What a Therapist Wants You to Take Away from Jonah Hill's Mental Health Documentary

The new film features conversations between Hill and his therapist, Phil Stutz.

Jonah Hill
Getty Images.

Jonah Hill is sharing his therapist's mental health tools in a new Netflix documentary, Stutz.

The film is made up of conversations between the 21 Jump Street actor and his therapist, Phil Stutz, M.D. Not only does it offer a window into Hill's experiences with mental health, but it also provides actionable advice and techniques for viewers.

"I have decided to make this because I want to present your tools and teachings of you, Phil Stutz, my therapist, in a way that allows people to access them and use them to make their own life better," Hill says to Dr. Stutz in the opening of the movie.

Dr. Stutz's Therapy Tools

In the film, Hill and Dr. Stutz discuss the "tools" the therapist uses to help his patients alter their "inner state, immediately, in real time," says Dr. Stutz. The tools include visualization exercises that help people turn an unpleasant experience into an opportunity, he explains.

Of the many techniques shared in the documentary, one is the concept that every action you take in life comprises a string of pearls. Each "pearl" is of equal size, representing how your actions all hold the same value. However, every "pearl" has a dark spot, indicating constant, unavoidable imperfection, adds Dr. Stutz.

Another is nurturing "the shadow," aka the part or version of yourself that you're not proud of. For Hill, it's his 14-year-old self, according to the documentary. Dr. Stutz encourages his patients to interact with their "shadow" which "needs attention," he says in the film.

Then there's the idea of letting go of "the snapshot," which is the image you have in your head of what the "perfect life" would be. For most, that idyllic "snapshot" isn't really possible, so it's important to focus on more realistic goals that will lead to lasting happiness instead.

How to Use the Mental Health Tools

Some of the tools Dr. Stutz presents are similar to those many therapists use, including practicing visualization, radical acceptance, and gratitude, according to Jennifer Rollin, MSW, LCSW-C, a licensed therapist who treats those with eating disorders, depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.

One exercise featured in the documentary viewers might start with on their own is engaging in "parts work" or with the "shadow" that Stutz refers to as one example of a part. To do this, you can try looking at an image of yourself as a child or at an age when you were struggling and give that part of yourself some compassion, suggests Rollin.

You can also work on radical acceptance, a concept discussed in the film, by thinking of areas in your life where you might sometimes fight reality, says Rollin. Practice having a more accepting viewpoint on that part of your life.

Finally, you can think about what you are pursuing in your life to have the happiness that you might believe exists in the illusion of the "snapshot," says Rollin. When you identify what it is, you might consider changing that ideal snapshot. For example, if you think having your body look a certain way or buying a fancy new car is the key to happiness and fulfillment, you might aim to shift your focus to things that can bring "lasting fulfillment," such as meaningful relationships, says Rollin.

The Importance of the Documentary

"The documentary was interesting, shared some helpful tools, and I think also was helpful in that it's a celebrity opening up [about] that in-therapy experience," says Rollin. "So, hopefully it encourages other folks to seek therapy," she adds, especially those who might not have been exposed to the practice before. "This could be like a window into them learning more about therapy," she says.

Recent tweets from people who watched the documentary seem to indicate just how helpful it is to see Hill and his therapist interact and share mental health exercises.

"I just watched Stutz, Jonah Hill's new movie on @netflix, and I learned more about mental health in 90 minutes than I did with six years of reading self-help books and going to various therapists," wrote one Twitter user. Others called it a "life hack," a "masterpiece," and "a joy to watch."

While trying self-help tools at home, such as those that Dr. Stutz and Hill talk about in the film, could be effective and safe for some, it's important to keep in mind that therapy should be tailored to the individual, notes Rollin. If you try the tools exhibited in the documentary at home and find them too triggering, seek out a mental health professional to process that with, she advises.

Shattering the Stigma Around Mental Health Care

This isn't the first time Hill has opened up about his mental health. Ahead of the film's release, Hill shared that he would not be promoting Stutz with public appearances in an effort to work on his anxiety in a letter published on Deadline.

"Through this journey of self-discovery within the film, I have come to the understanding that I have spent nearly 20 years experiencing anxiety attacks, which are exacerbated by media appearances and public facing events," he wrote at the time.

Hill isn't the only big name to use their platform to open up about seeking help for mental health. Selena Gomez, who has been open about her health in the past, released her own documentary, Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me, on Apple TV in November 2022. It's focused on her mental health and includes a look at the Only Murders in the Building star's bipolar disorder diagnosis and struggle with lupus. The actress also recently launched a company aiming to help people prioritize mental wellness.

Hill and other celebrities' decisions to share their mental health journeys can be beneficial to the general public. "It's so powerful for people who are struggling with mental illness, or just mental health in general, to see celebrities coming out and kind of eradicating some of the shame and stigma," says Rollin.

If you're struggling with mental health, it may be helpful to try the "tools" Dr. Stutz presents in the film, or consider reaching out to a mental health professional for individualized help.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles