Text -- 304-412-4065 Danny@DannyPettry.com

I Can Only Imagine is a film that was released in 2018.

It’s based on a true story about Bart Millard’s Christian Rock song, “I Can Only Imagine.”

I had the opportunity to watch this movie last weekend.


Bart Millard was physically and emotionally abused by his bio-father at their home in Texas.

His mother left, leaving Bart behind with his father.

The abuse grew after that.


I related to this movie as a recreational therapist because I’ve provided services for children with abuse-reactive needs for nearly 16 years.

Bart played football to impress his father, but was injured in a game (adding even more trauma to his life). Bart was unable to play again.

There were several therapeutic elements in Bart’s healing process that I believe recreational therapists would like to read about:

  • Listening to music was therapeutic for Bart. He listened to music as an escape when his mind was plagued with thoughts of his father abusing him.
  • Singing was therapeutic for him too. He started to build a connection with other people, gaining social support and connections.
  • Spirituality played a major part in Bart’s life. His mother had taken Bart to a summer Christian camp right before she left Bart. Bart learned about the Christian faith at this event. He met Shannon there, a girl who later becomes his wife.
  • Journaling: Bart started to journal while at this summer camp. His journal was a place for him to express his thoughts and feelings about (the monster), his father who abused him.
  • Power of prayer: He learned about prayer at this camp.
  • Social Support: He did have people who care. Many survivors of trauma claim they survived because they had one person. He had his girlfriend, he has the Church, he had his band.


Bart leaves home after high school to get away from his father.

He goes to Oklahoma City and joins a band they called, “Mercy Me.”

Bart and his band go to Nashville to make it big. The experts said he didn’t have it, yet, but could.


Bart upset, leaves, and returns home.

His father has pancreatic cancer and has turned to God.

His father is seeking redemption. He wants to make things right with his son.

Bart struggles with being able to forgive his father.

His father let Bart know that he had been listening to Bart sing on the radio when Bart sang choir at local churches (when Bart was still in Texas before leaving). Seeds were being planted.


I won’t tell you what happens between Bart and his father. I don’t want to give away any spoilers. You’ll have to watch the movie to find out what happens in the end.


Video Trailer

Here is the Music Video