Local hospital OT promotes magic therapy in international research paper
20/02/2014An international new study co-authored by an occupational therapist working in Craigavon Area Hospital has shown that magic tricks can help patients with damaged hands.
The research paper was published in The Journal Of Hand Therapy and co-author Daniel Harte says that practicing some ‘sleight of hand’ magic tricks, like tying a knot one-handed, could help restore hand movements for patients weakened after hand injury or disorder.
Daniel commented: “The paper (Sleight of Hand: Magic, Therapy and Motor Performance) presented the current evidence for this treatment approach and, with reference to motor development in the human hand, explained how certain tricks can help improve these motor skills.”
He added; “In magic therapy, the ultimate goal is that the skills attained through practice of the tricks will translate into everyday activities. Magic is novel as it is fun and most people love a trick. Magicians become skilled through practice in the same way as musicians, jugglers and various other artists that require high level motor performance. Their dexterity skills are athletic compared to the general population. The therapist should always ensure that the chosen activity is appropriate for the patient and that it will compliment other parts of the therapy programme.”
Daniel went on to explain how he got involved in this pioneering research; "A few years ago I had an idea that sleight of hand could be a very engaging activity to use with patients, especially children who at times require prompting from their parents to do their exercises. When I investigated this more, I soon discovered that magic therapy has been used for several years.
I was particularly influenced by Kevin Spencer, my co-author and an adjunct professor of occupational therapy at the University of Alabama and one of the world's leading authorities on the therapeutic use of magic. Kevin is the founder of the Healing of Magic project and an illusionist with dozens of accolades to his credit including International Magician of the Year.
While on tour, Kevin regularly visits hospitals to demonstrate to therapists how to use tricks in rehabilitation. By coincidence, Kevin was visiting Ireland in 2012. I approached the University of Ulster to see if they would be interested in Kevin holding a workshop to explain the concept of magic therapy. The event went ahead and was attended by Occupational Therapists, Physiotherapists and Psychologists, as well as magicians from the Irish and Ulster Societies along with the local Society - the Mid Ulster Magic Circle as well as some children with physical needs.
I also contacted Dr. Dido Green from Oxford Brooke's University in London to enquire about a study she was doing involving Guy’s Hospital, Tel Aviv University and other centres. This study found that magic tricks could help children with hemiplegia, a weakening of one side of their body as a result of injury to the brain before, during or shortly after birth.”
Daniel’s co-author, Kevin Spencer passion for magic therapy derives from his own experiences as a patient in the 1980's when he sustained head and spinal injuries after a road traffic accident. After more than a year of physical and occupational therapy, he regained a full recovery. However, he became personally aware of the frustration and boredom that can be associated with long-term therapy. That’s when he had the idea of using simple magic tricks to engage and motivate patients. Today, the concepts of magic therapy are being used in more than 2,000 hospitals and rehab centres in over 30 countries.
Kevin said: “As well as hand rehabilitation, magic therapy is successfully being used in many other areas including traumatic brain injury, developmental disabilities, mental health, geriatrics, and paediatrics. We have found that the movements required to do simple magic tricks help patients regain lost physical skills while at the same time increasing their motivation and self-esteem. A magic trick can often be what leads a patient back to a functioning life. Magic wands don’t always belong with black hats and rabbits. Sometimes they belong in places where frail hands learn tricks and the magic – the real magic – is in the healing.”
Daniel Harte and Kevin Spencer pictured with Dr. Alison Porter Armstrong, senior lecturer at the Rehabilitation Institute in the University of Ulster at a magic therapy workshop in 2012.