Putting magic into your therapy

Have you ever told a client that hypnotherapy isn't a magic wand? Or tried to engage them in therapy by using their interests or popular concepts to create therapeutic metaphors? In this article, I'm going to look at how you can inspiration from Harry Potter to make your therapy magical.

Although 'Pottermania' is perhaps not quite the phenomenon it used to be, many children are familiar with the stories and films, and some of the spells and characters adapt very well to being used therapeutically. Although most of these ideas are aimed at children, remember some adults are big fans as well and there is nothing to stop you using these techniques with them. There are two spells in particular which can be used very much as in the books and films, and some general-purpose ones you can weave into other, more general metaphors.

'Expecto Patronum'
Dementors are the guards at the wizard prison Azkaban and in one of the stories they take up posts in and around Hogwarts school to (supposedly) protect the pupils from an escaped prisoner. The dementors look like the ‘Ghost of Christmas Future’ from Dicken's Christmas Carol – tall, with long black robes and hidden faces. They feed on your fears and suck all the good thoughts and joy out of you. I believe that J K Rowling has said she drew on her experience of depression to create them.

The only way to protect yourself from a dementor is to create a Patronus, which is a kind of guardian. It looks silvery and slightly transparent and is usually in the form of an animal. Harry’s is a stag, Hermione’s is an otter and Ron’s is a Jack Russell terrier. The type of animal doesn’t affect the Patronus’ power or abilities; a mouse Patronus would be just as powerful as a lion.

    Harry Potter: "And how do you conjure [the patronus]?"
    Remus Lupin [teacher]: "With an incantation, which will work only if you are concentrating, with       all your might, on a single, very happy memory."

So, a Patronus is created from a happy memory. It’s an advanced spell which Harry takes a long time to learn because the first few memories he chooses aren’t powerful enough. He refuses to give up, and keeps looking for more and more powerful positive memories until he gets it to work. This is really useful if your client finds it challenging to identify a good enough thought to dispel their unwanted feeling (which is, of course, represented by the Dementor).

The incantation, of course, is ‘expecto patronum’.

Questions to ask
  • What’s your happiest memory?   
  • How does that make you feel?
  • What animal would your Patronus be?

Ask them to imagine a dementor is causing their anxiety/phobia/issue and cast the spell, in trance or in role-play. When you have a memory happy enough to work, anchor the feeling of defeating the problem.

Boggarts (in HP world, at least) are shape-shifting creatures which lurk under beds and in cupboards and when seen look like your worst fear. No-one knows what a boggart looks like when he is on his own and he is best dealt with in groups because then he doesn’t know what shape to take. Moving from one shape to another weakens him.

The spell to get rid of a boggart is ‘Riddikulus’ which forces him into a new shape that the spell caster finds funny- if you are laughing at him, of course, you cannot be scared. This change of shape is usually accompanied by a loud cracking sound.

Questions to ask –
  • What would a boggart look like to you?
  • How could you make that funny?
  • Could any of your friends help you? 
  • What would the boggart look like to them?
  • How could they make that funny? 
  • Then perform the spell, in trance or via role play.

General-purpose spells
This one opens locked doors, and could be used as part of a metaphor – perhaps to open the control room, or a door into a magical, happy place etc.

'Arania Exumai'
This one drives away spiders so it could be good for arachnophobes. If your client's phobia is about something else, invent something. Most of the spells are based on Latin or Latin-sounding words, so look up the Latin for whatever the client is afraid of and go with that, e.g. Felis Exumai for cats, Canis Exumai for dogs.

This locks doors, so could be used alongside Alohomora to exit and enter a control room, peaceful place etc

Mirror of Erised
Not a spell exactly, more a magical gadget. Reading the name backwards, you can see this is the Mirror of Desire, and it reflects the you that you would like to be. A great tool for future pacing or getting in touch with self-esteem and good feelings.

This spell removes memories. To be used with care since playing around with memory in trance can be tricky.

Room of requirement
Lie the mirror, this one isn't exactly a spell, it's a magical room which appears when and where you need it. It always contains exactly what you need. It makes a good alternative to a peaceful place or control room metaphor, or you could imagine it contains the resources your client needs.

'Wingardium Leviosa'
This one makes things float into the air – it could be combined with the blow-away technique to lift the balloon full of bad thoughts or feelings.

There are other spells listed online (whole websites devoted to them, in fact) and you could always invent your own – or ask your client to do so.

I hope you have found some good ideas to use with your clients in this article, and also that it will inspire you to discover new and inventive ways to help them.


Author: is an experienced hypnotherapist and hypnotherapy trainer. She is the author of Their Worlds, Your Words and has co-written the Hypnotherapy Handbook, both of which are available from Amazon.
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