Magic has the power to entertain, the power to amaze and — when used as part of a therapeutic program at hospitals and rehabilitation centers — the power to heal. The tricks are illusions, but the benefits are real.
| ... the concepts of magic therapy are currently being used in more than 2,500 hospitals and rehabilitation centers in more than 30 countries.
“Magic therapy is treated like any other treatment in the hospital,” explained professional magician Kevin Spencer, who, together with his wife, Cindy, developed a therapeutic program known as the Healing of Magic program.
“For those of us who do magic, to be able to use the work we do to have a significant impact on someone’s life — there is no way to put into words the kind of satisfaction you get,” Spencer said.
The Spencers don’t lay claim to originating the idea of magic as a therapeutic tool. In fact, it was world-renowned illusionist David Copperfield, along with health-care administrator Julie DeJean, who developed a program known as Project Magic that first brought the therapeutic benefits of magic into a health-care and rehabilitative setting.
With the blessing of the Project Magic team, the Spencers formed their own program, the Healing of Magic, in 1984. They worked with occupational therapists to develop a Healing of Magic manual and a workshop, so that therapists in health-care facilities could learn the tricks and teach them to patients. They report that the concepts of magic therapy are currently being used in more than 2,500 hospitals and rehabilitation centers in more than 30 countries.
The Healing of Magic manual contains about 65 tricks, each of which has a primary therapeutic goal, such as helping patients with sequencing skills or fine motor skills. “It helps with skills for everyday life,” Spencer said. “For instance, in the case of a stroke patient, as they learn to put things in the right order to learn a magic trick, they can transfer those skills to everyday life.”
Spencer also notes that there is a social component with this type of therapy. “They interact with the therapist when they learn the trick, and there’s more interaction when they perform the trick.”
The reaction among individuals in the health-care field has been positive. Dr. Charity Johansson, professor of physical therapy at Elon University, was pleased at the results. “What amazed me in the workshop was here was a roomful of people all trying a magic trick, and they kept at it and kept at it until they got it,” Johansson said. “That fits into what we know about therapy — practice is very important. A big frustration is when an individual is not following through with their therapy. It’s important to find something that can motivate them.”
Paul Kapla, director of rehab services at Saint Joseph’s Hospital in Marshfield, Wis., agreed that it works well in keeping patients motivated. “Their therapy gets old after a while,” Kapla said. “This is a very worthwhile program that gives the patient some extra motivation.”
While the tricks in the “Healing of Magic” manual can be accomplished with simple household items, the trick presentation can be spruced up with the use of magic wands, silk scarves or other items that can be purchased at a magic shop or hobby store. Spencer reports that several major suppliers — such as D. Robbins & Co. in Cranbury, N.J. — are making props available at a discounted price. Any local magic or hobby shop that wants to see how they can support a “Healing of Magic” program in their area can call the Spencers at (434) 384-4740, or visit their Web site at magictherapy.com.