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Milton H. Erickson


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Title: Milton H. Erickson

  • Milton H. Erickson
  • Unorthodox psychiatrist, congenial family doctor,
    ingenious strategic psychotherapist and master
    hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson's influence has
    revolutionised Western psychotherapy. Thanks
    largely to Erickson the subject of hypnosis has
    shed its shackles of superstition and is now
    widely recognised as one of the most powerful
    tools for change.

  • Within his own life, Milton Erickson had many
    personal disabilities to contend with, which he
    often stressed helped him become proficient at
    practical problem solving for his clients. His
    'problems' began early. Born into a poor farming
    community in Nevada, Erickson didn't speak until
    he was four. Later, he was found to have severe
    dyslexia, to be profoundly tone deaf and colour
    blind. At the age of seventeen, he was paralysed
    for a year by a bout of polio so bad that his
    doctor was convinced he would die.

  • Milton H. Erickson
  • Milton H. Erickson is probably best remembered as
    the hypnotherapist who revolutionized
    hypnotherapy not only by developing new
    therapeutic techniques but also by evolving his
    own unique epistemology and ontology. Many
    attempts have been made to present and describe
    his main principles and practical approach in a
    coherent form. O'Hanlon has summarized twelve
    different frameworks for Ericksonian therapy and
    hypnosis, including one of his own (O'Hanlon,

  • Despite his handicaps (or perhaps because of),
    Milton Erickson went on to qualify as a medical
    doctor and psychiatrist. In the following years
    he became the World's greatest practitioner of
    therapeutic hypnosis and one of the most
    effective psychotherapists ever.

  • It was perhaps Erickson's farming background
    which caused him to approach psychotherapy in
    such a practical way. Anyone who is interested in
    relieving human misery and developing human
    potential will benefit greatly from reading about
    and learning from this remarkable man.

  • When Erickson was in his fifties he was struck
    by a second bout of polio that caused him a great
    deal of physical pain. Even this he was able to
    turn into a learning opportunity as he became
    highly effective at treating other people's pain
    with hypnosis. He details many of his approaches
    to sensory alteration and pain control in
    'Hypnotic alteration of sensory, perceptual and
    psychological processes' by Milton Erickson.

  • Despite severe illness in his old age, Milton
    Erickson continued to teach, demonstrate and
    practice his remarkable skills as a therapist,
    even when eventually confined to a wheelchair. He
    died at the age of seventy nine.

  • It was perhaps Erickson's farming background
    which caused him to approach psychotherapy in
    such a practical way. Anyone who is interested in
    relieving human misery and developing human
    potential will benefit greatly from reading about
    and learning from this remarkable man.

  • He is noted for
  • His often unconventional approach to
    psychotherapy, such as described in the book
    Uncommon Therapy, by Jay Haley, and the book
    Hypnotherapy An Exploratory Casebook, by Milton
    H. Erickson and Ernest L. Rossi (1979, New York
    Irvington Publishers, Inc.)
  • His extensive use of therapeutic metaphor and
    story as well as hypnosis
  • coining the term Brief Therapy for his approach
    of addressing therapeutic changes in relatively
    few sessions

  • His use of interventions that influenced the
    strategic therapy and family systems therapy
    practitioners beginning in the 1950s including
    Virginia Satir and Jay Haley
  • His conceptualization of the unconscious as
    highly separate from the conscious mind, with its
    own awareness, interests, responses, and
    learnings. For Erickson, the unconscious mind was
    creative, solution-generating, and often
  • His ability to "utilize" anything about a patient
    to help them change, including their beliefs,
    favorite words, cultural background, personal
    history, or even their neurotic habits.
  • His influence on Neuro-linguistic Programming
    (NLP), which was in part based upon his working
    methods 1.

  • Milton H. Erickson
  • Milton H. Erickson is probably best remembered as
    the hypnotherapist who revolutionized
    hypnotherapy not only by developing new
    therapeutic techniques but also by evolving his
    own unique epistemology and ontology. Many
    attempts have been made to present and describe
    his main principles and practical approach in a
    coherent form. O'Hanlon has summarized twelve
    different frameworks for Ericksonian therapy and
    hypnosis, including one of his own (O'Hanlon,

  • Erickson's practical approach is defined as the
    techniques and skills he used during therapy
    while the main principles are defined as the
    beliefs that he held in relation to doing
    therapy. Erickson sometimes said he didn't
    understand his own work

  • Main Principles of Erickson Hypnotherapy

  • Erickson did not believe it was necessary for
    himself or his patient to understand the cause of
    a problem in order to resolve it. In his words
    "Etiology is a complex matter and not always
    relevant to getting over a problem" (Hayley,
    1973). This belief is a major shift in thinking
    away from a search for independent cause or
    truth a search that permeates our modern culture
    and one that has perpetuated since the time of
    Aristotle (1953).

  • Erickson also believed that "insight" was an
    unimportant and even unnecessary part of therapy,
    stating that
  • "Many psychotherapists regard as almost axiomatic
    that therapy is contingent on making the
    unconscious conscious. When thought is given to
    the immeasurable role the unconscious plays in
    the total experiential life of a person from
    infancy on, whether awake or asleep, there can be
    little expectation of doing more than making
    small parts of it conscious" (Erickson, 1980).

