the client's life per se but to serve as a metaphor for an important aspect of the client's life. This metaphor functions in much the same way that metaphors function in more traditional forms of psychotherapy.[4]

Metaphors have been used in psychotherapy for decades. Metaphors have been used to convey meaning to the symbolic, creative parts of our brain while bypassing the more analytic and logical parts of our brain or as bypassing conscious resistance while speaking directly to the part of the personality that controls change. These notions are similar to Milton Erickson's concept of the conscious and unconscious mind. Erickson felt that metaphors appeal to the conscious mind because they are interesting while at the same time, mobilizing the more open and automatic unconscious mind by activating unconscious association pattern.

Cinema therapy takes advantage of our ability to receive communication at two levels. When direct communication is too threatening and clients respond with resistance, therapists can speak to client through indirect communication. Using metaphors and stories through movies allows therapists to communicate to a more receptive, less defensive part of clients. This shared communication can bypass resistance and send a powerful message that can, among other benefits, suggest solutions to problems, plant seeds for growth, reframe problems and build rapport by providing a shared experience between client and therapist.

 Guidelines for Work With Films

Some possible questions that should be asked are: How did the movie touch you, positively or negatively, what was the unique message for you? Did the move introduce new ideas for new behaviors? Did you experience something that connected you with health and wholeness, your inner wisdom, or higher self as you watched certain scenes or characters?

What other films do you remember having seen that might take the discussion a step further?

Limitations of cinema therapy

As like any other treatment modality, cinema therapy too has its limitations. Effectiveness suffers when persons are incapable of drawing insights from various metaphors. Prescribing films is often not effective with small children except in family therapy. No film assignment can be done to clients with serious psychiatric disorder seen in private practice or when there is violence in client's home. Avoid film assignments in cases of the client having trauma similar to a character in the movie. Film assignments are to be deferred if the client uses movies for wrong motives of if client dislikes movies.

 Movies That Dealt With Different Issues

There are many movies deals with different issues and problems. Hollywood has a detailed bibliographic list available. One can also refer the sites like In Bollywood, there are many movies addressing the different issues some literally some metamorphically. The list given is just the exploration of the various themes. One can search and explore as per one's own needs and issues.

Sexual Abuse

Pink, I AM, Kahaani 2, Highway, monsoon wedding, page 3

Marital relationships

Avishkaar, Swarg narak,

Women empowerment

Mary Kom, Akira, Damini, Queen, Mother India

Generation “Z”

Gippy, Wake up sid, Shudh desi Romance, Udaan


Aligarh, Dad, time out, fire, honeymoon travels

Dealing with disability

Margarita with a straw, Paa, Khamoshi, Koshish, My name is khan

Education and education system

Paathshaala, Hindi Medium, Hip Hip Hurray


Chillar party, rock on, 3 idiots, dil chahta hai


Ki n ka, pyaar ka punchnama.


1Banwari GH. Portrayal of psychiatrists in Hindi movies released in the first decade of the 21st century. Asian J Psychiatr 2011;4:210-3.
2Wolz B. Cinema as Alchemy for Healing and Transformation: Using the Power of Films in Psychotherapy and Coaching. In: Gregerson M, editor. The Cinematic Mirror for Psychology and Life Coaching. New York, Springer 2010.
3Nichols MP, Bierenbaum H. Success of cathartic therapy as a function of patient variables. J Clin Psychol 1978;34:726-8.
4Sharp C, Smith JV, Cole A. Cinematherapy: Metaphorically promoting therapeutic change. Counselling Psychology Quarterly 2002;15:269-76.