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" Films are one of the most influential forms of mass information and communication. Their impact and resonance stretch across nationalities, generations, and genders. Psychologist Kenneth Gergen (1991) asserts, “Films can catapult us rapidly and effectively into states of fear, anger, sadness, romance, lust, and aesthetic ecstasy -- often within the same two-hour period. It is undoubtedly true that for many people film relationships provide the most emotionally wrenching experiences of the average week” (pp. 56-57). For many, movies are not only emotional but also habitual, accessible, and fun (Norcross et al., 2012).
However, identifying particular therapeutic films poses challenges for psychologists. Thousands of movies distort mental illness and recommend untested, if not discredited, treatments (Wedding et al., 2010). Such media framing is disconcerting because mental health literacy is negligible, and films are a primary source of information for Americans.
Several books identify movies pertaining to particular mental disorders (e.g., Hesley & Hesley, 2001; Wedding et al., 2010), but few present evidence-based direction or professional consensus. Existing research on self-help films is limited by either small sample sizes or small numbers of movies (Dermer & Hutchings, 2000).
Our three studies on movies for therapeutic purposes canvassed thousands of psychologists on hundreds of potential films. Our most recent study, conducted on National Registrants in 2011, was designed to identify practitioner-recommended films for self-help purposes. We sought to obtain expert consensus in order to inform professionals about effective films, in the absence of any systematic research on their effectiveness.
Over the past two decades, our research group has conducted 12 national surveys of psychologists on self-help resources. The resources evaluated were books, autobiographies, and films. The surveys were alike in methodology and samples. We sent surveys to doctoral-level psychologists in the United States. Responding psychologists rated self-help resources with which they were familiar on the same 5-point, Likert-type scale: +2 extremely good, +1 moderately good, 0 average, -1 moderately bad, and -2 extremely bad.
In the latest four studies, we sent SurveyMonkey links to 8,904 members of the National Register of Health Service Providers in Psychology. Following several follow-ups, 1,306 psychologists responded, a response rate of 15%.
The list below presents in rank order the 75 top-rated films that received a minimum of 30 psychologist ratings. All films received mean ratings of at least 1.06, reflecting a consensus between “provides good advice; can be helpful” and “outstanding; among the best in category.” Leading the list were Temple Grandin (autism and Asperger’s), Iris (dementia/Alzheimer’s), Milk (gay, lesbian, bisexual issues), and Ordinary People (suicide & death and grieving). The categories of the most highly regarded movies were substance abuse, death and grieving, and adult development. Many of the films were commercial successes, winning best picture awards. The complete list of 324 films covering 31 disorders and life challenges can be found in Self-Help that Works (Norcross et al., 2012). "
Adapted from The Register Report, Fall 2011, As Good As It Gets: Top-Rated Self-Help Films
Authors Victoria K. Alogna is a senior psychology major at the University of Scranton, where she co-managed the research surveys on which this article is based. She will be pursuing doctoral studies in psychology in the near future. John C. Norcross, PhD, ABPP, is Professor of Psychology and Distinguished University Fellow at the University of Scranton, editor of Journal of Clinical Psychology: In Session, and a clinical psychologist in part-time practice. Dr. Norcross was a member of the National Register Board of Directors from 2002-2009.
1. According to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, American Film Institute, and British Film Institute, a feature film runs for 40 minutes or longer. Any film that I watch on this list MUST be at least 40 minutes.
2. I cannot watch a movie that I have already seen. (Exception: If I haven't seen the movie in a WHILE, meaning, I don't recall the plot, characters, or ending, then I may watch the film as part of the challenge.)
3. I must watch the movie from start to finish (preferably in one sitting).
4. I should post a review, whether it is a (0/10) star rating, or critical review, or a short blurb about the film (what I liked, what I didn't like, how it impacted me, etc.)Side Note: If I wish to "watch ahead" by viewing two or more movies in one day, that's perfectly fair. If I miss one day, I can watch two films the next day to make up for it. And May the odds be ever in your favor! \m/
Movies Left: [ 341 out of 365 ]