  • Another important element of Erickson's
    epistemology was his emphasis on treating each
    person as an individual, and not according to
    preconceived theories of personality or by
    utilizing a rigid approach to therapy. Erickson
    had no particular theory or hypothesis about
    problems and had no set method of working and
    consequently had the flexibility to allow for
    alternative explanations and to change his
    behavior to match the needs of the individual
    client. In addition, he also recognized that
    "Your patient is one person today, quite another
    person tomorrow, and still another person next
    week, next month, next year" (Erickson, 19851).

  • Erickson also believed in what has been called a
    naturalist approach to therapy. His belief was
    that people are not only capable of going into
    trance and experiencing all possible trance
    phenomena but also that they have the natural
    abilities needed to overcome their difficulties.

  • Similarly, Goldstone reports that "Another
    important element of Dr. Erickson's work was his
    deeply held belief that people innately have
    within themselves the strengths, skills,
    abilities, talents, resources and knowledge they
    need to make whatever kinds of changes they wish
    to make" (1998).

  • Erickson believed that people not only have all
    the resources they need but also that "people
    will make the best choices they have learned how
    to make" (Lankton, 1998), even if they are not
    conscious of this or of their process of making
    these choices.

  • Erickson believed that the responsibility for
    change rests entirely with the client and the
    role of the therapist to create a state of
    expectation of change and to provide the climate
    in which change can take place. As Erickson
    states "In psychotherapy you change no one.
    People change themselves. You create
    circumstances under which an individual can
    respond spontaneously and change. And that's all
    you do. The rest is up to them" (O'Hanlon,

  • Finally, Erickson believed that his work was
    complete when the presenting problem was
    resolved. Thus, his premise was that the
    long-term goal should always be the immediate
    goal and he did not spend time what was "behind"
    a symptom.

  • Practical Approach of Erickson Hypnotherapy
  • Erickson defined hypnosis as "a state of
    special awareness characterized by a
    receptiveness to ideas" (Erickson, 19852).
    Essentially this state was elicited using
    techniques such as suggestion and confusion to
    focus or distract the client's conscious
    attention in such a way that Erickson could
    communicate directly with a client's
    unconscious mind. The client would then be able
    to learn new behaviors and new ideas from what
    was presented. This learning took place in a
    trance state in which the client was attentive to
    all the information set out and demonstrated by
    Erickson the client could then take on board as
    much or as little as was appropriate for them.

  • In order to elicit trance states and to
    facilitate change, Erickson utilized whatever the
    client brought into therapy, whether it was
    beliefs, behaviors, demands or resistance. His
    advice was never to reject or try to the behavior
    that the client showed in the office. He advised
    that "you look at it, you examine it, and you
    wonder how you use it" (Erickson, 19852). For
    example, if a child sucks his thumb then which
    thumb he suck? The left or the right? And
    shouldn't he suck the other one? And what about
    sucking the fingers? Which one first? After
    Erickson repeatedly asked these sort of questions
    to one little boy, the boy told his
    grandmother "This is making me want to dislike
    sucking my thumb!" (Erickson, 19852).

  • Erickson's acceptance of the patient's ideas and
    behaviors for what they were, rather than
    rejecting, contradicting or judging them,
    contributed to his ability to quickly build
    rapport with the patient. He also made use of
    biorapport, which is the rhythmical alignment of
    some part of his behavior to that of the
    client's. Examples are breathing in time
    with the client and making movements at the same
    time as the client.

  • Another technique used by Erickson was that of
    the double bind. This was asking a question that
    gave the illusion of choice, when in fact
    whatever choice was made, it would lead to the
    desired result. To a patient who said Erickson
    could not hypnotize them, Erickson said "I want
    you to stay awake, wider and wider awake, wider
    and wider awake" (Haley, 1963). Whatever this
    client did he was co-operating with Erickson in
    the trance induction.

  • One specific form of double bind was symptom
    prescription. According to Watzlawick, Bavelas
    and Jackson (1967) this term was first introduced
    in the work of the Bateson "Family Therapy in
    Schizophrenia" project. This involved prescribing
    the symptom but in an exaggerated, modified or
    paradoxical way. Erickson once treated a married
    couple who had both been bed-wetters for many
    years. He had them set their alarm clock to wake
    up in the middle of the night and instructed them
    both to deliberately wet their bed if their bed
    was dry. Thus, Erickson was modifying the
    patients' symptoms to make it harder easier
    surely for them to do their problem and
    also teaching them how to have control over their

  • Erickson would make use of this sort of specific
    task assignment as well as using generic ones so
    as to facilitate therapeutic change. The
    bed-wetting example above is a specific task.
    However, Erickson would often ask a client to
    perform a generic task like climbing a local
    mountain while thinking about their problem and
    then reporting their thoughts back to him.

  • The use of Metaphors was used by Erickson to
    communicate with his clients and he often told
    anecdotes from his own experience, about other
    clients or simply made them up. His hope was that
    the experience of another in overcoming a
    problem, which is similar to the client's own,
    would suggest ways in which the client could deal
    with their situation.

  • Erickson made use of the processes of framing,
    deframing and reframing to alter a client's
    perception about a given situation. A frame being
    defined as an added meaning given to a sensory
    experience. Thus, framing is the process of
    giving a meaning where none already exists,
    deframing is the process of challenging or
    casting doubt on the client's current meaning and
    reframing is the process of providing a new or
    alternative meaning.

