ERIE, PA. -- When psychiatrist Fuat Ulus meets with patients, there's a chance Clint Eastwood will be there, too. Not as a patient, but as a therapist of sorts.
Ulus has used Eastwood's Dirty Harry character to help patients address chronic anxiety. After all, there probably aren't many more anxious situations than when Insp. Harry Callahan is confronted with a thug holding a gun to a human shield and threatening to shoot.
Of course, Ulus doesn't advise patients to deal with their anxiety by brandishing a .44-calibre Magnum and declaring, "Go ahead, make my day." But watching the scene can spark discussion on coping with anxiety.
He has also used The Deer Hunter to help Vietnam veterans open up about post-traumatic stress.
Ulus is among a handful of therapists who find movies or clips from movies helpful in treating patients.
"Patients are more receptive to discussing issues that are somewhat removed from them, played out by characters on a screen, rather than directly confronting those issues from their own lives," he says.
He might use a movie or segment that illustrates a situation or condition that a patient is experiencing -- whether the patient realizes it or not. The patient might find it easier to confront his own issue after seeing how someone in a movie handles a similar situation.
"The movies really go to the deeper layers of the consciousness," said Birgit Wolz, a therapist in Oakland, Calif. The movies are a catalyst for the experiences people go through."
John Hesley, a Dallas-Fort Worth area therapist is another believer in movie therapy. "You can talk about it sometimes easier if it's happening to someone else."