Therapeutic Magic

By Scott Hood


According to Atticus Finch in To Kill A Mocking Bird, you never know a person until you walk in their shoes. This allows you to see things from their point of view. A while back, I took a walk.

Contributed by Scott Hood

The Oakville Trafalgar Memorial Hospital is where I present my therapeutic magic program. Four years ago I was in that hospital for surgery. Following the surgery, I was off work for a week to recover. I had restrictions on what I could do, lift, bend and so on. Basically I was chair bound for that week to 10 days. I never realised how little was on TV during the day. Netflix and YouTube soon became routine too. Basically I was becoming board. With the restrictions I was limited on what I could do. I needed something to help pass the time as I was going stir crazy. Then it hit me. Therapeutic Magic! I could be a DYI patient. I keep a journal of thoughts and routines that I may want to add to my performance. This was the perfect time to open that book and work on a couple of those ideas.


The other learning experience I had was the interaction of the hospital volunteers with me. I came in contact with two of them during my stay on the surgery ward. All of them knew what they had to do. They know how to accomplish these activities. What they did not know was how to interact with me as a patient. All of them were stern looking. None of them cracked a smile. They were friendly enough, but not overly so. Maybe they were having a bad day? From the patients perspective I don’t care. I have problems of my own. When we work with our patients we need to make sure that we check our problems at the door. My guess is that for most of us this concept is second nature. I am sure that we do this every time we perform regardless of the event. But in the hospital it is especially important. Remember, you have no idea what is going on in your patient’s world. Where you are having a bad day, they may be having a catastrophic month.



It’s nice to be important, but it is important to be nice

- Author Unknown


My time as a patient, although fortunately short, was perfect on the job training for someone who is working with hospital patients. When we come into a hospital we almost instinctively know or understand that this can be a boring place to be. We all like down time. We all like to relax. But, too much relaxing can lose its appeal. Take a close look at your audience. How many of them have that glazed over look in their eyes? How many of them have that here we go again look. The therapist I work with is a recreational therapist. In her world, she wants to use non-traditional activates to help with the recovery of her patients. This is why therapeutic magic is such a perfect fit with her activates.


In my situation I did not need the physiotherapy to regain dexterity. What I needed was mental stimulation. By nature I am not one to lay around. When my wife and I go on a trip it is very seldom we have a beach day. In Copenhagen the group we were with, for the most part, decided to relax in the hotel for the day. My wife and I decided that that was not for us. We left our hotel around four in the afternoon and we walked all over the city arriving back at our hotel around midnight. For my wife and myself this is very typical. When you bring magic to teach a patient keep in mind that not only may they need to work on their physical abilities, they may also need or want to keep their mind sharp too.


When we present magic as therapy we are creating a double illusion. In this situation the illusion is not only how the trick is done, but that we are a part of their recovery program. Even if you do not teach a trick, but present a show for a group of patients you are giving them therapy. Therapy does not always involve dexterity. Sometimes it is cerebral. For a patient to get out of the daily hospital routine and do something that feels like what they would do prior to their admission to the hospital is therapeutic. I have had several patients tell me it was nice to get out of the room and do something ‘normal’ again. Your performance will get their mind working. They will concentrate to take in what you are doing. They will talk to each other and family members that come to visit. All these activities are good for their recovery.


No matter who your audience is they will benefit from your magic. It is immaterial if it is a teaching session for dexterity or performing for pure enjoyment. They will benefit! Both children and adults want to escape the hospital environment and you are the wizard who can transport them to that place, even if it is only for a short time.


When I have a teaching session for dexterity, one of the most common things I hear from my therapy patients is that they cannot wait to show their grandchildren this trick. Some are anxious to show them the trick and teach the grandchild how to do the trick. Others want to show them so they can entertain the grandchildren and they have no intention of telling them how the trick is done. They like being in on the secret just as much as we do.


Hopefully you won’t have to take a walk in your patient’s shoes. As someone who has, although only briefly, we make a difference when we entertain in a hospital.


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