  • As a hypnotist, Erickson made use of many
    hypnotic phenomena. Analgesia was used to teach
    clients that they could control when and where
    they experienced pain. Amnesia was used to
    prevent a client's conscious mind from
    interfering with hypnotherapeutic work (Erickson,
    19852) and to overcome learned limitations.
  • According to Erickson "All hypnotic
    phenomena are made up of normal everyday patterns
    of behavior, organized to serve intentional
    purposes for the patient" (Erickson, 19852).

  • Confusion was another important technique used
    by Erickson to contend with the client's
    conscious mind, and thereby bypass it. When
    solving problems, the person's mind was most
    frequently concerned with limiting beliefs and
    ideas about how change was not possible. Hence,
    Erickson emphasized "that the person's conscious
    mind has to be contended with in some manner in
    order to gain access to the person's unconscious
    abilities" (Erickson, 19851).

  • In addition, Erickson also developed a state of
    confusion in his clients' minds from which they
    were more likely to accept what he suggested as a
    means of replacing the uncomfortable state of
    confusion with a more comfortable state of
    understanding. As pointed out by Lankton "a
    client will develop a particular receptivity to
    incoming information at a point in therapy when
    the normal framework has been disrupted and
    suspended by an unconditioned stimulus such as a
    paradoxical prescription" (1998).

  • Erickson used both direct and indirect
    suggestions to achieve therapeutic goals. In
    general, he was very directive when dealing with
    symptoms and getting people to do things but very
    indirect in how people would resolve their
    symptoms and how they would live their lives
    afterwards. A direct suggestion might have been
    to tell the client to perform a specific
    therapeutic task, like buying new clothes or
    walking a different way to work. An
    indirect suggestion might have been to say
    something like "I don't know how quickly you can
    learn". This statement indirectly suggested
    that the client will learn, it was just a
    question of how quickly.

  • In contrast to many other therapeutic approaches
    that focus on exploring the past, Erickson worked
    in both a future oriented and goal oriented
    manner, eliciting agreed goals with patients and
    working together with the patient to
    achieve them. As stated by Erickson
    "Psychotherapy is sought not primarily for
    enlightenment about the unchangeable past but
    because of dissatisfaction with the present and a
    desire to better the future" (Watzlawick,
    Weakland and Fisch, 1974).

  • Conclusion

  • Erickson once said "I don't try to structure my
    psychotherapy except in a vague, general way"
    (O'Hanlon, 1987). Compromises have been made in
    deciding what to include and what to omit and
    also in deciding the length of each description,
    some of which are necessarily brief. In
    conclusion, Erickson's own advice was to "Develop
    your own technique. Don't try to use somebody
    else's technique...Don't try to imitate my voice
    or my cadence. Just discover your own. Be your
    own natural self" (O'Hanlon, 1987).

  • Trance and The Unconscious Mind
  • Erickson believed that the unconscious mind was
    always listening, and that, whether or not the
    patient was in trance, suggestions could be made
    which would have a hypnotic influence, as long as
    those suggestions found some resonance at the
    unconscious level. The patient can be aware of
    this, or she can be completely oblivious that
    something is happening. Erickson would see if the
    patient would respond to one or another kind of
    indirect suggestion, and allow the unconscious
    mind to actively participate in the therapeutic
    process. In this way, what seemed like a normal
    conversation might induce a hypnotic trance, or a
    therapeutic change in the subject. It should be
    noted that "Erickson's conception of the
    unconscious is definitely not the one held by
  • Erickson was an irrepressible practical joker,
    and it was not uncommon for him to slip indirect
    suggestions into all kinds of situations,
    including in his own books, papers, lectures and

  • Erickson also believed that it was even
    appropriate for the therapist to go into trance.
  • I go into trances so that I will be more
    sensitive to the intonations and inflections of
    my patients' speech. And to enable me to hear
    better, see better.
  • Erickson maintained that trance is a common,
    everyday occurrence. For example, when waiting
    for buses and trains, reading or listening, or
    even being involved in strenuous physical
    exercise, it's quite normal to become immersed in
    the activity and go into a trance state, removed
    from any other irrelevant stimuli. These states
    are so common and familiar that most people do
    not consciously recognise them as hypnotic

  • 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 persons
    interest. At such moments people experience the
    common everyday trance they tend to gaze offto
    the right or left, depending upon which cerebral
    hemisphere is most dominant (Baleen, 1969) 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 restabilize 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 microdynamics of trance...

  • Indirect Techniques
  • Where 'classical' hypnosis is authoritative and
    direct, and often encounters resistance in the
    subject, Erickson's approach is permissive,
    accommodating and indirect. 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
    participation in their transformation.

  • Erickson maintained that it was not possible to
    consciously instruct the unconscious mind, and
    that authoritarian suggestions were likely to be
    met with resistance. The unconscious mind
    responds to openings, opportunities, metaphors,
    symbols, and contradictions. 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. The skilled hypnotherapist constructs
    these gaps of meaning in a way most suited to the
    individual subject - in a way which is most
    likely to produce the desired change.

