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Welcome to Movies and Mental Health

I’m pleased to introduce Movies and Mental Health with Joseph Burgo, Ph.D. This blog is devoted to looking at films — both recent, contemporary movies and the classics — as an avenue for examining different aspects of the human experience.

24 thoughts on “Welcome to Movies and Mental Health

  • December 18, 2010 at 12:04 pm

    USAF BMT -319th “Tigers” TRS. While in med hold awaiting separation for mental illness… The trainees being separated that I was with, we watched movies as our “Detail” for the day. There is definitely a correlation between mental illness and media, especially motion pictures.

    A Warm Welcome Dr. Burgo!

  • December 18, 2010 at 12:14 pm

    As both a movie lover and a psychotherapist, I’m happy to see this new blog and am looking forward to reading the posts.

    My clients often bring in material that came up for them related to a movie they’d seen. I sometimes recommend a particular movie as part of their therapy.

    More broadly, it’s impossible not to see the impact of culture on my clients and on all of us; and movies are a powerful indicator of that. The earliest short films were made in the late 1800s. “Going to the movies” has been part of the entire lives of pretty much everyone living today in Western culture.

  • December 18, 2010 at 12:37 pm

    You should set up a Facebook page to repost your blog pieces.

    • December 19, 2010 at 6:15 am

      That’s a good piece of advice, Paul. I have a Facebook page for my other blog but I’ll look into setting one up for this blog, too.

  • December 18, 2010 at 2:44 pm

    I just learned of and really like the sounds of this blog… especially being a movie fanatic and schooled in psych…

    Some movies I’d like to see discussed… they have always made me think a lot about societies known and unknown, etc…
    * The Acid House (1998)
    * The Snake Pit (1948?)
    * Moon (2009)

    • December 19, 2010 at 6:16 am

      Dustin, I’m going to start a list now of movies people would like to see discussed. Thanks for getting that started — if anyone else has movies in mind, please let me know.

  • December 20, 2010 at 8:39 am

    You may also be interested in our “Reel Culture” column of TILT Magazine – Therapeutic Innovations in Light of Technology, written by Dr JA Sutherland. We aim to bring film culture and psychotherapy together – the topic of Issue Three (due early January) is a study of “Santa: The “Fixed Illusion” in Miracle on 34th Street”.



  • December 22, 2010 at 9:30 am

    Hi, Joseph! And welcome! I’m excited to join the discussion. I have use movies (and television) for many years with my patients. It brings a tangible and recognizable understanding of their problems because they relate more to film than some of the clinical stuff we give them. I have found that when I combine film with therapy, my patients have an easier time interpreting what we have been discussing, and many times they have answered some of their own questions while watching the movie. I am looking forward to sharing.
    karen RN

  • December 22, 2010 at 10:02 am

    I have a female friend who is involved with a married male psychologist. I have been adamant with her on the risks of doing so. She watched “Tender is the Night” and it seemed have struck a chord. I don’t know why. She asked me to watch the movie. A timely analysis of this movie from your perspective would be very, very helpful.

  • December 22, 2010 at 12:49 pm

    Welcome to the Fam! Let me know if you want to use any of my cartoons for your blog…

  • December 23, 2010 at 7:27 am

    As an indiividual who was diagnosed with bi-polar illness 34 years ago, I am still looking for a movie that shows that bi-polar is not always a dibilitating illness if managed properly.

    I have worked since I was 17 (not diagnosed until 31), dropped out of school, graduated from college at 32 and then went on to get my Master’s in Counseling at the age of 38.

    Now mind you it has not been easy especially when my medication stopped working or the stress caused my depressive symptoms to bare their ugly head.

    I have worked for the past 15 years with indiviudals with mential illness and cognitive delays. Just as Kay Jaminson said that having mental illness herself gave her insight and companssion to her patients, my own illness has given me this gift too.

    I am waitng for the Black Swan to play here in my town. I have watched many movies about mental illness and other illnesses such as autism, schizophrenia, william’s syndrome and others.

