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Despite the exaggerations for dramatic effect, films are one of the best ways for counseling students to catch a sneak peek of their future careers. Five great movies for counseling professionals include:
• "One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest"
• "28 Days"
• "A Beautiful Mind"
• "Ordinary People"
• "Reign Over Me"
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Jack Nicholson delivers an amazing performance as Randle McMurphy in the movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.” McMurphy is a criminal, and to avoid prison, he pleads insanity because he believes that it will be easier to serve his time in a mental institution. Nurse Ratched proves that he was wrong. If you’re interested in a counseling career, this movie will give you a glimpse of the past and how mental hospitals mistreated those who suffered from mental disorders by using electroshock therapy. In the film, the staff also takes advantage of improper group psychotherapy techniques. Once McMurphy experiences the institution’s awful conditions, he leads the other patients in a rebellion.
In the film “28 Days,” Sandra Bullock depicts a newspaper columnist, Gwen Cummings, who abuses prescription pills and alcohol. After she ruins her sister’s wedding by giving an embarrassing speech, falling into the wedding cake and stealing a limo, she faces jail time or rehab. Gwen chooses to go to rehab. At first, she refuses to participate in the facility’s programs, but when she breaks her leg in an attempt to retrieve a bottle of pills, she realizes that she needs help. While watching this movie, you’ll see good counseling skills that you can emulate if you decide to go after a career in a rehab facility.
Actor Russell Crowe takes on the challenging role of John Forbes Nash in the movie “A Beautiful Mind.” Based on Nash’s true-life story, the film expertly portrays how hard life is for those who suffer from schizophrenia. If you’re already studying psychology, you may notice Nash’s initial signs of the disorder. As the film progresses, his symptoms become more intense, and they begin to affect his friends and family. Since the film portrays the disorder from Nash’s perspective, this element may make it easier for you to empathize with and treat those who suffer from schizophrenia.
If you’re considering family counseling, then be sure to take the time to watch “Ordinary People.” The film stars Timothy Hutton, Mary Tyler Moore and Donald Sutherland. Timothy Hutton plays the role of Conrad who is suffering from survivor’s guilt and post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, due to a boating accident that took the life of his older brother. After Conrad attempts suicide, his parents commit him to a psychiatric hospital. Upon returning home, Conrad struggles to heal because of the tension in his family. Since the movie delves into the fragmentation that a family faces when losing a child, you’ll have the chance to study group therapy techniques while watching the film.
Starring Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle and Jada Pinkett Smith, “Reign Over Me” is a film that features psychological problems like PTSD and intense grief. After the September 11th attacks took his family, Adam Sandler’s character, Charlie Fineman, isolates himself. By chance, Charlie runs into his college roommate Alan Johnson, and the two men rekindle their friendship. With Alan’s help, Charlie is able to deal with his past losses, and he begins to rebuild his life. If you’re considering a career in counseling, the film will give you a firsthand look at PTSD and how it can change a person’s life.
Art Imitating Life
Art often imitates life, and because of this, you can gain an understanding of the struggles that mentally ill people face by watching movies that depict psychological disorders. Use the information that these films provide to prepare yourself for the challenges and rewards that will be yours when you become a counseling professional.
Additional Resource: Top 10 Best Online Master’s in Counseling Degree Programs