  • For example the authoritative "you will stop
    smoking" is likely to find less leverage on the
    unconscious level than "you can become a
    non-smoker". The first is a direct command, to be
    obeyed or ignored (and notice that it draws
    attention to the act of smoking), the second is
    an opening, an invitation to possible lasting
    change, without pressure, and which is less
    likely to raise resistance.
  • Richard Bandler and John Grinder identified this
    kind of 'artful vagueness' as a central
    characteristic of their 'Milton Model', a
    systematic attempt to codify Erickson's hypnotic
    language patterns.

  • Confusion Technique
  • In all my techniques, almost all, there is a
  • A confused person has their conscious mind busy
    and occupied, and is very much inclined to draw
    upon unconscious learnings to make sense of
    things. A confused person is in a trance of their
    own making - and therefore goes readily into that
    trance without resistance. Confusion might be
    created by ambiguous words, complex or endless
    sentences, pattern interruption or a myriad other
    techniques to incite transderivational searches.

  • James Braid, who coined the term 'hypnosis,'
    claimed that focused attention ("look into my
    eyes...") was essential for creating hypnotic
    trances, indeed, his thesis was that hypnosis was
    in essence a state of extreme focus. But it can
    be difficult for people wracked by pain, angst or
    suspicion to focus on anything at all. Thus other
    techniques for inducing trance become important,
    or as Erickson explained
  • ...long and frequent use of the confusion
    technique has many times effected exceedingly
    rapid hypnotic inductions under unfavourable
    conditions such as acute pain of terminal
    malignant disease and in persons interested but
    hostile, aggressive, and resistant...

  • The Handshake Induction
  • Confusion is the basis of Erickson's famous
    hypnotic handshake. Many actions are learned and
    operate as a single "chunk" of behavior shaking
    hands and tying shoelaces being two classic
    examples. If the behavior is diverted or frozen
    midway, the person literally has no mental space
    for this - he is stopped in the middle of
    unconsciously executing a behavior that hasn't
    got a "middle".

  • The mind responds by suspending itself in trance
    until either something happens to give a new
    direction, or it "snaps out". A skilled hypnotist
    can often use that momentary confusion and
    suspension of normal processes to induce trance
    quickly and easily.

  • By interrupting the pattern of a 'normal'
    handshake in some way, the hypnotist causes the
    subject to wonder what is going on. If the
    handshake continues to develop in a way which is
    out-of-keeping with expectations, a simple,
    non-verbal trance is created, which may then be
    reinforced or utilized by the hypnotist. All
    these responses happen naturally and
    automatically without telling the subject to
    consciously focus on an idea.

  • The various descriptions of Erickson's hypnotic
    handshake, including his own very detailed
    accounts, indicate that a certain amount of
    improvisation is involved, and that watching and
    acting upon the subject's responses is key to a
    successful outcome. The most important thing is
    that the 'normal' handshake is subverted in such
    a way to cause puzzlement, which may then be
    built upon.

  • Initiation When I begin by shaking hands, I do
    so normally. The "hypnotic touch" then begins
    when I let loose. The letting loose becomes
    transformed from a firm grip into a gentle touch
    by the thumb, a lingering drawing away of the
    little finger, a faint brushing of the subject's
    hand with the middle finger - just enough vague
    sensation to attract the attention. As the
    subject gives attention to the touch of your
    thumb, you shift to a touch with your little
    finger. As your subject's attention follows that,
    you shift to a touch with your middle finger and
    then again to the thumb.
  • This arousal of attention is merely an arousal
    without constituting a stimulus for a response.
  • The subject's withdrawal from the handshake is
    arrested by this attention arousal, which
    establishes a waiting set, and expectancy.

  • Then almost, but not quite simultaneously (to
    ensure separate neural recognition), you touch
    the undersurface of the hand (wrist) so gently
    that it barely suggests an upward push. This is
    followed by a similar utterly slight downward
    touch, and then I sever contact so gently that
    the subject does not know exactly when - and the
    subject's hand is left going neither up nor down,
    but cataleptic.

  • Termination If you don't want your subject to
    know what you are doing, you simply distract
    their attention, usually by some appropriate
    remark, and casually terminate. Sometimes they
    remark, "What did you say? I got absentminded
    there for a moment and wasn't paying attention to
    anything." This is slightly distressing to the
    subjects and indicative of the fact that their
    attention was so focused and fixated on the
    peculiar hand stimuli that they were momentarily
    entranced so they did not hear what was said.
  • strong push or nudge is required, check for

  • Utilization Any utilization leads to increasing
    trance depth. All utilization should proceed as a
    continuation of extension of the initial
    procedure. Much can be done nonverbally for
    example, if any subjects are just looking blankly
    at me, I may slowly shift my gaze downward,
    causing them to look at their hand, which I touch
    and say "look at this spot.". This intensifies
    the trance state. Then, whether the subjects are
    looking at you or at their hand or just staring
    blankly, you can use your left hand to touch
    their elevated right hand from above or the side
    - so long as you merely give the suggestion of
    downward movement. Occasionally a downward nudge
    or push is required. If a

  • Richard Bandler was a keen proponent of the
    handshake induction, and developed his own
    variant, which is commonly taught in NLP
  • Any habitual pattern which is interrupted
    unexpectedly will cause sudden and light trance.
    The handshake is a particularly good pattern to
    interrupt because the formality of a handshake is
    a widely understood set of social rules. Since
    everyone knows that it would be impolite to
    comment on the quality of a handshake, regardless
    of how strange it may be, the subject is obliged
    to embark on an inner search (known as a
    transderivational search, a universal and
    compelling type of trance) to identify the
    meaning or purpose of the subverted pattern.

