Lindsay Johnson, a licensed professional counselor and the outreach coordinator for the Wellness Center, hopes to see wizardry students next spring to learn spells that will help fight their stressful thoughts through the "Defense Against the Stressful Thoughts" workshop. - Staff writer / Kristin Guglietti

Lindsay Johnson is not only an outreach coordinator and licensed professional counselor at Rowan — she is also a huge “Harry Potter” fan who welcomes all wizards to attend her workshop next spring.

She developed the “Defense Against the Stressful Thoughts” workshop from a conference she attended.

“It’s a way of using the world of ‘Harry Potter’ to help think about our lives and maybe some things that impact our well-being, and using some of the concepts from the books and movies,” Johnson said.

The workshop started last year during the fall semester. Eleven students would come in for an hour, some of them dressed in wizard robes, including Johnson, who has a black, fuzzy one. There are 10 sessions, spanning approximately 9 3/4 weeks.

After success during the first semester of the workshop, Johnson brought it back in the spring. However, she had to end it because only one person showed up. The same thing happened again this fall.

“We need resources. It’s not worth keeping something if nobody is going to show,” Johnson said.

One of the problems is that Johnson is a therapist who doesn’t have the marketing resources she needs to spread the word. 

“We don’t have a marketing person here [at the Wellness Center],” said Johnson. “I’m a therapist at heart. That’s what I was trained in. I wasn’t trained as a marketing professional or a PR person.” 

She said, “We can probably do better in terms of our marketing…it’s just hard with finding the funding and where you want the funding to go.”

Previously, the event was called “Defense Against the Dark Thoughts.” Johnson changed the name after feedback because people thought “dark thoughts” were restricted to people who were significantly struggling or people with suicidal thoughts.

“That’s why I changed it to the ‘stressful thoughts,’ because I was thinking people might be able to identify that anyone could come in and be like ‘this applies to me’ no matter where you are in terms of your mental health,” Johnson said.

In other words, all wizards are welcome to join in on the magic.

One of her workshop topics is dementors who are phantoms that suck the life out of people in the “Harry Potter” universe.

“They come over you. This dark cloud. They suck the life out — the happiness out of you. You don’t feel anything at all sometimes. I think that really does describe depression really well,” Johnson said.

“To fight off the dementors you use a patronus [a spell] and everyone’s patronus is different, which I think makes a lot of sense because the way that we cope with our mental health is often [that] everybody kind of has something different that works for them. We have different strategies and different coping mechanisms,” she said. “In the workshop, we talk about how do you find your patronus, the thing that works best for you.”

They also watch clips from the movies. For one of the discussions, they talked about the scene in the sixth movie where Ron wears a cursed locket, also known as a horcrux, around his neck, which causes him to think the worst possible thoughts.

Johnson said Ron was seeing things that confirmed his already-held belief that he was a third wheel. In therapy, they call it a confirmation bias. At the workshop, they discuss how they see things a certain way in their own lives.

They also talk about cognitive behavior therapy, which is changing how we think and breaking down negative beliefs.

“Spend a little time with it rather than accepting it as truth,” Johnson said. 

Victoria Baker, a freshman radio, television and film major said it’s the first time she has heard about “Defense Against the Stressful Thoughts.”

“I watch all the movies and started the books,” Baker said. 

Stephanie Ibe, a senior biology major, said she’s seen posters for the workshop around the Wellness Center, by the elevator in Science Hall and at one of the residential buildings. Ibe also loves “Harry Potter,” having watched all of the movies and read half of the books.

“I feel mental health, talking about it isn’t the most fun but tying in popular topics makes it more interesting—especially Harry Potter. It’s a really great way to understand mental health issues,” Ibe said. 

Ibe said she’d be interested in checking the workshop out next semester as long as it fits around her class schedule. 

As for Johnson, she likes the connectedness of the workshop.

“I like the workshop because it helps people make connections. Social connection is a really important part of staying well,” she said.

“Defense Against the Stressful Thoughts” will be held Tuesdays 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the Rec Center during the spring semester. If students have questions about or ideas for the event they can email Johnson at johnsonln@rowan.edu.

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