Milton H. Erickson

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Milton Hyland Erickson
Erickson college.jpg
Born5 December 1901 (1901-12-05)
Died25 March 1980 (1980-03-26) (aged 78)
Occupation Psychiatrist and psychotherapist
Spouse(s)Helen, Elizabeth

Milton Hyland Erickson (5 December 1901 – 25 March 1980) was an American psychiatrist and psychologist specializing in medical hypnosis and family therapy. He was founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychopathological Association. He is noted for his approach to the unconscious mind as creative and solution-generating. He is also noted for influencing brief therapy, strategic family therapy, family systems therapy, solution focused brief therapy, and neuro-linguistic programming. [1]

Contents

Personal History

Biographical sketches have been presented in a number of resources, the earliest being by Jay Haley in Advanced Techniques of Hypnosis and Therapy [2] which was written in 1968 collaboration with Erickson himself. Though they never met Erickson, the authors of The Worlds Greatest Hypnotists [3] did a thorough job of researching the details of his biography. The following information about his life is documented in that source. Currently the most comprehensive information is available through The Milton H. Erickson Foundation in Phoenix, Arizona, a non-profit founded the year prior of his death.

Milton Hyland Erickson was the second child of nine of Albert and Clara Erickson. Born in a mining camp in Aurum, Nevada where his father mined silver, the family moved to the farming community of Beaver Dam Wisconsin when he was quite young. The family settled on a modest farm, and the children all attended the one room schoolhouse in nearby Lowell. One of only two boys with seven sisters, the family farm was very demanding of physical labor [4] .

Erickson was late in learning to speak and had difficulties in reading which he described as dyslexia. He was also color blind and tone deaf. Later in life as he explained what seemed to be extraordinary abilities, he stated that the "disabilities" (dyslexia, color blindness, being tone-deaf) helped him to focus on aspects of communication and behavior which most people overlooked. This is a typical example of emphasizing the positive, which is characteristic to his overall approaches. [5]

Though the family valued education, books were scarce. His desire to learn led him to read the dictionary front to back, repeatedly, along with the few other texts the family treasured. He overcame his dyslexia and described the pivotal moments in a paper entitled “Auto-hypnotic Experiences of Milton Erickson which is contained within The Collected Works of Milton H. Erickson, MD. The early moments of creative change, which he described as a “blinding flash of light” was later recognized by him to be an early spontaneous auto-hypnotic experience. [6]

He first became interested hypnosis at an early age when a traveling entertainer passed through the area. He later described his feelings that hypnosis was too powerful of a tool to be left to entertainers and decided to bring this tool into the realm of scientific evaluation and into the practice of medicine. At the time, Erickson already admired the local community doctor and had committed himself to becoming a physician. [2]

At age 17, he contracted polio which left him with lifelong disabilities. Having long been interested in hypnosis, the year of his recovery gave him the opportunity to explore the potential of hypnosis self-healing. He began to recall "body memories" of the muscular activity of his own body. By concentrating on his memories, he slowly learned to tweak his muscles to regain control of parts of his body to the point where he was eventually able to talk and use his arms. Still unable to walk, he decided to train his body further by embarking - alone - on a thousand-mile canoe trip with only a few dollars. After this grueling trip, he was able to walk with a cane which he used throughout his adult life, becoming confined to a wheelchair only in his last decade of life. While he himself attributes his self-healing with giving him insight into the use of hypnosis, the magnitude of the extent that his own ordeal contributed to the techniques he became known for remain speculative. [2]

After recovering his ability to walk, he attended the University of Wisconsin and achieved graduate degrees in both psychology and medicine. It was there that he began his formal studies of hypnosis and worked in the laboratory of Clark Hull. His ideas were somewhat different from Hull’s, and he began to explore his own views of hypnosis, investing himself in rigorous scientific exploration of the nature of hypnosis. Specializing in psychiatry, he took a series of positions at state hospitals that allowed him to continue research in hypnosis while refining his approaches to therapy. He was already a prolific writer focusing primarily on case studies and experimental work relevant to advancing understanding of hypnosis. These earlier writings are now also included in TheCollected Works of Milton Erickson, M.D. [2]

During the WWII, he conducted physical and mental examinations of the soldiers. He was called upon by the U.S. intelligence services to meet with other experts to help the war effort through a better understanding of the psychological and mental factors involved in communication relevant to combat. Margaret Mead and Gregory Bateson were among those with whom he worked in this capacity and with whom he developed lifelong friendships. Over the subsequent decades, they consulted many times on a series of projects. [7]

In his late 40’s, he developed post-polio syndrome which resulted in additional muscle loss and additional pain. [7] At that time, he and his wife Elizabeth and family of five young children departed from Detroit and his position at Eloise State Hospital to relocate in Phoenix, Arizona where it was believed that the weather conditions would support healing. Once in Phoenix, he established himself in private practice, and had a home office for the remainder of his life. [2]

At this stage of his career, he became active in the Society for Clinical and Educational Hypnosis (SCEH) which promoted research and taught physicians how to use clinical hypnosis. Due to personal differences with others in the organization, and strong feelings about the most effective manner in which to bring clinical hypnosis into the hands of practicing physicians and dentists, Erickson ended his affiliation with the SCEH and broke away to form the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis (ASCH) in July 1957. For a decade he was the founding editor of the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis and had at least one article in every issue. He dedicated the next two decades of his life to professional writing, teaching other professionals, and maintaining a private practice. This was a productive period during which he developed and refined his own unique style of hypnotherapy therapy which caught the attention of other notables. [8]

