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By Donna Emert
One of the goals of counseling and counselor training programs is to enhance self awareness. That process begins by telling our stories.
It seems then that Hollywood has provided a form of collective therapy for years, giving viewers a window into their own and other cultures, and the opportunity to study individual “case scenarios,” suggests Sachin Jain, professor of Counseling and School Psychology at University of Idaho, Coeur d’Alene.
As an assistant director in Hollywood, David Ascher worked on the telling of some blockbuster stories, including “The Cell,” “Lethal Weapon 4,” “Con Air,” “Stuart Little,” and many others. Now, as a student in the University of Idaho, Coeur d’Alene Counseling and Psychology program, Ascher is shaping and examining his own story, and preparing to help others make sense of theirs.
“Giving personal experiences the structure of story allows us to examine them from a safe distance. From that fresh vantage point, we can see their significance,” Ascher explains.
“The goal of counseling is to increase self awareness in our clients,” said Jain. “To become better counselors, we need to become self aware so that we can create that awareness in clients. The case scenarios offered in films provide an opportunity for analysis that might help us create that awareness in our clients.”
Jain shares India’s cultural fascination with moviemaking and storytelling, and invited Ascher to tell his tale at the International Conference in Applied Psychology, held at Purvanchal University in Jaunpur, India, this winter.
“When I met David, he was having difficulties drawing upon his experiences in Hollywood and applying what he found there to counseling,” said Jain. “I started working with him to draw connections between his family background, his work in Hollywood and counseling.”
Ascher confessed that as a student in a master’s degree program, it was a little intimidating to present at an international gathering of counseling professionals and mental health, counseling, and mass communications students. His unique contribution was his story.
“I might be considered an expert on my own life, my own story,” said Ascher. “Counseling students may have been interested to hear how one person’s journey to counseling occurred. India has a very strong motion picture industry, so mass communications students might want to compare that to my slice of experience in Hollywood.”
As a counselor, Ascher hopes to continue to meet the individual and collective need to shape stories, to hear the stories of others and to better understand their significance. He sees some parallels between his role in Hollywood and his role as a counselor.
“My style as an assistant director was to lead from the middle, not pushing from behind or setting the agenda,” he said. “The same is true in a counseling session. That will be very collaborative, working from within.”
Ascher and Jain were interviewed during the December conference at an Aligarh Muslim University studio. The interview appeared on Indian television channels Sahara and ETV.
Ascher currently is working on an article on the role of counseling in Hollywood for future submission to the College Student Journal.