Living with the Gloria Films: A daughter's memory
ISBN 978 1 906254 02 5 (2008)
In 1964 Dr Everett Shostrom, a psychologist from California, produced a series of educational films titled ‘Three Approaches to Psychotherapy’, therein filming complete psychotherapy sessions for the very first time. Three celebrated therapists demonstrated their models on a willing client called Gloria. Dr Shostrom had asked Gloria to be prepared to discuss, on film, a subject that was currently troubling her as a recently divorced mother—dating men and dealing with direct questions about her sex life from her fifth-grade daughter, ‘Pammy’. At the time, the topic had pith, intrigue and moral uncertainty. Although the interviews quickly diverged from sex, an aura remained that underscored the state of psychotherapy, the era of the mid-60s, and the evolving consciousness and ‘liberation’ of women during that decade.
Immediately upon the release of the films, reverberations began. They were translated into multiple languages and became a regular part of the college curriculum in psychology departments in the USA and abroad. The three therapists—Carl Rogers, Albert Ellis and Fritz Perls—were solicited for their responses and evaluations; the films were, controversially, shown in theatres and on TV. There was a lawsuit and a life-long relationship.
The success of the films was said to be down to ‘Gloria’s genius’. Countless papers, theories, rumours and idiosyncratic research titbits circulated about Gloria and the films, yet what she experienced, how she was treated after the filming and how her personal life evolved, was never fully revealed. She had brilliantly happy moments, devoted relationships and profound loss. Her generosity with her time and spirit was her spark of grace. This beautifully written memoir blends the intimacies of family life, intuitive characterisation and an insight into the development of psychotherapy in California in the 60s. Gloria’s daughter Pamela J Burry ('Pammy'), whose innocent question sparked Gloria’s disquiet, has woven together a legacy of letters, notes, transcripts, tapes, articles and her own memories to write about a life, a snapshot of which became the subject of much academic analysis, moral outrage, rumours of suicide and speculation in the years following the release of Three Approaches to Psychotherapy, more popularly known as ‘The Gloria Films’.
1. The Church, and the sex book
2. Ritz crackers and legs
3. ‘You need therapy'
4. Three Approaches to Psychotherapy
5. Surviving ‘The Gloria Films’
6. Two fathers
7. ‘Tell him to WAIT!’
8. Looking for Carl Rogers
9. I’m found by John Shlien
10. Gloria dies
This is a beautifully written book — vivid and immediate — providing a gust of fresh air through very musty corridors. Pamela Burry delivers a touching tribute to her mother Gloria, who agreed to having a single session with each of three highly regarded psychologists filmed for teaching purposes. The films are classics and integral to many training programs in North America for counsellors and psychologists. They have provoked much debate and analysis, with intense scrutiny of the three psychologists and their client. Unbeknownst to many students of psychology, the films negatively impacted the lives of Gloria and Pamela as they were released for public viewing and left them open to continual invasions of their privacy. As a result of the films, Gloria, the client, became frozen within a three hour time capsule. Her daughter has set her free and what emerges is the portrait of a wonderful woman's journey to claim herself. Gloria's spirit, courage, and sense of fun illuminate her struggles along the way. The dilemmas she faced as a woman at a particular time in history provoked much attention and made her an archetype for a generation of women breaking free of patriarchal bonds.
Pamela Burry's work gives us a picture of Gloria larger than life and somehow larger than the three men with whom she met briefly and shared some of her concerns. The book places the sessions in a perspective that shrinks the importance of the other participants. It removes therapists from centre stage with a powerful reminder to counsellors and therapists that their clients are far larger, richer, and more resourceful than our theories often allow. Jeanne C. Watson, Ph.D. (C.Psych.) Professor, Department of Adult Education and Counselling Psychology, OISE / University of Toronto