Academic journal article Afterimage

From Reel to Real: Use of Video as A Therapeutic Tool. (after Image)

Academic journal article Afterimage

From Reel to Real: Use of Video as A Therapeutic Tool. (after Image)

Article excerpt

Videowork is a therapeutic process in which clients and therapists discuss themes and characters in popular films that relate to core issues of ongoing therapy. In videowork, I use films to facilitate self understanding, to introduce options for action, plans and to precede future therapeutic interventions. We select films for both positive and negative associations. Some films dramatize possible solutions. Others show predictable outcomes if dysfunctional patterns remain unaltered.

I am not suggesting that merely watching a film is sufficient to bring about desired change. The ability of an inspirational film to effect change is short lived, much like a New Year's resolution. Though some counselors have suggested that films are useful as self-help, our approach emphasizes the partnership of conventional therapy and film homework; videowork is one more strategy in attaining therapeutic objectives. (1) It presupposes that competent therapists will make use of the insights their clients garner from films.

As with any intervention, there are risks. Films can influence behavior positively and negatively. (2) But by choosing from an anthology of therapeutically useful films, assigning them strategically and establishing boundaries for viewing, therapists can minimize the risks. My goal is to provide the information that clinicians need to use films safely and successfully in therapy or education.

Practitioners have long recommended books, plays, poetry and the visual and performance arts as a means of teaching concepts of mental health and providing corrective emotional experiences. (3) As early as 1840, Sir Walter Gait cataloged fictional and nonfictional literature recommended by psychiatrists for religious and moralistic education to hospitalized psychiatric patients. It was not until the 1930s that the casual practice of prescribing therapeutic readings to patients was formalized into a practice known as bibliotherapy. In the bulletin of the Menninger Clinic, William C. Menninger first described how selected literature might serve educational, recreational and social purposes in psychiatric hospitals. According to Menninger, literature provides immediate gratification for patients and serves as a source of information. It encourages patients to invest in an interest outside themselves and to thereby maintain contact with external reality. It leads to insight into their problems. And through discus sing books with others, literature helps patients to identify with a social group. (4)

Menninger also suggests guidelines for literary assignments. Clinicians should prescribe books to patients according to their needs, backgrounds and symptomatic pictures. He recommends older as well as newer works; the salient issue is how clearly artistic works serve as appropriate channels of expression for the ideas and emotions of patients. He cautions clients to exercise sound judgments in utilizing the rich source of ideas found in fiction and requires that therapeutic readings be ordered only by the attending physician.

Bibliotherapists who followed Menninger echoed his concern for undesired effects. Hazel Sample, in the first paper to treat bibliotherapy as a discrete field cautions that fiction often contains unstated counterproductive values. Sample recommends that bibliotherapists carefully weigh a story's conflicts and its resolution. She warns that authors express their own ideas and opinions through characters in a story and that those ideas and opinions should enlighten rather than confuse a patient. Her conclusion is that readings can be an effective aid to therapy but that clinicians should exercise good judgment in the works they choose and how they are used in treatment. (5)

Initially both fiction and nonfiction readings were assigned. But in the past 20 years, as clinicians themselves produced self-help literature for the general public, nonfiction has become the dominant genre in bibliotherapy. …

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