Media Therapy seems to mainly focus on analysis of transference, but I developed it to study the 3 primary reasons why people watch media: displacement, transference, and rehabilitation.
Most people aren’t really interested in being “transformed by art” as much as they’re using art to be moved from one state to another; they want to BE displaced as much as they want TO displace their own issues which is essentially transference: 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘥𝘪𝘴𝘱𝘭𝘢𝘤𝘦𝘮𝘦𝘯𝘵 𝘰𝘧 𝘰𝘯𝘦’𝘴 𝘶𝘯𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘰𝘭𝘷𝘦𝘥 𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘧𝘭𝘪𝘤𝘵𝘴, 𝘥𝘦𝘱𝘦𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘯𝘤𝘪𝘦𝘴, 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘢𝘨𝘨𝘳𝘦𝘴𝘴𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘢 𝘴𝘶𝘣𝘴𝘵𝘪𝘵𝘶𝘵𝘦 𝘰𝘣𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵. 𝘛𝘩𝘦 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘤𝘦𝘴𝘴 𝘣𝘺 𝘸𝘩𝘪𝘤𝘩 𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘢𝘯𝘥 𝘥𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘳𝘦𝘴, 𝘰𝘳𝘪𝘨𝘪𝘯𝘢𝘭𝘭𝘺 𝘢𝘴𝘴𝘰𝘤𝘪𝘢𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘱𝘦𝘳𝘴𝘰𝘯, 𝘴𝘶𝘤𝘩 𝘢𝘴 𝘢 𝘱𝘢𝘳𝘦𝘯𝘵, 𝘢𝘳𝘦 𝘶𝘯𝘤𝘰𝘯𝘴𝘤𝘪𝘰𝘶𝘴𝘭𝘺 𝘴𝘩𝘪𝘧𝘵𝘦𝘥 𝘵𝘰 𝘢𝘯𝘰𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳.
Media is powerful depending on the type of person who is engaging with it and how much displacement, transference, and rehabilitation they are doing with it. It is why some media experiences are incredibly life changing and result in changes of state that are positive and even life SAVING depending on the content and also why some media has negative and detrimental effects on viewers, sometimes en masse.
Media Therapy is about analyzing those things on an individual level and using the media engagement as a tool for self-awareness.
It’s less about the media content and more about how the person is using the experience. The content only plays a part if the person engaging with it has a direct emotional connection to it in reality i.e. victims of abuse watching media that depicts people getting abused or healing from abuse which – in that example – could be about displacement, rehabilitation or even projection: 𝘱𝘳𝘰𝘫𝘦𝘤𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘶𝘯𝘥𝘦𝘴𝘪𝘳𝘢𝘣𝘭𝘦 𝘧𝘦𝘦𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨𝘴 𝘰𝘳 𝘦𝘮𝘰𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘴 𝘰𝘯𝘵𝘰 𝘴𝘰𝘮𝘦𝘰𝘯𝘦 𝘦𝘭𝘴𝘦, 𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘳 𝘵𝘩𝘢𝘯 𝘢𝘥𝘮𝘪𝘵𝘵𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘵𝘰 𝘰𝘳 𝘥𝘦𝘢𝘭𝘪𝘯𝘨 𝘸𝘪𝘵𝘩 𝘵𝘩𝘦𝘮.
With the creation of the Media Therapy modality, I wanted to turn a common coping mechanism of engaging with (and now these days bingeing) various media (tv, film, books, even music) into a process designed to optimize the self and reduce mental disability, not reinforce it.
Art is a perfect medium for pulling emotions from us and transference analysis is key in understanding not only subconscious triggers, but also unlocking deep levels of understanding of how we inadvertently connect unrelated things to unrealized trauma and emotional disturbance.
Media is a combination of what is intended by the writer, director, and performers and the viewer’s subjective opinion, trigger responses, and transference.
Psychological transference is a redirection of internal feelings onto often unrelated external sources. Media Therapy is an examination of one’s transference; what you put into media when you watch it, not what you take out of it.
Media is subjective, it is different for every person who watches it. Your way of viewing and interpreting media is going to be different from someone else’s.
Remember that people are operating mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally from a different reality than you. When you add on things like culture, religion, sociology, politics, upbringing, education, etc, all that changes how they interpret information, communicate, and understand the world. By the time people are finished watching media they’ve drenched the entire experience in themselves; their issues, their psychology, their biases and its changed forever in a way no one but them can truly understand.
