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Wednesday, 14 November, 2001, 00:02 GMT
Harry Potter's healing powers
A scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
A scene from Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone
The magic of Harry Potter is spreading into hospital wards.

J K Rowling's books about the young wizard are helping children deal with their own experiences and anxieties, say staff at London's Great Ormond Street Hospital.

The hospital's Mildred Creek unit helps children aged between seven and 14 who have psychological difficulties, such as eating disorders or behavioural problems.

The hospital has also used the books to help in a practical way. A child was recently helped by using 'Harry's magic' to develop a spell to overcome their fear of needles.

Children are entranced by the Harry Potter novels
Children are entranced by the Harry Potter novels
Lisa Lewer, clinical nurse leader of the unit, said: "Harry Potter's predicaments are similar to the problems that face young people generally. Problems like dealing with the loss or separation from parents and family or the anxiety of forming new relationships in unfamiliar places.

"But the different ways Harry tackles them demonstrates to children that by exploring their own struggles they can often find ways of overcoming them."

Metaphors

The books were first used after it was seen children were responding the themes in the books.

Dr Polly Carmichael, clinical psychologist at Great Ormond Street, told BBC News Online: "Harry Potter is useful in that children are very aware of it.


The stories show Harry making sense of his life story and finding positive ways forward


Dr Polly Carmichael, Great Ormond Street Hospital
"And where it has the magic elements, it's very grounded in real things."

She said themes in the novels spoke to children who had been through difficult times.

"There are themes of feeling in some way different, and that might be mental health problems or chronic illness.

"It might be being away from home quite a lot."

She said the books also showed children that memories of traumatic experiences, such as the murder of Harry's parents, will not be suppressed, and that understanding and talking about difficult experiences in the past can help.

"Harry Potter is a rounded character with good and bad points, but the stories show Harry making sense of his life story and finding positive ways forward, facing difficulties and coming out on top.

"This is an important message for children who bury their emotional problems."

The use of Harry Potter in therapies for children at Great Ormond Street will be featured in Tomorrow's World on BBC 1, Wednesday 14 November at 1900GMT.

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