    Any one out there have any good movies in regard to disabilities whether mential, pshysical or cognitive please let me know.
    Happy Holidays

    • December 26, 2010 at 9:38 am

      Meg, I;m not sure if you’ll find Nina in ‘Black Swan’ to be a convincing portrait of a woman with bipolar disorder but if you look at the story in a metaphorical sense, I believe you’ll find it fascinating.

  • January 2, 2011 at 7:52 am

    I’m looking forward to reading more on this blog. I hope to see “The Fighter” with Mark Wahlberg and “The King’s Speech” with Colin Firth this month and discussing it here.

    I love movies and looking deeper into the characters and the story that surrounds them!

    • January 2, 2011 at 9:24 am

      I intend to write about both films in January. And I’m with you — I think movies are a great avenue for exploring the human psyche. Thanks for reading!

  • January 7, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Dr. Burgo,

    I was delighted to come across this new blog! I’ve been a movie fan even longer than I’ve been a psychotherapist (a long time!), so this makes a great synthesis of the two fields.

    Movies have also been used in some of the graduate psychology classes I’ve taught, which has been great fun for the students and for me. In a class on Existential and Humanistic Psychology, they discussed the main psychological issues of a character and what therapeutic techniques they would use with that character. The most creative paper was what one student deduced from “Rocky VI!” Who knew?

    Looking forward to some interesting posts!

    • January 8, 2011 at 5:54 am

      If you have any suggestions for movies to cover, please let me know. As much as I enjoy talking about classics and old favorites, I’m finding that more people are interested in current releases. I’m going to try to cover most of the Oscar hopefuls in the next couple months before the awards ceremony.

  • January 9, 2011 at 3:34 pm

    Hi Again,

    Perhaps this posting belongs on the Black Swan thread, but I would be interested to hear your comparison to that and Roman Polanski’s Repulsion.
    Without wanting to divulge too much about the Swan film, I suspect that a Freudian examination would be a more complete examination of the main character’s repression than a Jungian one; although the Jungian analysis sounds accurate, as far as it goes.

  • January 11, 2011 at 4:57 pm

    What a great blog. Thanks for sharing your insights.

    Your call for suggestions got me thinking about films that might make good fodder. How about American Beauty? There are a lot of interesting issues and family dynamics going on in the film.

    Looking forward to following you blog.



    • January 11, 2011 at 5:01 pm

      Thanks, Jeremy. Right now, I’m trying to hit the Academy Award hopefuls but I will add ‘American Beauty’ to my list. You’re absolutely right, lots of interesting issues and powerful family dynamics.

  • January 19, 2011 at 5:05 pm

    This is excellent!! My ideal job would be teaching classes on cinema as related to modern culture and psychology. Art imitates life. Or is it the other way around? How about “Deliverance? Any thoughts on the compartmental nature of each character when viewed as individual aspects of the nature of man?

    • January 19, 2011 at 5:11 pm

      That would be my ideal job, too, Cindy There are so many great movies to discuss, and I’ll add “Deliverance” to the list. I’m not sure about your last question. Do you mean — do I think that we can look at certain films that way, as if characters represent different aspects of the nature of man? Absolutely. Most films contain individual character studies, but in others — say, “Black Swan” — the entire film serves as a kind of psychological canvas, where different aspects of the psyche are represented by different characters. For me, these are the most fascinating films to discuss.

  • July 15, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    I recently watched a very inspiring documentary “My Name is Alan, and I Paint Pictures”, about the schizophrenic Artist Alan Streets. He is an artist who specializes in painting buildings in the street that are right in front of him. He travels all over the US and paints daily.
    The documentary My Name is Alan, and I Paint Pictures focuses on Alan’s life as he works to break his way into the professional art world.
    The film also addresses larger issues which directly or indirectly affect Alan. Subjects addressed include the treatment and diagnosis of Paranoid Schizophrenia; the therapeutic benefits of art for mental illness. Alan Streets sells his paintings on his website at


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