His ongoing relationship with Gregory Bateson led others to take an interest in Erickson’s unique communication skills and therapeutic approaches. In 1973, Jay Haley published Uncommon Therapy, which for the first time brought Erickson and his approaches to the attention of those outside the clinical hypnosis community. Erickson's fame and reputation spread rapidly, and so many people wished to meet him that he began holding teaching seminars, which continued until his death. [9]

Throughout his professional career he collaborated with a series of serious students, and the colleagues who recognized the uniqueness and effectiveness of Erickson’s approaches amassed Erickson’s individual publications into volumes. His weekly workshops remained popular until his death. It was during that interval of time that his students began to create frameworks for the work that Erickson did, and describe in their own way the style of his work. Those efforts have influenced a vast number of psychotherapeutic directions, including brief therapy, family systems therapy, strategic therapy, neuro-linguistic programming, and additional directions. [9]

Milton H. Erickson died in March 1980, aged 78, leaving behind his wife Elizabeth, four sons, four daughters, and a lasting legacy to the worlds of psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, hypnotherapy, pedagogics and communications. [9]

Hypnosis

Milton Erickson dedicated his professional career to the advancement of the use of hypnosis in the context of medicine. He was committed to scientific methodology and a staunch advocate of the regulated professional training for practitioners. The investigations of Erickson in the first half of the 20th century were particularly influential on the second half. Erickson’s clinical innovations on the practice of hypnosis are credited with inspiring its renaissance and arousing a new generation of practitioners. [10]

Trance and the Unconscious Mind

Erickson’s view of the unconscious mind was distinctly different from that of Freud whose ideas dominated the context of the times. Zeig quotes Erickson as describing “The unconscious mind is made up of all your learnings over a lifetime, many of which you have forgotten, but which serve you in your automatic functioning.” [11] Andre Weitzenhoffer points out: “The Ericksonian ‘unconscious’ lacks in particular the hostile and aggressive aspects so characteristic of Freud’s system.” [12]

It is clear from Erickson’s writing that he relied on a supposition of an active, significant, unconscious. [13] It was Erickson’s perspective that hypnosis provided a tool with which to communicate with the unconscious mind and access the reservoir of resources held within. He describes in a 1944 article on unconscious mental activity, “Since hypnosis can be induced by trance and manifests the unwarranted assumption is made that whatever develops from hypnosis must be completely a result of suggestion, and primarily an expression of it.” In the same publication Erickson repeatedly comments about the autonomy of the unconscious mind and its capacity to solve problems. [14]

Erickson was an irrepressible practical joker. The essential element of Erickson’s jokes was not hostility, but surprise. [15] It was not uncommon for him to slip indirect suggestions into a myriad of situations. He also included humor in his books, papers, lectures and seminars. [16]

The same situation is in evidence in everyday life, however, whenever attention is fixated with a question or an experience of the amazing, the unusual, or anything that holds a person's interest. At such moments people experience the common everyday trance; and get that faraway or blank look. Their eyes may actually close, their bodies tend to become immobile (a form of catalepsy), certain reflexes (e.g., swallowing, respiration, etc.) may be suppressed, and they seem momentarily oblivious to their surroundings until they have completed their inner search on the unconscious level for the new idea, response, or frames of reference that will re-stabilize their general reality orientation. We hypothesize that in everyday life consciousness is in a continual state of flux between the general reality orientation and the momentary micro-dynamics of trance. [17]

Many people are familiar with the idea of a "deep" trance, and early in his career Erickson was a pioneer in researching the unique and remarkable phenomena that are associated with that state, spending many hours at a time with individual subjects, deepening the trance. Erickson’s work on depth of trance is detailed in his 1952 paper in which he provides history, justification, and ideas about its use. [18] Trance states for therapeutic reasons can be either light or deep, depending on such factors as the personality of the patient, the nature of the problem and the stage of therapeutic progression. [19]

Where traditional hypnosis is authoritative and direct and often encounters resistance in the subject, Erickson's approach is permissive, accommodating and indirect. [20] For example, where a classical hypnotist might say "You are going into a trance", an Ericksonian hypnotist would be more likely to say "you can comfortably learn how to go into a trance." In this way, he provides an opportunity for the subject to accept the suggestions they are most comfortable with, at their own pace, and with an awareness of the benefits. The subject knows they are not being hustled and takes full ownership of, and participates in, their transformation. Because the induction takes place during the course of a normal conversation, Ericksonian hypnosis is often known as conversational hypnosis. In a 1976 paper, Erickson describes his developments of indirect suggestions. [21]

Techniques

While Erickson explored a vast arena of induction methodologies and techniques of suggestions, there are certain areas where his name is known as key in the development or popularity of the approaches. He used direct and indirect approaches, though he is most known for his indirect and permissive suggestion techniques. [22]

Indirect Suggestions

Erickson maintained that it was not consciously possible to instruct the unconscious mind, and that authoritarian suggestions were likely to be met with resistance. The unconscious mind responds to opportunity, metaphors, symbols, and contradictions. Therefore, effective hypnotic suggestion, then, should be "artfully vague," leaving space for the subject to fill in the gaps with their own unconscious understandings - even if they do not consciously grasp what is happening.

