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Posts Tagged ‘Harry Potter’

CBT Techniques in Harry Potter Lesson 1: Expecto Patronum by Darlene Weldon

Welcome to class, Muggles! Today we are going to cover some Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques for depression, borrowed from my colleague, Remus Lupin, from Hogwarts. You can see much of Professor Lupin’s work demonstrated in the movie “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” l will be referring to this movie for our talk today.

Depression is a condition which depletes joy and makes you feel helpless and hopeless. In the Harry Potter movies, depression is represented by the dementors who literally suck the joy and happy memories out of their victims, leaving them feeling cold and “…like I’d never be cheerful again.” (Ron in Prisoner of Azkaban)

To fight the dementors, Lupin teaches the powerful technique Expecto Patronum. To use this technique, you think of a happy memory or a happy time in your life. Whatever that is for you, recall it in as much detail as you can. When wizards do this, and say “Expecto Patronum” at the same time, it calls forth their magical spirit animal, one that is particular to their psyche, personality, and needs. Native Americans have a similar concept known as the totem animal. In the wizarding world, this spirit animal is called a patronus. In Latin expecto patronum means “I await a guardian.”

When called upon, the patronus, goes forth powerfully and protectively in a glowing white light that drives away the dementors. The key phrase is “when called upon.” When the dementors are upon you, it can be very difficult to remember to use Expecto Patronum. Happy memories may be hard to recall. At times you will need to ask for help, to talk to someone who is not being attacked by dementors, who can remind you of your happy times and hold hope for you when you can’t hold it for yourself. In the movie, Harry sends his own patronus, the stag, to save his godfather, Sirius, who is about to perish from a dementor attack. A good support system is important. If we are dealing with true depression rather than sadness, it is also important to visit with a therapist to uncover the causes and get some support tailored to your situation. At times, an SSRI (medication) can be helpful, or even life-saving for some.

I often recommend my clients keep a “Happy Thoughts” journal. You can write down any happy memories, funny times, achievements, accolades, things you are looking forward to…whatever makes you happy to think about. When you are having a hard time or a low mood, read your Happy Thoughts journal, recall a happy time or imagine one in the future. Positive thinking sustains your patronus!

After an attack by dementors, Lupin offers his friends and students some therapeutic chocolate. Eating chocolate can be a metaphor for practicing good self-care. “Chocolate” can of course be actual chocolate, (I prefer Ghiradelli milk chocolate!) or it can be any beneficial thing that brings comfort such taking a long bath, a nap, going outside, listening to some favorite music, talking to a friend, reading a book, going for a run, gardening, prayer, or whatever helps you restore yourself after a difficult time.

If you are a Harry Potter fan like I am…ob-viously… just saying Expecto Patronum can bring a sense of fun, light and joy over a challenging situation. For my young and young-at-heart clients who like Harry Potter, Expecto Patronum is a CBT technique they can relate to that is helpful, memorable and fun. Take a moment and think about what your patronus would be. Maybe it’s an animal for which you’ve always felt an affinity or admired. For those who would rather be assigned a patronus, there are plenty of quizzes you can take online including

In Lesson 2 we will be covering Bogarts and the spell Ridikulus, useful for anxiety, phobias, and OCD!

copyright 2017 Darlene Weldon