The Therapeutic Effects of Magic

by Mark Carbonaro

I am writing this article for a few reasons. One reason is to shed light on the fact that many artists, including magicians, suffer from mental illness. Another reason is that I want to be an advocate for people struggling with mental health and introduce my magic therapy program for those who suffer from mental illness.

I have been a magician since I was eleven years old and I have been a student of the McBride Magic & Mystery School since I was fourteen. I got hooked on magic when I was at a wedding reception and the groom poured water from his empty hands!

I started struggling with mental health problems when I was sixteen years old. I was walking to my photography class when I became aware that I was sweating under the arms. I did not know what it was then, but I realize now that I was having an anxiety attack! My mother realized I needed professional help and enrolled me in an outpatient clinic program called KidsPeace during the end of the summer going into my senior year.

While I was attending the KidsPeace program I started to come out of my depression. I brought in my guitar and started playing for the staff and other patients. It made me feel extraordinary as they were singing along and clapping their hands, like I was a superman or something! It was then I realized that one can be a healer while also being a patient patient.

After the summer had passed, I would go there instead of going to school. With therapy, and a combination of medications, I started feeling better. However, that was only the beginning of my struggles. Jeff McBride always told me to throw myself into my magic when I started to struggle. He never said it would make me feel better, but I knew that is what he meant, and he was right.

It is my dream to travel around the U.S. and abroad, sharing my skills. I am creating a program for clinics around the world, a sort of magic therapy. This program is still in its infancy and needs much care and work. The idea is to get people to not worry about their struggles, and to create some magic in the world instead. It is a simple idea, really. I would like to teach others magic, real magic…by giving them a transformative experience.

The program is broken down into five days. The lessons include theater games, sleight-of-hand instruction, performances, and other simple yet highly effective teachings. The patients will become involved in journaling and script writing, and there will be lectures. The way I see it, if the hands are busy, the mind is not.

Can I really help patients with anxiety, depression, or schizophrenia by teaching them to implement the practice of magic into their lives? I am willing to find out. Also, I am living proof that art can be very helpful in recovery from mental illness. Magic is a practice of love and healing. Remember, don’t be a magician…be magic!

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