Erickson developed both verbal and non-verbal techniques and pioneered the idea that the common experiences of wonderment, engrossment and confusion are, in fact, just kinds of trance. An excellent example of this can be viewed in the documentary film. [23]

Metaphor

Erickson sometimes instructed people to climb a mountain or visit a botanical garden. His narrative and experiential metaphors are explored extensively in Sydney Rosen's My Voice Will Go With You, but an example is given in the first chapter of David Gordon's book Phoenix. The following quotes Erickson: [24]

I was returning from high school one day and a runaway horse with a bridle on sped past a group of us into a farmer's yard looking for a drink of water. The horse was perspiring heavily. And the farmer didn't recognize it so we cornered it. I hopped on the horse's back. Since it had a bridle on, I took hold of the tick rein and said, "Giddy-up." Headed for the highway, I knew the horse would turn in the right direction. I didn't know what the right direction was. And the horse trotted and galloped along. Now and then he would forget he was on the highway and start into a field. So I would pull on him a bit and call his attention to the fact the highway was where he was supposed to be. And finally, about four miles from where I had boarded him, he turned into a farmyard and the farmer said, "So that's how that critter came back. Where did you find him?" I said, "About four miles from here." "How did you know you should come here?" I said, "I didn't know. The horse knew. All I did was keep his attention on the road."

Interspersal Technique

Erickson describes hypnotic technique as a means to an end while psychotherapy addresses guidance of the subject’s behaviors. As such, the same hypnotic technique can be applied towards diverse patient concerns. In his discussion of the applications of the interspersal technique, Erickson offers two case examples in which a similar application of the technique was made. One patient was suffering from intolerable malignant pain from a terminal condition, while the other subject was an intelligent though illiterate man who sought to relieve a disabling symptom of frequent urination. Erickson provides an interesting case write up for each of the cases chosen to illustrate his use of the interspersal technique. Erickson provides a transcript for the induction in which he interwove personalized therapeutic suggestion, selected specifically for the patient, within the hypnotic induction itself. The transcript offered illustrates how easily hypnotherapeutic suggestions can be included in the trance induction along with trance-maintenance suggestions. In the follow-up case discussions Erickson credits the patients’ positive responses to the receptivity of their unconscious minds: they knew why they were seeking therapy, they were desirous of benefiting from suggestions. Erickson goes on to state that one should also give recognition to the readiness with which one’s unconscious mind picks up clues and information. Erickson stated that “Respectful awareness of the capacity of the patient’s unconscious mind to perceive the meaningfulness of the therapist’s own unconscious behavior is a governing principle in psychotherapy. The patient’s unconscious mind is listening and understanding much better than is possible for his conscious mind.” [25]

Confusion Technique

“In all my techniques, almost all, there is a confusion.” – Milton H. Erickson [26]

Erickson describes the confusion technique of hypnotic induction that he developed as being done either through pantomime or through plays on words. Spoken to attentive listeners with complete earnestness, a burden of constructing a meaning is placed upon the subject, and before they can reject it another statement can be made to hold their attention. One example is offered in which he uses verb tenses to keep the subject “…in a state of constant endeavor to sort out the intended meaning.” He offers the following example: One may declare so easily that the present and the past can be so readily summarized by the simple statement “That which is now will soon be yesterday’s future even as it will be tomorrow’s was. Thus the past, the present, and the future all used in reference to the reality of today.” Erickson describes the second element of confusion to be the inclusion of irrelevancies and non sequiturs. Taken in context these verbal distractions are confusing and lead progressively to the subject’s earnest desire for and an actual need to receive some communication they can readily understand. A primary consideration of the confusion technique is the consistent maintenance of a general causal but definitely interested attitude and speaking in a gravely earnest and intent manner expressive of a certain utterly complete expectation of the subject’s understanding. Erickson wrote several articles detailing the technique and results that can be achieved. This succinct overview comes from a 1964 article, one of several written by one of several articles detailing the technique, the justification and the responses that could be achieved. [27]

Handshake Induction

Erickson describes the routine as follows: [26]

Hand Levitation

Erickson was the first to describe the hand levitation method of induction, described as being broadly applicable. Weitzenhoffer describes the technique as broadly applicable and quotes a colleague as describing Erickson’s demonstration as “the best of all induction procedures. It permits the participation in the induction process by the patient and lends itself to non-directive and analytic techniques” [28] It is however, the most difficult of methods and calls for greater endurance on the part of the hypnotist.” A transcript of Erickson demonstrating this technique script is included. [29] The nature of the induction is for the hypnotherapist to repeatedly suggest a lightness in the hand, which results in a dissociative response and the hand elevating unconsciously.

Resistance

In the book Uncommon Therapy, Jay Haley [5] identified several strategies, which repeatedly appeared repeatedly in Erickson's therapeutic approach. For Erickson, the classic therapeutic request to "Tell me everything about ...," was both aggressive and disrespectful, instead he would ask the resistant patient to withhold information and only to tell what they were ready to reveal:

[Erickson] “I usually say, "There are a number of things that you don't want me to know about, that you don't want to tell me. There are a lot of things about yourself that you don't want to discuss, therefore let's discuss those that you are willing to discuss." She has blanket permission to withhold anything and everything. But she did come to discuss things. And therefore, she starts discussing this, discussing that. And it's always "Well, this is all right to talk about." And before she's finished, she has mentioned everything. And each new item - "Well, this really isn't so important that I have to withhold it. I can use the withholding permission for more important matters." Simply a hypnotic technique. To make them respond to the idea of withholding, and to respond to the idea of communicating.”