This doesn’t mean that there aren’t common experiences and emotions of the HUMAN condition that we can all relate to, but Media Therapy is specifically about PERSONAL and INDIVIDUAL transference.
Media Therapy is NEVER about the show being viewed and is ALWAYS about the student who is viewing it.
The 1st Key Component of Media Therapy
One of the largest epic fails when it comes to media consumption with the general public is a lack of media mindfulness.
For many people media is just entertainment, a way to decompress after a long day, a way to escape the oppressive thoughts and anxiety of their lives. The last thing people want to do is THINK about media and THINK about themselves.
Media Therapy is a therapeutic process … it involves not only THINKING about yourself and your life but also FEELING your way through the entire analysis process.
Mindfulness is about staying PRESENT during the process of thinking and feeling.
The first component of mindfulness involves the self-regulation of attention so that it is maintained on immediate experience, thereby allowing for increased recognition of mental events in the present moment. The second component involves adopting a particular orientation toward one’s experiences in the present moment, an orientation that is characterized by curiosity, openness, and acceptance.
Your level of mindfulness will ultimately determine how effective Media Therapy will be: it’s what you put into it.
The 2nd Key Component of Media Therapy
Most people watch media using only LOT (lower order thinking) skills especially when they use media as a way of escaping their reality or when they use media to occupy their minds so their minds don’t become too idle and filled with RNT (repetitive negative thinking).
LOT and concrete thinking tends to be almost a preferred and more effective coping mechanism for people in constant high stress.
LOT takes less time, the information is more ordered, and the outcomes seem more predictable and clearer. HOT takes more time, the information is less ordered and more complicated, and the outcomes can be varied and subject to a lot of interpretation.
Media Therapy requires the use of critical thinking which is a HOT skill.
To engage successfully in Media Therapy it’s important to be capable of engaging in critical thinking and moving from relying on LOT skills to using HOT skills.
Critical thinking using HOT skills goes beyond basic observation of facts and memorization and leads to a more evaluative, creative and innovative thought process.
Logical thinking (LOT) is potential energy.
Critical thinking (HOT) is kinetic energy.
Logical thinking is a series of: because of this, this happened connections.
Critical thinking is a series of: if I do this, this will happen connections.
For logical thinking you don’t always need to get your hands dirty.
With critical thinking, you always need to get your hands dirty.
The special ingredient in all critical thinkers is DESIRE because desire is the precursor to experimentation.
I would add to Armani’s excellent explanation, that desire is also a key component in EXPLORATION.
Critical thinkers are natural explorers who seek to question, test, analyze, and understand things at deeper levels. For Media Therapy, any therapy really, to be effective, there must be a strong desire to question, test, analyze, and understand oneself.
Using HOT skills with Media Therapy means that we do something with the information we glean from simple observation (viewing media) and passive exposure (watching things happen to others). We seek understand it on a personal level, infer from it, connect it all to other facts and outside concepts, categorize it, and put it all together in new or novel ways to apply it forward in seeking new solutions to problems and balancing our mental, physical, and spiritual selves; our psykhe. (Greek: The soul, mind, spirit; breath; life, one’s life, the invisible animating principle or entity which occupies and directs the physical body; understanding.)
If I do this, this will happen.
Putting It All Together
Media Therapy is a two-fold process:
First: the process watching a specifically chosen piece of complex, tiered media from the perspective that it was written specifically for you. The core of this one simple idea is: If this episode was written specifically for you, what do you believe the content, the characters, the dialog, and the overall feeling is trying to say to you about yourself and how does that direct you to think about yourself and your life?
Second: understanding the spiritual, emotional, and psychological transference you put into the media you watch through homework, discussion, and extensive, critical analysis with your media guide or licensed therapist.
The goal of Media Therapy is to extrapolate meaning, ideas, and lessons from the content that are relevant to your growth and the continued development and evolution of your psykhe.
Media can rip down our walls and shred our souls. It can force feed us someone else’s experiences, someone else soul, or simply put us intimately in touch with our own. Fully experiencing media – placing yourself in the center of that artistic creation, vulnerable and open to change – is the best way to challenge and truly know yourself.