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Therapists are talking about the 'Encanto' characters: 'There are so many layers, dynamics'

The Disney movie has been greatly appreciated by audiences, but it has also become a useful tool for mental health practitioners.

Therapists are talking about the 'Encanto' characters: 'There are so many layers, dynamics'
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Content Warning: Spoilers for the movie "Encanto"

The movie "Encanto" has been highly praised for its diverse representation and complex storyline. However, one group of people has been particularly grateful for the movie: therapists. According to mental health practitioners, the characters in the Disney film are incredibly layered, which means they make great references for the folks they work with. Additionally, therapists have appreciated the movie's approach to trauma and healing. For practitioners who work with first-generation immigrants and other people of color, "Encanto" has become a useful tool to help their clients process their emotions and develop their own methods of healing, CNN reports.


Kadesha Adelakun, a therapist who works out of an office in Kennesaw, Georgia, purchased toys of characters from the movie "Encanto" before she even had an opportunity to watch the film. She was acutely aware of how important it would be for her younger clients to see characters from a multiracial Afro-Latino family. In particular, she wished to have figurines that reflect the diversity of her young patients' lives. According to the practitioner, the film perfectly captures issues many families are going through. She affirmed, "There are so many layers, so many dynamics... I think [the movie is] going to have a great impact on society. People are seeing this movie and they're realizing they're seeing themselves in it."


Several other therapists shared that they were talking about "Encanto" with their clients during their therapy sessions. These clients, many of whom are first-generation immigrants, are finally able to witness themselves reflected in the mainstream production, hearing their experiences through the soundtrack. They are also using "Encanto" to speak out about things that might otherwise go unsaid. For example, the character of Mirabel has been analyzed as the healer trying to keep her family together. Mara Sammartino, a therapist in Fairfield, California, shared, "Our parents come here fleeing war, poverty, violence. They come here, they establish a life, and then we're born into this duality, and we're not seen in one, and we're not seen in the other. I think that's why Mirabel's character resonates. She is part of that duality. She's the only one that's in touch with the community... She's the only one that's (leaving the house) and going out, talking to people. Then she comes back home and she's kind of put in her place and told, 'you actually don't have anything to contribute.'"


Similarly, the character of Isabela is the perfectionist who feels she cannot fail—a responsibility that many first-generation immigrants also shoulder. Jenny Lemus, a psychotherapist in Chicago, appreciated how nuanced Isabel's personality was. "There's a lot of anger," she explained. "Sometimes we don't know where the anger comes from. Why do I feel so angry with my parents or grandparents? What's going on? You see that a lot with first-generation Latinos, a lot of resentment building up because of that pressure that is unspoken within the family dynamic. 'Encanto' had such a beautiful way of portraying that in subtle ways... Those of us that saw the movie and related to it, we got the message. We related so much to it. And I think that's why it's been such a hit."


Another notable character is Abuela, who is the family matriarch who passes down her trauma. For several therapists, she has become the perfect example to point to in order to help clients empathize with their elders. In the movie, Abuela recognizes the harm she has caused and apologizes. However, this is where mental health practitioners tread with caution. Lemus stated, "We don't see that outcome often. When we do see it, when we see the Mirabels of the world making changes for their family and making changes for themselves, it's so beautiful. It's also beautiful when they do the work and when they realize they need to set boundaries in their families." Nonetheless, even without the picture-perfect Disney ending, therapists agree that healing is indeed possible, and "Encanto" has several valuable insights to help clients achieve that.



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