Some people might react to a direction by thinking "Why should I?" or "You can't make me." This is called a “polarity response” because it motivates the subject to consider the polar opposite of the suggestion. The conscious mind recognizes negation in speech ("Don't do X") but according to Erickson, the unconscious mind pays more attention to the "X" than the injunction "Don't do." Thus, Erickson used this as the basis for suggestions that deliberately played on negation and tonally marked the important wording, to provide that whatever the client did, it would be beneficial: "You don't have to go into a trance, so you can easily wonder about what you notice no faster than you feel ready to become aware that your hand is slowly rising."

Double Bind

Providing a worse alternative (The 'Double Bind') - Example: "Do you want to go into a trance now, or later?" The 'double bind' is a way of overloading the subject with two options, the acceptance of either of which represents acceptance of a therapeutic suggestion. The double bind is a way of overloading the subject with two options, the acceptance of either of which represents acceptance of a therapeutic suggestion.

Erickson provides the following examples: “My first well-remembered intentional use of the double bind occurred in early boyhood. One winter day, with the weather below zero, my father led a calf out of the barn to the water trough. After the calf had satisfied its thirst, they turned back to the barn, but at the doorway the calf stubbornly braced its feet, and despite my father's desperate pulling on the halter, he could not budge the animal. I was outside playing in the snow and, observing the impasse, began laughing heartily. My father challenged me to pull the calf into the barn. Recognizing the situation as one of unreasoning stubborn resistance on the part of the calf, I decided to let the calf have full opportunity to resist, since that was what it apparently wished to do. Accordingly, I presented the calf with a double bind by seizing it by the tail and pulling it away from the barn, while my father continued to pull it inward. The calf promptly chose to resist the weaker of the two forces and dragged me into the barn.” [17]

Shocks and Ordeals

Erickson is famous for pioneering indirect techniques, but his shock therapy tends to get less attention. Erickson was prepared to use psychological shocks and ordeals in order to achieve given results: The ordeal process is different from other therapeutic techniques originated by Erickson. . . If we examine innovations in the use of paradox we note that he had a person experience a distressing symptom deliberately, and that is not an ordeal, or is it? Ordeal therapy is not merely a technique but a theory of change. The therapist’s task is to impose an ordeal, appropriate to the problem the person wishes to change, an ordeal more severe than the problem. The main requirement is that it cause distress equal to or greater than that caused by the symptom. It is also best that the ordeal is good for the person. The ordeal must have another characteristic: it must be something the person can do. It must be of such a nature that the therapist can easily say “This won’t violate any of your moral standards and is something you can do.” The final characteristic is that it should not harm anyone else. One final aspect of the ordeal is that sometimes the person must go though it repeatedly to recover from the symptom. [30]

Influence on Others

One of Erickson’s first students and developers of his work was Jay Haley. Other important followers who studied directly with Erickson include Ernest Rossi, Stephen Gilligan, Jeffrey Zeig, Bill O'Hanlon, Michele Ritterman, Stephen Lankton, Richard Landis, Jane Parsons-Fein, Herb Lustig, Alex & Annellen Simpkins and Sidney Rosen. The majority of today's Ericksonians consist of individuals who have never known Erickson. Today, and for some time now, much of the teaching of the Ericksonian approach is and has been done by individuals who have acquired their knowledge second and third hand. Some of those who did spend time with Erickson, like Jeffrey Zeig, Ernest Rossi, and William O'Hanlon have tried, to present and preserve as much as they could what they believed and have understood Erickson's thought and methods to be. They have succeeded to do so to a fair degree. Others, like Richard Bandler and John Grinder have on the other hand, offered a much adulterated, and at times fanciful, version of what they perceived Erickson as saying and doing guided by their personal theorizing. Further distortions have resulted outside of the United States due to translation problems as well as for other reasons. More and more the Ericksonians have become a heterogeneous group of practitioners. [31]

Jay Haley told of sending a group of his students to see Erickson. When they returned, one student was particularly touched at Erickson’s sensitivity to his own issues. The student then related one of the stories that Erickson and told the group. He says he knew this story was intended specifically for him. Another student corrected him and said that the story was for her, not for him. She pointed out a few of its features that addressed her issues. Haley said he found that very strange, He had heard that same story years earlier and he knew that Erickson and created it especially for him! [32]

Erickson eschewed rigid approaches to therapy and thus never accepted or framework during his lifetime, though a multitude of other approaches grew from his ideology. He had a strong influence on the diverse areas of Strategic therapy, Family Systems, Brief Therapy, Ordeal Therapy, Narrative Therapy, and Neuro-Linguistic Programming. [33]

Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP)

Among the many students who studied with Erickson to learn about his teaching techniques John Grinder and Richard Bandler attended a series of his week-long seminars during the mid-1970s. Dilts describes the founding of NLP as being modeled upon the language patterns and intuitive abilities of three psychotherapist, one of whom was Erickson. From this initial beginning, they went on to develop what has become an internationally recognized methodology of communication. [34]

Co-founders of NLP, Richard Bandler and John Grinder, along with others who were central and participatory in the studies, developed a complex evaluation of Erickson’s communication patterns. As a result of the success of their research Erickson contributed the foreword to their book, Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D. [35] The model they derived from this work has come to be known as the “Milton Model.” The methodology and findings regarding the manner in which Erickson used language to achieve psychological responses is described in detail in the work of the founders of NLP. [36]

The NLP Model, broadly marketed outside the limits of mainstream psychotherapy, has been accepted internationally and has come into general acceptance with the psychological community. Yapko describes one of the useful concepts that originated in NLP, specifically that referring to what is known as a “representational system.” [37] This refers to person’s preferred style for gathering, storing and retrieving information. Most people have a preferred sense --- visual, auditory or kinesthetic, and this preference can be identified through their own expressed language patterns.

