This Doctor Prescribes Magic: Magic and Mental Health
"There's really only 3 situations where I may talk about magic with someone. I don’t just offer magic everyday, I don’t want to impose my view on things or get people to like what I like, I’m very careful about that. It works much better when you are relatively impartial and you don’t try to Impose your beliefs on someone.The last thing I want is for people to think I’m a quack. I have a very practical approach ...I give people the tools to use in moments of stress. To make people feel like they're acquiring skills, like they have options. What I have found is..."
This is an interview with a friend of Fantasma, Greg Kushnick. Dr. Kushnick is a clinical psychologist in Manhattan who (in very special cases) prescribes magic to his patients. But what does that mean, and how can that help? This blog is a question and answer with Dr. Kushnick and an exploration into how magic can help mental health. My post interview notes are in italics. You can see more about Dr.Kushnick at https://manhattanpsychologist.com -RJ (Director of Fantasma)
RJ: Ok, so what do you do exactly?
Dr. Kushnick: I’m a clinical psychologist in Manhattan. I have been in practice for 20 years. I’m trained in a variety of theoretical approaches, but I’m primarily a cognitive behavioral therapist.
Greg is being humble. He is a very successful doctor with multiple offices in Manhattan, he is one of the top psychologists in NYC and he has even been a contributor to Forbes & Huffington Post.
Dr. Kushnick: Part of my approach is giving people tools and options as opposed to a lot of therapists who really rely on insight. However, giving people insight doesn’t always lead to a behavior change. Realizing something doesn’t always lead to change, it needs to be practiced and reinforced...to change the behavior attached to it. It can make you feel better, make you feel enlightened but I haven’t found [an insight-based approach] to change behavior. A practical tool or technique, something they can do in a certain situation can help create a mental change.
RJ: So why would someone come to you?
Dr. Kushnick: Maybe they feel like they can’t handle their problems alone or maybe when their family member or partner demands they go to therapy, which unfortunately is relatively common. I work with people that have anxiety, panic attacks….I’m very adept in terms of helping people who suffer from problems like that, especially high achieving folk...which is common in New York. Depression, relationship issues, anger management, etc.
RJ: So I know you don’t “prescribe magic” to everyone, It’s in special cases. But what exactly does that mean? When and how?
Dr.Kushnick: The truth is...there's really only 3 situations where I may talk about magic with someone.
I don’t just offer magic everyday, I don’t want to impose my view on things or get people to like what I like, I’m very careful about that. It works much better when you are relatively impartial and you don’t try to Impose your beliefs on someone. But what I have found is:
Situation 1: Usually a man (Usually) who is looking for a hobby, a hobby that can have maximum impact. I may suggest magic, among a few other things. But that’s not necessarily what I do.
Situation 2: With people with social anxiety, magic can be extremely helpful with people who may have difficulty at a party for example, or just in a bar. Some people feel really protected when they have something to go to, in an unstructured social situations. They literally have a trick up their sleeves...that gets into why magic is so special. You are creating wonder, and you’re gaining skills, even with a small effect. It’s a great icebreaker and can be very effective.
RJ: Have you seen any research where something like magic or theater can help anything like this?
Dr. Kushnick: Oh yeah! Theater especially, I have a family member who is a prominent playwright. And she has a whole method of helping people in dramatic ways, through theater. She can really create massive change. I get inspired by seeing how people react to magic, even simple magic. A little bit of magic can really have maximum impact in important moments. I believe there's an endorphin rush, a curiosity that happens with a magic trick. It’s helpful with social anxiety, especially informal situations.
Situation 2: I will recommend it to a parent that comes in that just wants to be silly with their kids. Some parents don’t take the time to be silly with their kids.
Side Note: Greg practices what he preaches. Even having a busy practice in NYC Greg takes every Tuesday to spend time with his family. A true family man if I say so myself.
Typically it is a father who is a businessman who realizes that they aren't spending enough time with their kids. They feel they’ve been absent, it’s quite common with parents who are prone to overworking, depressed or both. So I will recommend [again among other things], that they buy a series of tricks or a magic kit. That way they can create a ritual with their children. There’s nothing that makes a kid stop everything they are doing and be full of wonder and awe, than when “Daddy” or “Mommy” is taking out a few tricks and plays with them. It’s an easy way to bond with the children. Everyone loves magic, and It’s cool to relate to people you love. It can be very effective.
RJ: Can you tell me an example of a time where you saw results? Obviously we can't discuss specifics, but give me a general idea?
Kushnick: I had a situation where a parent was looking to do better. I recommended a few very carefully selected tricks, they performed them for their children...And this person didn’t feel they had the best relationship with their kids. And before long, within a matter of a few weeks, the whole neighborhood was coming to watch this person perform. They were like a magnet, entertaining everyone in the neighborhood. It was a dramatic change, but sometimes people wake up and realize that they have been neglecting their children.
Fantasma Magic has a lot of awesome kits that parents can utilize in a lot of situations Dr.Kushnick describes. We also have a variety of "pocket tricks" which are great effects that adults can learn, all of which come with detailed instructions! Again, magic is not a be-all-end-all cure for all mental health issues. However Dr. Kushnick suggests that magic can be used in certain situations to help people who may feel paralyzed in group settings or for parents who are looking to connect with their children. Please note that Dr. Kusnick is not your psychologist, and if you are seeking assistance in your own life in terms of anxiety, depression or family issues you can find one in your area by clicking here.