  • Resistance
  • Erickson recognised that many people were
    intimidated by hypnosis and the therapeutic
    process, and took care to respect the special
    resistances of the individual patient. In the
    therapeutic process he said that "you always give
    the patient every opportunity to resist". Here
    are some more relevant quotes pertaining to
  • Whatever the behaviour offered by the subjects,
    it should be accepted and utilized to develop
    further responsive behaviour. Any attempt to
    "correct" or alter the subjects' behaviour, or to
    force them to do things they are not interested
    in, militates against trance induction and
    certainly deep trance experience.

  • If the patient can be led to accept one
    suggestion, they will more readily accept others.
    With resistant patients, it becomes necessary to
    find a suggestion that they can accept.
    Resistance is always important, and should always
    be respected, so if the resistance itself is
    encouraged, the patient is made to feel more
    comfortable, because they know that they are
    allowed to respond however they wish.
  • Many times, the apparently active resistance
    encountered in subjects is no more than an
    unconscious measure of testing the hypnotist's
    willingness to meet them halfway instead of
    trying to force them to act entirely in accord
    with his ideas.

  • Although the idea of working with resistance is
    essentially a hypnotic one, it goes beyond
    hypnosis and trance. In a typical example, a girl
    that bit her nails was told that she was cheating
    herself of really enjoying the nail biting. He
    encouraged her to let some of her nails grow a
    little longer before biting them, so that she
    really could derive the fullest pleasure from the
    activity. She decided to grow all of her nails
    long enough that she might really enjoy biting
    them, and then, after some days, she realised
    that she didn't want to bite them anyway.

  • Ericksonian Therapy
  • Erickson is most famous as a hypnotherapist, but
    his extensive research into and experience with
    hypnosis led him to develop an effective
    therapeutic technique. Many of these techniques
    are not explicitly hypnotic, but they are
    extensions of hypnotic strategies and language
    patterns. Erickson recognised that resistance to
    trance resembles resistance to change, and
    developed his therapeutic approach with that

  • Jay Haley identified several strategies, which
    appeared repeatedly in Erickson's therapeutic
  • Encouraging Resistance - 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 really ready to reveal
  • 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.

  • Many people's reaction to a direction is to think
    "why should I?" or "You can't make me", 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") however the
    unconscious mind pays more attention to the "X"
    than the injunction "Don't do". 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 was 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....."

  • 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.
  • 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
    fathers 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.10

  • Communicating by Metaphor - This is explored
    extensively in Sydney Rosen's 'My Voice Will Go
    With You', but a beautiful example is given in
    the first chapter of David Gordon's book Phoenix
  • 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
    farm yard 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."

  • Encouraging a Relapse - To bypass simple
    short-lived 'obedience' which tends to lead to
    lapses in the absence of the therapist, Erickson
    would occasionally arrange for his patients to
    fail in their attempts to improve, for example by
    overreaching. Failure is part of life, and in
    that fragile time where the patient is learning
    to live, think and behave differently, a random
    failure can be catastrophic. Deliberately causing
    a relapse allowed Erickson to control the
    variables of that failure, and to cast it in a
    positive therapeutic light for the patient.

  • Encouraging a Response by Frustrating It - This
    paradoxical approach acts directly on the
    patient's own resistance to change. Obese
    patients are asked to gain weight, or in a family
    therapy session, a stubbornly silent family
    member is ignored until the frustration obliges
    them to blurt out some desperate truth. Once
    again, this approach has its roots in Erickson's
    hypnotic language patterns of the form "I don't
    want you to go into a trance yet".

  • Utilizing Space and Position - Hypnosis and
    therapy are experienced subjectively by the
    patient, and any part of their total experience
    can be used to reinforce an idea. The physical
    position or even the posture of the patient can
    be a significant part of the subjective
    experience. Manipulating these factors can
    contribute to a therapeutic transformation.
  • If I send someone out of the room - for example,
    the mother and child - I carefully move father
    from his chair and put him into mother's chair.
    Or if I send the child out, I might put mother in
    the child's chair, at least temporarily.
    Sometimes I comment on this by saying, 'As you
    sit where your son was sitting, you can think
    more clearly about him.' Or, 'If you sit where
    your husband sat, maybe it will give you somewhat
    of his view about me'. Over a series of
    interviews with an entire family, I shuffle them
    about, so that what was originally mother's chair
    is now where father is sitting. The family
    grouping remains, and yet that family grouping is
    being rearranged, which is what you are after
    when changing a family."11

  • Emphasizing the Positive - Erickson claimed that
    his sensory 'disabilities' (dyslexia, colour
    blindness, being tone-deaf) helped him to focus
    on aspects of communication and behavior which
    most other people overlooked. This is a typical
    example of emphasizing the positive.Erickson
    would often compliment the patient for a symptom,
    and would even encourage it, in very specific
    ways. In one amusing example, a woman whose
    parents-in-law caused her nauseous feelings in
    the gut every time they visited unexpectedly was
    'taught' to puke spectacularly whenever the
    visits were especially inconvenient. Naturally
    the parents-in-law would always sympathetically
    help her clean up the vomit. Fairly soon, the
    annoying relatives started calling in advance
    before turning up, to see if she were 'well
    enough' to see them.The subject of dozens of
    songs, 'emphasizing the positive' is a well known
    self-help strategy, and can be compared with
    'positive reformulation' in Gestalt Therapy.