Ericksonian Approaches

Following Erickson’s death in 1980, The Erickson Foundation lead by Jeffrey Zeig held a conference which at the time was the largest professional hypnosis conference ever held [9] . Afterward, many participants began to teach Erickson’s ideas in their own way. It was not until after Erickson’s death that the word Ericksonian was used to describe his methodology. Over the decades that followed, there were various attempts to identify the key components that bring together the individual styles of an Ericksonian. In an attempt to identify the key elements of Erickson’s work, Stephen Lankton contributed an extensive overview of Erickson’s ideas and techniques which he referred to as the “Ericksonian Footprint.” [38] More recently, the development of Ericksonian Core Competencies spearheaded by Dan Short and Scott Miller defines Ericksonian approaches in a manner that makes it amenable to evidence-based studies. [39]

Lankton and Matthews state that perhaps Erickson’s greatest contribution to psychotherapy was not his innovative techniques, but his ability to de-pathologize people and consider a patient’s problematic behavior as indicative of a best choice available to the individual. His approach was to facilitate the patient’s access to inner resources to solve the problems. [40]

The concept of utilization in psychotherapy is identified primarily with the work of Milton Erickson. More than any other therapist, he taught us to appreciate everything the client brings and whatever the client brings should be regarded as valuable. Perhaps Erickson’s struggles with polio as a teenager impressed on him the value of regarding everything as a potential asset. All weaknesses can become strengths in the same way a negative can become a positive. Many imperfections can be altered slightly so that they become endearing. Some things can be highlighted while others can be de-emphasized. To recognize and use the qualities of the individual and the situation is to affirm something in which they have already invested. [41]

A 1954 article by Erickson describes his technique of utilizing a patient’s own personality and ideas, “Doing it His Own Way,” in which a patient requested hypnosis for the explicit purpose of ceasing his reckless driving, and the patient did not want psychotherapy for any other purpose. Erickson worked with him and provided a summary of the case, after carefully assessing the patient’s potential for safe practices, as well as his motivation for change. The discussion of working with the patient while allowing him to guide his own healing is a clear example of the concept of utilization for which Erickson has become known. [42] Another key principle that is associated with Erickson’s techniques is described in his 1964 paper entitled the “Burden of Effective Psychotherapy” whereby he describes the essential nature of the investment of the subject in the experiential process of healing. [43]

An entry in the prestigious American Psychological Association Dictionary of Psychology [44] defines Ericksonian psychotherapy. Based on the work of Milton Erickson, this approach to psychotherapy is described as a “form of psychotherapy in which the therapist works with the client to create, through hypnosis and specifically through indirect suggestion and suggestive metaphors and real life experiences, intended to activate previously dormant intra-psychic resources.”

Core Competencies of Ericksonian Approaches

The Core Competencies Manual was a joint endeavor between the Erickson Institute of Phoenix, and The Milton H. Erickson Foundation to define Ericksonian approaches in a manner that makes it amenable to evidence-based studies. Using the wisdom of individual professionals who studied with Erickson, the organizers developed a matrix of features associated with what they had learned from Erickson about his approaches. The developers then developed a matrix to evaluate clinical approaches used to ascertain whether or not a style of therapy could be considered Ericksonian. The elements involved included four skills: Observation, Validation, Cultivation, and Challenge, combined with six competencies: Tailoring, Utilization, Strategic, Competency, Destabilization, Experiential, Naturalistic. This resource is available for a free download, and its founders are supportive of research-controlled studies to further evaluate the utility of the model. [39]

Controversy

A colleague, friend and fellow researcher, André Weitzenhoffer, a prolific and well-respected author in the field of hypnosis himself, has criticized some ideas and influence of Erickson in various writings, such as his textbook The Practice of Hypnotism. Weitzenhoffer displays a clear and explicitly stated, bias against Ericksonian hypnosis in his book, in favor of what he terms the semi-traditional, scientific, approach. [31] For Erickson, the shift from conscious to unconscious functioning is the essence of trance. Nowhere in his writing however, can one find an explicit definition of the term “unconscious” or, for that matter, of “conscious.” [12]

This criticism persists among clinicians and researchers of today, not only about Erickson himself, but also about his followers. Nash and Barnier note that some clinicians, especially those working in the tradition of Milton Erickson may discount the importance of hypnotizability. [38]

In a book largely complementary to the works of Erickson, [45] Rosen alludes to the uncertainty that can result from his clinical demonstrations: “This has nevertheless raised the question of whether or not the patient is playing a role by pretending not to feel pain…” In an interview, this sentiment of uncertainty regarding completeness of Erickson’s case reports and demonstrations is valid, reports his daughter, Roxanna Erickson-Klein, who is a professional psychotherapist. She added that although he tirelessly advocated scientific investigations of hypnosis, and was a prolific writer on techniques, he often left details out of case reports that could have been meaningful to clinicians of today. More importantly, critics often overlook the context of the times. He was a physician who worked from a framework of a country doctor, and clinicians of today are hasty to judge by today’s standards, while not taking into consideration the context of the times.

