By EW Staff
Updated August 20, 1999 at 04:00 AM EDT

Who ever thought Pauly Shore would help us regain our sanity? Well, maybe that’s a stretch. But truth is, a growing number of psychologists are prescribing a strange new medication: the movies.

Cinema therapy is a controversial treatment in which therapists order their patients to rent movies that relate to their problems, then probe their reactions. ”In films, people change,” says psychologist Robert Simmeron, who recently assigned John Huston’s The Dead to a woman coping with isolation. ”That’s what makes a good movie. If we can incorporate those things in our own lives, we can change as well.”

The trendlet has spawned books (1995’s The Motion Picture Prescription by Gary Solomon) and an article in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (”Use of a Horror Film in Psychotherapy”), as well as some not-so-glowing reviews from other shrinks. ”It can backfire,” says L.A. psychologist Alan Korer, who sees cinema therapy as a superficial diversion, when ”some people need shock therapy, or intense medication.” Second opinion noted, but if you still need a Blockbuster breakthrough, here are some doctor-recommended films. — Cheryl Klein


DIAGNOSIS Childhood abuse

PRESCRIPTION 1999’s Instinct, starring Anthony Hopkins

[DIAGNOSIS]Alienation or domination

[PRESCRIPTION]1993’s The Piano, starring Holly Hunter

[DIAGNOSIS]An overbearing mother

[PRESCRIPTION]1983’s Terms of Endearment, starring Shirley MacLaine

DIAGNOSIS Difficulty blending families

PRESCRIPTION 1998’s Stepmom, starring Susan Sarandon

[DIAGNOSIS]Idealization of a mate

[PRESCRIPTION]1994’s Il Postino, starring Massimo Troisi

[DIAGNOSIS]Trouble expressing emotions

[PRESCRIPTION]1989’s Field of Dreams, starring Kevin Costner