  • Prescribing the Symptom and Amplifying a
    Deviation - Very typically, Erickson would
    instruct his patients to actively and consciously
    perform the symptom that was bothering them (see
    the nailbiting example under Resistance),
    usually with some minor or trivial deviation from
    the original symptom. In many cases, the
    deviation could be amplified and used as a
    'wedge' to transform the whole behaviour.

  • INTERVIEWER Suppose someone called you and said
    there was a kid, nineteen or twenty years old,
    who has been a very good boy, but all of a sudden
    this week he started walking around the
    neighborhood carrying a large cross. The
    neighbors are upset and the family's upset, and
    would you do something about it. How would you
    think about that as a problem? Some kind of
    bizarre behavior like that.
  • ERICKSON Well, if the kid came in to see me, the
    first thing I would do would be to want to
    examine the cross. And I would want to improve it
    in a very minor way. As soon as I got the
    slightest minor change in it, the way would be
    open for a larger change. And pretty soon I could
    deal with the advantages of a different cross -
    he ought to have at least two. He ought to have
    at least three so be could make a choice each day
    of which one. It's pretty hard to express a
    psychotic pattern of behavior over an ever
    increasing number of crosses.12

  • Seeding Ideas - Erickson would often ensure that
    the patients had been exposed to an idea, often
    in a metaphorical form (i.e. hidden from the
    conscious mind) in advance of utilizing it for a
    therapeutic purpose. He called this 'seeding
    ideas', and it can be observed to occur at many
    levels both coarse and fine grained, in many of
    his case histories. In a simple example, the
    question "Have you ever been in a trance before?"
    seeds the idea that a trance is imminent - the
    presupposition inherent in the word before is
    "not now, but later".

  • Avoiding Self-Exploration - In common with most
    brief therapy practitioners, Erickson was
    entirely uninterested in analysing the patient's
    early psychological development. Occasionally in
    his case histories, he will briefly discuss the
    patient's background, but only as much as it
    pertains to the resources available to the
    patient in the present.
  • INTERVIEWER You don't feel that exploring the
    past is particularly relevant? I'm always trying
    to get clear in my mind how much of the past I
    need to consider when doing brief therapy.
  • ERICKSON You know, I had one patient this last
    July who had four or five years of psychoanalysis
    and got nowhere with it. And someone who knows
    her said, "How much attention did you give to the
    past?" I said, "You know, I completely forgot
    about that." That patient is, I think, a
    reasonably cured person. It was a severe washing
    compulsion, as much as twenty hours a day. I
    didn't go in to the cause or the etiology the
    only searching question I asked was "When you get
    in the shower to scrub yourself for hours, tell
    me, do you start at the top of your head, or the
    soles of your feet, or in the middle? Do you wash
    from the neck down, or do you start with your
    feet and wash up? Or do you start with your head
    and wash down?"
  • INTERVIEWER Why did you ask that?
  • ERICKSON So that she knew I was really
  • INTERVIEWER So that you could join her in this?
  • ERICKSON No, so that she knew I was really

  • Shocks and ordeals
  • Erickson is famous for pioneering indirect
    techniques, but his shock therapy tends to get
    less attention, perhaps because it is
    uncomfortable for us to hear such
    uncharacteristic stories about an inspirational
    and gentle healer. Nonetheless, Erickson was
    prepared to use psychological shocks and ordeals
    in order to achieve given results

  • When the old gentleman asked if he could be
    helped for his fear of riding in an elevator, I
    told him I could probably scare the pants off him
    in another direction. He told me that nothing
    could be worse than his fear of an elevator.
  • The elevators in that particular building were
    operated by young girls, and I made special
    arrangements with one in advance. She agreed to
    cooperate and thought it would be fun. I went
    with the gentleman to the elevator. He wasn't
    afraid of walking into an elevator, but when it
    started to move it became an unbearable
    experience. So I chose an unbusy time and I had
    him walk in and out of the elevator, back in and
    out. Then at a point when we walked in, I told
    the girl to close the door and said, "Let's go

  • She went up one story and stopped in between
    floors. The gentleman started to yell, "What's
    wrong!" I said, "The elevator operator wants to
    kiss you." Shocked, the gentleman said, "But I'm
    a married man!" The girl said, "I don't mind
    that." She walked toward him, and he stepped back
    and said, "You start the elevator." So she
    started it. She went up to about the fourth floor
    and stopped it again between floors. She said, "I
    just have a craving for a kiss." He said, "You go
    about your business." He wanted that elevator
    moving, not standing still. She replied, "Well,
    let's go down and start all over again," and she
    began to take the elevator down. He said, "Not
    down, up!" since he didn't want to go through
    that all over again.
  • She started up and then stopped the elevator
    between floors and said, "Do you promise you'll
    ride down in my elevator with me when you're
    through work?" He said, "I'll promise anything if
    you promise not to kiss me." He went up in the
    elevator, relieved and without fear - of the
    elevator - and could ride one from then on.14