Self-professed "skeptical hypnotist," Alex Tsander, cited concerns in his 2005 book Beyond Erickson: A Fresh Look at "The Emperor of Hypnosis", the title of which alludes to Charcot's characterization in the previous century as "The Napoleon of the Neuroses." Tsander re-evaluates a swathe of Erickson's accounts of his therapeutic approaches and lecture demonstrations in the context of scientific literature on hypnotism and his own experience in giving live demonstrations of hypnotic technique. Emphasizing social-psychological perspectives, Tsander introduces an "interpretive filter" with which he re-evaluates Erickson's own accounts of his demonstrations and introduces prosaic explanations for occurrences that both Erickson and other authors tend to portray as remarkable. [46]

In an audiotape that is attributed to him, Dharma Teacher Tenshin, Reb Anderson of the Zen tradition, has referred to Erickson as a "Magician/Healer." [47] Zeig concurs that professional skepticism and education is paramount for the advancement of a discipline. He states “Among psychotherapists there are some who worship Erickson with a reverence that borders on idolatry. Every word, sentiment, opinion, or act is presumed to have an inspired meaning. Such deification rooted in expectation of timeless power and omnipotence can ultimately lead to disillusionment. Equally prejudiced are those who regard Erickson as a maverick whose egregious methods are a passing fancy that will eventually be consigned to the dustbin of outmoded schemes. [Both] these attitudes do injustice to a highly creative and imaginative original mind… A poignant criticism of Erickson’s strategic therapy is that it is overvalued by those who believe that clever tactics can substitute for disciplined training. [16]

Primary Resources Featuring the Work of Milton H. Erickson

The Milton H. Erickson Foundation is a non-profit educational organization the mission of which is to preserve and promote the contributions of Erickson to the field of psychotherapy. Erickson-Foundation.org

The Collected Works of Milton H. Erickson. Rossi, Ernest, Erickson-Klein, Roxanna, & Rossi, Kathryn (Eds.) https://catalog.erickson-foundation.org/page/collected-works-2605

Erickson was a prolific writer, most of his works are in a 16 volume series. The collected works series is the current edition of all of the Erickson-Rossi collaborative works and contains the vast majority of all of the works of Milton Erickson originally published in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis and other professional periodicals.

Vol 1 The Nature of Therapeutic Hypnosis (2008) ISBN   978-1-932248-30-2

Vol 2 Basic Hypnotic Induction and Therapeutic Suggestion (2008) ISBN   978-1-932248-31-9

Vol 3 Opening the Mind (2008) ISBN   978-1932248-31-9

Vol 4 Advanced Approaches to Therapeutic Hypnosis (2008) ISBN   978-1-932248-33-3

Vol 5 Classical Hypnosis Phenomena Part 1 Psychodynamics (2010) ISBN   978-1-932248-34-0

Vol 6 Classical Hypnosis Phenomena Part 2 Memory and Hallucinations (2010) ISBN   978-1-932248-35-7

Vol 7 Mind Body Healing and Rehabilitation (2010) ISBN   978-1-932248-36-4

Vol 8 General & Historic Surveys of Hypnosis (2010) ISBN   978-1-932248-37-1

Vol 9 The February Man (2009) ISBN   978-1-932248-38-8

Vol 10 Hypnotic Realities (2010) ISBN   978-1-932248-48-7

Vol 11 Hypnotherapy, An Exploratory Casebook (2014) ISBN   978-1-932248-39-5

Vol 12 Experiencing Hypnosis: Therapeutic Approaches to Altered States (2014) ISBN   978-1-932248-40-1

Vol 13 Healing in Hypnosis: The Seminars, Workshops and Lectures part one (2014) ISBN   978-1-932248-42-5

Vol 14 Life Reframing in Hypnosis: The Seminars, Workshops and Lectures, part two (2014) ISBN   978-1-932248-43-2

Vol 15 Mind Body Communication in Hypnosis: The Seminars, Workshops and Lectures, part three (2015) ISBN   978-1-932248-44-9

Vol 16 Creative Choice in Hypnosis: The Seminars, Workshops and Lectures, part four (2014) ISBN   978-1-932248-45-6

Additional Works by Milton H. Erickson (Not Included in the Collected Works)

The Canoe Diary of Milton H. Erickson. Erickson, M. Streamed by the Milton H. Erickson Foundation. Audiobook read by Grandson: https://catalog.erickson-foundation.org/Search?search=Canoe%20Diary%20

Haley, J. Uncommon Therapy Norton, NY ISBN   0-393-01100-3

Haley, J. (Editor) (1985). Conversations with Milton H. Erickson, M.D. Norton, NY

Haley, J. & Richeport M. (Producers) (1991). Milton H. Erickson, M.D.: In His Own Voice Three audiotape lectures https://www.bookdepository.com/publishers/Triangle-Press-U-S

Lustig, H. (Producer) (1974). The Artistry of Milton H. Erickson M.D.(this is an actual video of a therapeutic session) https://catalog.erickson-foundation.org/page/artistry-of-mhe

Milton H. Erickson Foundation. Erickson Video Collection. https://www.erickson-foundation.org/ericksonvideo/

Nemetschek, P. (2012) Milton Erickson Lives! Erickson Foundation Press, AZ ISBN   978-1-932248-62-3

Parsons-Fein, J. (Producer) 2013 In The Room With Milton H. Erickson MD (this is a series of videos of an actual teaching seminar) http://miltonericksondvds.com/ ISBN   978-0-9910991-0-8

Rosen, S. (1982) My Voice Will Go With You Norton, MY ISBN   0-393-01583-1

Southern California Society for Ericksonian Hypnosis (Producers) https://www.scseph.org/catalog/milt.php

