Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Movie (Inside Out) and Sheffield Place Families

Have you seen the recent Pixar movie- Inside Out?

We have! Over the month of July, I had the pleasure of taking 9 of our families to see this excellent new movie. Inside Out tells the story of 11 year old Riley who experiences a housing transition with her family.

While Riley experiences moving to a new house, missing a parent who is busy with new job, starting a new school, etc. the story is focused on the journey of Riley's inner emotions (joy, sadness, anger, fear, and disgust) as they struggle to cope with such change.

This was a fantastic film for our families who have experienced significant and ongoing transitions! Many of our children and mothers have made big moves with far less supportive caregivers than Riley did and were able to relate to the reactions of Riley's inner emotions. This movie helped our children to assign words and images to the very abstract concepts of emotions, loss and personality. It provided a great visual understanding for our mothers of emotion development and how parenting can help or hinder healthy emotional development.

For the mothers of Sheffield Place, this movie was empowering because it showed the positive influence their support can have on their children's adjustment during transition- the power they have to help their children even when life's circumstances are out of their control. For our children, the movie
validated and normalized the chaotic emotions they may have experienced as a part of their homelessness.

Finally, perhaps the most important lesson this movie had for our families is that all emotions have a purpose, even sadness, and that it is healthy to let our emotions do their job rather than stuff them down and try to be “happy” all time.

After going to the theater to see the movie- a first time experience for many of our kids, the families processed the movie with their family therapist over pizza and ice cream. Later in the month the families made collages of feeling faces and things that make them feel specific emotions using a book of Inside Out characters. Currently, in Project Hope, we have started using images from the movie to help kids talk about which feelings are “driving” their bodies in times of distress or if maybe their control panel is frozen (as in a scene from the movie) so that
they feel like they are not in control.  

I have to admit, there is little that makes a professional counselor happier than when mainstream media supports mental health and development with psychologically accurate information presented in style that is relevant and accessible to our clients. We have and will continue to use this movie as a tool for healing with the families of Sheffield Place. I hope you’ll see it too!

Stephanie O'Neal, LPC
Sheffield Place Children's and Family Therapist