Magic therapy cuts anxiety of kids in the hospital

Medical student magic therapist, Harrison Pravder, engaging a pediatric patient in magic therapy at Stony Brook Children’s Hospital. (Credit: Stony Brook U.)

A program called MagicAid helped significantly reduce anxiety for both kids in the hospital and their parents or caregivers by about 25%, research finds.

The experience of stress and fear upon hospitalization is frequent with pediatric patients.

The findings suggest that a magic therapy program for pediatric inpatient care may have great value to patients and caregivers while they’re in the hospital.

MagicAid magic therapy is an interactive therapy that uses magic tricks and magic sessions designed to alleviate patient anxiety. MagicAid is a non-profit organization that Harrison Pravder, a fourth-year medical student at the Renaissance School of Medicine at Stony Brook University, cofounded. Stony Brook Children’s runs the program under the guidance of professionals in the Child Life Program.

“It is important to develop tools to facilitate coping and encourage distraction for patients due to anxieties associated with hospitalization,” says Pravder.

“Anxiety often arises due to loss of self-determination and separation from home and family in patients, while, for parents, stress is often related to their child’s hospitalization and other concerns such as financial costs, and this stress can translate back to the child.”

Pravder and his colleagues found a majority of patients and parents to be receptive to magic therapy and willing to participate. They evaluated 100 inpatients ages 5 to 16 years and 90 caregivers at Stony Brook Children’s. The researchers randomly assigned patient-caregiver pairs to a magic therapy intervention group or control group. The magic therapy included a session of watching magic, learning how to perform a magic trick, and receiving a magic prop to practice in order to perform for others.

Researchers measured anxiety before and after the magic interventions by using validated self-report tools. These included a facial image scale and the venham picture test for younger patients and for older children a pictoral scale and a written scale signifying anxiety levels. They evaluated caregivers’ anxiety level using only the written linear scale, called the short State-Trait Anxiety Inventory (STAI).

After analyzing the results they found that the patient magic group’s standard anxiety reduced by 25% after the magic therapy, and the caregiver magic group’s anxiety reduced by 24%.

Part of the study included a questionnaire for health professionals designed to assess the usefulness of magic reducing anxiety and the feasibility of such a program in a healthcare setting.

Based on the results of 37 physicians and nurses surveyed at Stony Brook on the topic, 98% recommended continuance of the program, 97% reported that the student magicians were not a disturbance in the healthcare setting, 81% reported that the activity is helpful to the child, and 57% reported it as helpful to parents.

The study appears in Hospital Pediatrics.

Source: Stony Brook University