Zeig, J. (1980) A Teaching Seminar with Milton Erickson Brunner Mazel, NY ISBN   0-87630-247-9

Zeig, J. (1985) Experiencing Erickson Brunner Mazel, NY ISBN   0-87630-409-9

Zeig, J. & Geary, B. (2000) The Letters of Milton H. Erickson Zeig Tucker, Theisen, AZ ISBN   1-891944-11-8

Works About Milton H. Erickson

Baker, M. (2003) A Tribute To Elizabeth Moore Erickson Alom, M.X. ISBN   968-6513-22-1

Bandler, R. & Grinder, J. (1975) Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson Volume 1 Meta Publishers, CA ISBN   1-55552-052-9

Battino, R. & South, T. (1999) Ericksonian Therapy 2nd Ed. Crownhouse, U.K. ISBN   978-1-904424-91-8

Dolan, Y. (1991) Resolving Sexual Abuse: Solution-Focused Therapy and Ericksonian Hypnosis for Adult Survivors Norton, NY

Erickson, B. & Keeney, B.(Editors) (2006) Milton H. Erickson, M.D.: An American Healer Ringing Rocks,USA ISBN   978-0918172556

Frederick, C. & Phillps, M. (1995) Healing the Divided Self: Clinical & Ericksonian Hypnotherapy for Dissociative Conditions Norton, NY

Gilligan, S. (2002) The Legacy of Milton H. Erickson Zeig Tucker & Theisen, AZ ISBN   1-891944-90-8

Gordon, D. & Meyers-Anderson, M. (1981) Phoenix Meta, CA, ISBN   0-916990-10-9

Grinder, J. & Bandler, R. (1981) Transformations Meta Publishers, CA ISBN   0-911226-22-2

Grinder, J., DeLozier, J. & Bandler, R. (1977) Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson Volume 2 Meta Publishers, CA LCCN   75--24584

Haley, J. (1984) Ordeal Therapy Josey Bass, CA, ISBN   0-87589-595-6

Haley, J. (1993) Jay Haley on Milton H. Erickson Brunner Mazel, NY ISBN   0-87630-728-4

Havens, R. (Editor) (1985) The Wisdom of Milton H Erickson: The Complete Volume Crownhouse, UK ISBN   1-904424-17-1

Hughs, J. & Rothovius, A. (1996) The World’s Greatest Hypnotists University Press of America, NY ISBN   0-7618-0504-4

Kiarsis V. (Editor) (2020) Understanding Ericksonian Hypnotherapy: Selected Writings of Sidney Rosen . Taylor & Francis, NY ISBN   978-0-367-26206-8

Klein, H. (2010) Ericksonian Terminology https://catalog.erickson-foundation.org/item/erickson-terminology-ebook

Lankton, C. & Lankton, S. (1989) Enchantment and Intervention in Family Therapy: Using Metaphors in Family Therapy ISBN   978-1-84590-083-0

Lankton. S. & Lankton, C. (1983) The Answer Within : A Clinical Framework of Ericksonian Hypnotherapy Crown Publishers ISBN   978-1-84590-121-9

Lankton, S. (2004) Assembling Ericksonian Therapy Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, AZ ISBN   1-932462-10-4

O’Hanlon, B. (1987) Taproots: Underlying Principles of Milton Erickson's Therapy and Hypnosis Norton, NY ISBN   0-393-70031-3

O'Hanlon, B. (2009) A Guide to Trance Land: A Practical Handbook of Ericksonian and Solution-Oriented Hypnosis Norton, NY

O'Hanlon. W. &. Hexum, A. (1990) An Uncommon Casebook: Complete Clinical Work of Milton H.Erickson, M.D. ISBN   0-393-70101-8

O'Hanlon, B & Martin, M. (1991) Solution-Oriented Hypnosis: An Ericksonian Approach Norton, NY

Short, D., Erickson, B. & Erickson-Klein, R. (2005) Hope and Resiliency Crown House, UK ISBN   1-904424-93-7

Simpkins, C. & Simpkins, A. (2001) Timeless Teachings from the Therapy Masters Radient Dolphin Press, CA ISBN   0-9679113-4-6

Tsander, A. (2005) Beyond Erickson: A Fresh Look at "The Emperor of Hypnosis” Summit other, Bristol, ISBN   0-9550731-0-3

Vesley, A. (Producer) (2014) The Wizard of the Desert Noetic Films (A video interview with students of Erickson regarding their experiences) ISBN   978-0-615-46806-8

Zeig, J. (Editor) (1982) Ericksonian Approaches to Hypnosis and Psychotherapy Brunner Mazel, NY ISBN   0-87630-276-2

Zeig, J. (Editor) (1987) The Evolution of Psychotherapy Brunner Mazel, NY ISBN   0-87630-440-4

Zeig, J. & Lankton, S. (1988) Developing Ericksonian Therapy Brunner Mazel, NY ISBN   0-87630-501-X

Zeig, J. & Munion, M. (1999) Milton H.Erickson (Key Figures in Counselling & Psychotherapy Series) Sage ISBN   0-8039-7575-9

Related Research Articles

Hypnosis A state of increased receptivity to suggestion and direction

Hypnosis is a human condition involving focused attention, reduced peripheral awareness, and an enhanced capacity to respond to suggestion.

Hypnotherapy is a type of alternative medicine in which hypnosis is used to create a state of focused attention and increased suggestibility during which positive suggestions and guided imagery are used to help individuals deal with a variety of concerns and issues.