  • References
  • Gorton, Gregg E (2005). Milton Hyland Erickson
    The American Journal of Psychiatry. Washington.
    Vol.162, Iss. 7 pg. 1255, 1 pgs
  • Autohypnotic Experiences of Milton H. Erickson
    (Milton H. Erickson and Ernest L. Rossi), The
    American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, July. 1977
    20, 36-54, reprinted in Collected Papers Volume
  • Autohypnotic Experiences of Milton H. Erickson
    (Milton H. Erickson and Ernest L. Rossi), The
    American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, July. 1977
    20, 36-54, reprinted in Collected Papers Volume
  • Rosen, S. My Voice Will Go With You
  • Andre M. Weitzenhoffer (1976)
    Introduction/forward in Hypnotic Realities
    Erickson Rossi
  • Erickson Rossi Two-Level Communication and
    the Microdynamics of Trance and Suggestion, The
    American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1976
    Reprinted in Collected Papers Vol.1
  • Erickson Rossi - Hypnotic Realities
  • Erickson Rossi - Hypnotic Realities
  • Transcription of Interview with Erickson quoted
    in Uncommon Therapy by Jay Haley.
  • Varieties of Double Bind Erickson Rossi, The
    American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, January
    1975.Reprinted in 'Collected Papers' Volume 3.
  • Erickson quoted in Uncommon Therapy by Jay
  • Erickson quoted in Uncommon Therapy by Jay
  • Interview with Erickson transcribed in Uncommon
    Therapy by Jay Haley.
  • Erickson quoted in Uncommon Therapy by Jay

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  • Despite its detractors, well run government saved
    America during the depression. Though some blame
    the democrats for creating the welfare state, it
    pulled the country out of a devastating
    depression, and is directly responsible for a
    good deal of the wealth of today. Things such a
    dental care, public health, public education,
    public higher education, good water systems, all
    came out of the New Deal, Public Works Projects
    and other governmental programs that began in the
    1930s under FDR. These were very brave ideas at
    the time and fit a spirit of entrepreneurship.

  • Profit, nonprofit and private not for profit
  • Business has fundamental differences with
    governmental parameters. At the heart of business
    is profit while service is at the heart of
    government. Business gets is revenue from profits
    or sales, while government gets it from taxes.
    The priority for a government work is to not make
    a mistake that gets him noticed. For the business
    man it is to make a profit, regardless of how
    many mistakes he makes. The concept of risk is
    vastly different.

  • Privatization of human service organizations

  • This has been a push for the past several
    decades. One thought is that privatization puts
    money directly into the local economy through
    private providers and that this should always be
    viewed as the preferred function of government.
    The counter to this is that when private
    providers are used that there is a presumption
    that profit is being made in the delivery of
    services to the public and that his can lead to
    price gouging or conflict of interest. (ie. That
    the private provider would tend to maximize those
    services that provided the provider with the
    highest profit, further the provision of services
    by a provider would more likely tend to meet the
    bid specs vs the true need in a dynamic society,
    locking the system in place long after the need
    had changed or been eliminated.) A counter
    argument can be made for government in this area.

  • For instance we still have an agency who ensures
    that we keep national helium reserves dating back
    to the days of the dirigibles or blimps incase
    the government ever decides to float a fleet of
    them again. One argument for privatization is
    the idea that private business can alter or
    retool more quickly in its provision of services
    than government and that their motivation to
    change can be more readily affected, that they
    will tend to be more aware of the needs of the
    customer. It is rare private business that does
    not take pains to ensure that its product is what
    the customer wants. The watch word for the 1990s
    was viewing the recipient of services as a
    customer and react accordingly. Some compromise
    is clearly needed. We want the best of good
    business operating with the understanding of good
    government of the particular needs of the

  • Alternatives to standard service delivery
  • Traditional functions
  • Creating legal rules and sanctions
  • Regulation or deregulation
  • Monitoring and investigation
  • Licensing
  • Tax policy
  • Grants
  • Subsidies
  • Loans
  • Loan Guarantees
  • Contracting

  • Innovative
  • Franchising
  • Public-private partnerships
  • PubicPublic partnerships
  • Quasi-public corporations
  • Public enterprise
  • Procurement
  • Insurance
  • Rewards
  • Changing public investment policy
  • Technical Assistance
  • Information
  • Referral
  • Volunteers
  • Vouchers
  • Impact fees
  • Catalyzing nongovernmental efforts
  • Convening nongovernmental leaders

  • Avant-Garde
  • Seed money
  • Euity investments
  • Voluntary associations
  • Coporductoin or self-help
  • Quid Pro Quos
  • Demand management
  • Sale, exchange, or use of property
  • Restructuring the market

  • Is your organization open to new ideas from all
    levels, or must ideas come up through the chain.
    Can one part of an organization meet with another
    and share ideas or enter a joint venture or try
    out a new idea together. Vertical organizations
    have a top down chart. Information travels down
    from boss to boss to boss and information travels
    up the same way. In a horizontal organization
    there is a presumption that every one knows their
    respective jobs and is competent and motivated to
    do it, so the typical management structure is
    much less needed. Much as a chief of staff at a
    hospital. Yes the chief manages, but he does not
    attempt to tell the doctors under him what to do,
    the management is more directed to coordination
    of ideas and methods, not enforcing methods. Some
    jobs are more open to this sort of management.
    The argument is that all jobs would benefit from
    more of the horizontal approach as the vertical
    arrangements tend to smother creativity.

