In 1964 Californian psychologist Dr Everett Shostrom produced a series of educational films titled ‘Three Approaches to Psychotherapy’.
It may have been the first time such private, intimate sessions between the individual and therapist had been recorded for analysis and education.
Three leading therapists introduce their systems, spend thirty minutes with the same client (actually an existing client of the filmmaker, Shostrom’s), give a debrief on the session; their methods in action, and how they experienced it.
The client was a recently divorced woman ‘Gloria’. Her issues would have been especially pertinent for many women in the sixties, as they regard her more liberated sexuality as a single woman after her divorce, how she struggles with these feelings and behaviours, morally, and in relation to her daughter.
There is something inadvertently brilliant about these ‘educational’ films. I imagine that the person operating the camera could never have seen the potential importance of these films, how many times they would be shown to psychology students, the dialog pored [had to look that one up] over time and time again. Often the camera (a Bell and Howell cine camera, I believe) is repositioned mid sentence to get the therapist more square in shot. Sometimes as Gloria expands on her thoughts, the camera randomly follows her cigarette holding hand, or tracks to an irritable, bouncing ankle.
Carl Rogers, a gentle, shiny-headed man is first up with his person-centered therapy. Gloria expresses how she struggles accepting her “ornery, more devilish side”. In a memorable exchange, Rogers is ever the kind, accepting, empathic therapist. He connects strongly with Gloria, reassuring her and helping her explore what she truly wants and needs.
This analysis of Roger’s client centered communication with Gloria is interesting for the curious.
Next up is the more challenging and aggressive approach of Fritz Perls founder of Gestalt Therapy.
Finally, a young Albert Ellis, a no-nonsense New Yorker, piles in with his very pragmatic Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy. Ellis could be attributed as the founder of modern cognitive behaviour therapies.
As often occurs when a ‘real’ individual is somehow revealed in a work of media, the film had more affect on Gloria and her daughter than could have been predicted, and her daughter has written a book in response about Living with ‘The Gloria Films’.