Psychotherapy is the use of psychological methods, particularly when based on regular personal interaction with adults, to help a person change behavior and overcome problems in desired ways. Psychotherapy aims to improve an individual's well-being and mental health, to resolve or mitigate troublesome behaviors, beliefs, compulsions, thoughts, or emotions, and to improve relationships and social skills. There is also a range of psychotherapies designed for children and adolescents, which typically involve play, such as sandplay. Certain psychotherapies are considered evidence-based for treating some diagnosed mental disorders. Others have been criticized as pseudoscience.

Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) is a pseudoscientific approach to communication, personal development, and psychotherapy created by Richard Bandler and John Grinder in California, United States, in the 1970s. NLP's creators claim there is a connection between neurological processes (neuro-), language (linguistic) and behavioral patterns learned through experience (programming), and that these can be changed to achieve specific goals in life. Bandler and Grinder also claim that NLP methodology can "model" the skills of exceptional people, allowing anyone to acquire those skills. They claim as well that, often in a single session, NLP can treat problems such as phobias, depression, tic disorders, psychosomatic illnesses, near-sightedness, allergy, common cold, and learning disorders. NLP has been adopted by some hypnotherapists and also by companies that run seminars marketed as leadership training to businesses and government agencies.

Richard Bandler American author and trainer in the field of self-help

Richard Wayne Bandler is an American author and trainer in the field of self-help. He is best known as the co-creator of the Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a methodology to understand and change human behavior-patterns. He also developed other systems named Design Human Engineering (DHE) and Neuro Hypnotic Repatterning (NHR).

Autogenic training is a desensitization-relaxation technique developed by the German psychiatrist Johannes Heinrich Schultz by which a psychophysiologically determined relaxation response is obtained. The technique was first published in 1932. Studying the self-reports of people immersed in a hypnotic state, J.H. Schultz noted that physiological changes are accompanied by certain feelings. Abbé Faria and Émile Coué are the forerunners of Schultz. The technique involves repetitions of a set of visualisations that induce a state of relaxation and is based on passive concentration of bodily perceptions, which are facilitated by self-suggestions. The technique is used to alleviate many stress-induced psychosomatic disorders.

Jay Haley American psychotherapist

Jay Douglas Haley was one of the founding figures of brief and family therapy in general and of the strategic model of psychotherapy, and he was one of the more accomplished teachers, clinical supervisors, and authors in these disciplines.

Transderivational search is a psychological and cybernetics term, meaning when a search is being conducted for a fuzzy match across a broad field. In computing the equivalent function can be performed using content-addressable memory.

Brief psychotherapy is an umbrella term for a variety of approaches to short-term, solution-oriented psychotherapy.

Covert hypnosis is an attempt to communicate with another person's unconscious mind without informing the subject that they will be hypnotized. It is also known as conversational hypnosis or sleight of mouth. It is a term largely used by proponents of neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), a pseudoscientific approach to communication and interaction.

Jeffrey K. Zeig, is a writer, teacher and practitioner of psychotherapy. He has edited, co-edited, authored or coauthored more than 20 books on psychotherapy that appear in fourteen languages. He organises several conferences on psychotherapy, and is the founder and director of the Milton H. Erickson Foundation.

The methods of neuro-linguistic programming are the specific techniques used to perform and teach neuro-linguistic programming, a pseudoscience which teaches that people are only able to directly perceive a small part of the world using their conscious awareness, and that this view of the world is filtered by experience, beliefs, values, assumptions, and biological sensory systems. NLP argues that people act and feel based on their perception of the world and how they feel about that world they subjectively experience.

Stage hypnosis is hypnosis performed in front of an audience for the purposes of entertainment, usually in a theatre or club. A modern stage hypnosis performance typically delivers a comedic show rather than simply a demonstration to impress an audience with powers of persuasion. Apparent effects of amnesia, mood altering and hallucination may be demonstrated in a normal presentation. Stage hypnosis performances often encourage audience members to look further into the benefits of hypnotism.

Stephen R. Lankton, MSW, DAHB is the current editor of the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis (2005–2017). He is a recipient of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis' "Lifetime Achievement Award" and “Irving Sector Award for Advancement of the Field of Hypnosis”. as well as the Milton H. Erickson Foundation “Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Psychotherapy.”

Michele Ritterman American therapist

Michele Dee Klevens Ritterman Ph.D. is an American clinical psychologist and family therapist who published Using Hypnosis in Family Therapy, the first book on the systematic integration of family therapy and hypnotherapy. After receiving her doctorate in Clinical Psychology from Temple University, Ritterman is noted for her expertise regarding survivors of political torture and their families. She is a prolific author whose work has been translated into Spanish, German, Italian and French.

Richard Fisch American psychiatrist

Richard Fisch (1926–2011) was an American psychiatrist best known for his pioneering work in brief therapy.

Michael D. Yapko is a clinical psychologist and author, whose work is focused in the areas of treating depression, developing brief psychotherapies and advancing the clinical applications of hypnosis.

Gil Boyne American hypnotherapist

Mark Thomas Gilboyne, nom de guerreGil Boyne, was an American pioneer in modern hypnotherapy.

Isaac Gubel was an Argentine psychiatrist and hypnotist.

Hypnoanalysis

Hypnoanalysis is the technique of using hypnosis in the practice of psychoanalysis and psychotherapy. It attempts to utilize the trance state induced by hypnosis to effect a conscious understanding of a person's unconscious psychodynamics.

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