Sometimes those in the health professions forget the role the arts can play in promoting and protecting human health. However, over the last several decades, medical professionals have begun to explore new approaches that go beyond clinical treatment. These expressive arts therapies gained widespread recognition throughout the late 20th century. One such creative therapeutic approach is the use of simple magic tricks in physical and psychosocial rehabilitation.

Spencer is recognized as the leading authority on the therapeutic use of magic tricks in physical and psychosocial rehabilitation. His program, Healing of Magic™, is a carefully designed, systematic approach to train therapists in the protocol of this arts-integrated technique.

Hancher Auditorium and the University of Iowa just finished an amazing 10 days with Kevin Spencer. When we book artists, we select those who are experienced at partnering with academic areas of the university beyond the arts – or those who work well with community partners. Kevin is one of those rare artists who can do both. Kevin totally transformed lives of Iowans who have never been touched by the arts before using his magic in a very thoughtful and personal way. They will never forget his visit. He ended our residency time with impressive work with the faculty and doctoral students in the University of Iowa Department of Physical Therapy and Rehabilitation Science in the Carver College of Medicine. It was a time in which we built relationships and partnerships that will continue to grow because of Kevin’s incredible work and commitment to making a difference in people’s lives.

Chuck Swanson, Iowa City, IA

Healing of Magic™ or Magic Therapy™ is a treatment program that uses simple magic tricks as a fun and motivating way for patients to reach therapeutic goals and improve cognitive and motor skills. It is a research-based protocol of simple magic tricks supported by robust scientific research.

Spencer’s magic trick-based work has been featured in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the Australian Occupational Therapy Journal, Journal of Hand Therapy, HEALTH magazine, TODAY in OT, and the Washington Post. He has the Approved Provider Status of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), has been the Keynote Speaker at numerous state occupational therapy conferences, has conducted breakout sessions and workshops around the world, and consults on international arts-based research studies. Today, the concepts of the magic therapy are being used in more than 2,000 hospitals and rehab centers in over 30 countries around the world.

Fieldwork on magic trick integration and traumatic brain injury won first poster prize at the Canadian Association of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Meeting in Toronto.

Research using magic tricks as an intervention with mental health diagnoses won first poster prize at the International Mental Health Conference in Hong Kong. Currently, we are participating in a 3-year study in Hong Kong that aims at enhancing the psychological and physical well-being of children aged 6 to 12 with emotional problems.

And research on using magic tricks as a themed approach to hand-arm bi-manual intensive therapy for children with hemiplegia won first poster prize at the European Academy of Childhood Disabilities Conference and the abstract was accepted for publication in Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology (Green, 2013).

As a person learns to perform a magic trick, they voluntarily spend much more time working to acquire a complex and sequential series of motor skills. In more traditional forms of therapy, they might simply tolerate these activities rather than become fully engaged in them. But most importantly, by learning and performing these simple little tricks, patients can transfer the skills they learn into activities of daily living.

This type of treatment technique empowers therapists with a valuable new tool to motivate their clients to become more involved in their therapy. Teaching them to do something that the normal “able-bodied” person can’t do – a magic trick – can be a tremendous boost to the self-esteem of someone with a disability, debilitating injury or illness, improving their confidence and motivating them in other areas of their lives.

The use of simple magic tricks from the healing of magic program can assist in:

following simple and complex directions, memory, planning, sequencing, organizing, problem solving.

dexterity, eye-motor coordination, speed and accuracy, object manipulation.

range of motion, strengthening, and balance in the upper and lower extremities.

being able to plan and know what steps are necessary for a particular movement.

concentration, task follow-through, memory.

visual (form discrimination, form constancy, spatial relations, figure group, eye-hand coordination), tactile, proprioception, and kinesthesia.

self-efficacy, self-esteem, group interaction, interpersonal skills.

In addition to increasing motivation levels, there is a reshaping of their self-concept – something that is essential for every recovering patient. Empowering clients to feel good about themselves and their accomplishments can increase their motivation to try harder, take more risks, and continue to build their self-confidence and self-efficacy while improving cognitive and psychomotor skills.

The repetitive action of practicing a magic trick can help build up strength and dexterity and, consequently, help to increase independence. The performance skills taught as part of the magical learning experience are used to increase the participants’ communication skills, confidence, self-esteem and emotional wellbeing.

Kevin Spencer is committed to providing the highest quality of continuing education workshops to all rehabilitation therapists. His presentation style is engaging, exciting, and his approach is fully interactive. He is dedicated to empowering therapists with research-based knowledge and new treatment tools to help motivate their clients to achieve function and measurable goals.

I almost didn’t attend your course because I thought it was going to be another “hokey” presentation. BOY WAS I WRONG! You have created something really special, and the fact that this approach is evidence-based excites me beyond belief. I am a hand therapist with over 25 years experience working with patients. I’ve attended hundreds of continuing ed courses, taught many continuing ed courses myself, taught at several universities, written for therapy text books / professional journals, chaired professional associations and regulatory boards and NOTHING has excited me more than this concept of using magic as a treatment tool. I’ve never been so interested in a treatment approach in all my years of practice.

Dr. Christine M. Wietlisbach, OTD, OTR/L, CHT, MPA

Kevin set new expectations this year as OTAC’s Keynote speaker! He captured the audience by connecting with everyone in the room, both professionally and personally, through his talents and his own therapy story. Therapists were stunned and motivated by his program, which includes simple and effective “tricks of the trade” that are easily applicable to client goals. Above all, he was relevant, engaging, inspiring, and approachable to all throughout our conference.

Akemi Davies, OTR/L

I thought that your class and the keynote speech were the most valuable things that I took away from the conference. You are one of the most interesting and intriguing speakers I have ever met and I find your work inspirational! Thank you for all you do for occupational therapy!

Max Zweig, OTR/L