  • Agency study methodology
  • Total Quality management processes
  • Quality circles
  • Bottom up assessment, customer sensitivity.

  • Organization
  • social units deliberately constructed and
    reconstructed to seek specific goals.
  • an organization is a collection of people
    engaged in specialized and interdependent
    activity to accomplish a goal or mission.
  • as systems of continuous, purposive,
    goal-oriented activity involving two or more
  • Note that any group can be considered an
    organization. In this context the key is
    together toward a goal, a goal directed group.
    This could be a Seal Team from Rainbow Six, a
    garden club, a Sunday School class.

  • Important are the rules that the group sets for
    itself and how it elects to make decisions. In
    systems theory we have seen how the system can be
    greater than its parts, or a system can develop a
    life of its own. The organization theory holds
    the same for the organization of group. There are
    many instances in human history that reflect
    this. The ice age mastodon hunters were able to
    bring down an animal hundreds of times their size
    through an organized approach, doing something a
    single person could never do. Imagine for a
    minute why this might be possible.

  • Consider a troup of 100 spear wielding people
    attacking a mastodon one at a time with no
    organization. 100 flattened corpes left, 1 mildly
    bored mastodon. With organization (read clan of
    the cave bear), a few brave and quick hunter can
    amplify the strength and catch the animal in
    areas of vulnerability. How did this occur? Did a
    wise iceman suddenly see how it might be done?
    Anthropologists suggest that this behavior came
    to the ice age people from viewing the wolf
    packs. Fossil and cave paintings reflect the
    reverence for wolves. They dressed in their skins
    and performed ritualized dances in honor of the
    wolf. It would much less of a jump for a poorly
    organized troup to learn from observing a wolf
    pack bringing down a large bison or elk and from
    there make tentative attempts with larger animals
    by mimicking the same strategies.

  • Are we then a modern pack of wolves and have this
    in our heritage? The definition of an
    organization goal fits this model the desired or
    intended ends or results to be achieved by an
    organization or as a desired state of affairs
    which the organization attempts to realized, can
    be well viewed through the eyes of the wolf pack,
    the ice mens tribe, the Seal team, the workers
    in a unit, the community group, the union
    members, Sunday school class, or the Optimist
    club. Each form from shared goals and are the
    most effective when they share a vision that
    contributes to the overall survival and
    maintenance of the organization.

  • Social care goals are those directed to changing
    the environment in order for people to improve
    the quality of their lives and reach maximum

  • Social control relates to control of other who
    might interfere with their own goals or the goals
    of others.
  • Rehabilitation are those directed toward changing
    individuals so they will have improved quality of
    life and better opportunity to reach their
    fullest potential.

  • Goal Displacement is when a new goal contradicts
    an existing one.
  • Goal succession is when one goal is replaced by
    another, such as when a drunk challenges someone
    to step out side and when the other stands,
    reveals that he is 68 and weighs 250 with no
    neck and his goal alters to finding a back door
    to slip out quietly.

  • Scientific or classical management theory
  • Frederick Taylor, an engineer, cir 1895, put
    forth this model for organizational management.
  • Efficiency
  • Effectiveness

  • Science of work
  • Scientific selection and training of staff
  • Managements work with staff in implementation
  • Managements planning and development of
    procedural rules for staff to follow

  • Bureaucracy
  • Classic model of organizations put forth by Max
    Weber (1864-1920)
  • It can be synonymous with organization.
  • stable and officially stated structure of
    authority, an organizational chart.
  • a hierarchy clearly defines who is over whom
  • a record of transactions, regulations, and
    policies kept over time
  • specialized training for management
  • official duties take precedence
  • follows stable rules
  • career oriented approach to work
  • management is apart from owners
  • management has authority to delegate resources

  • Why does it now have a negative stereotype?
    During the late 1940s and through the 1950s in
    America there was much more exposure to heavy
    industry than ever before for most of Americans.
    During the building of heavy industry for WWII
    there was a tremendous growth in companies. Small
    machine shops that had ten to 20 workers suddenly
    faced staffing major production lines of hundreds
    and even thousands of employees. This required a
    tremendous shift in the development of rules and
    policies that felt to be necessary in the
    maintenance of large production lines and large
    numbers of staff. With the downsizing that came
    following the end of the war and even more
    following the end of the Korean conflict, these
    massive bureaucracies were viewed from the
    smaller, newer companies that took the place of
    the larger more well established company.

  • Also, the new business climate was much
    different. Instead of building more of what was
    being built, new ideas resulted in new inventions
    and new wealth (the 1950s were a time of great
    prosperity, due in part to the energy of men
    returning from the war who came back trained,
    used to a certain life style, exposed to new
    ideas, and the GI bill). With new wealth came
    demand for goods, both new and old. People wanted
    new cars with new and better options, new
    refrigerators, newly designed radios, recording
    processes, television, color television, etc. all
    required a different sort of company, one that
    could adjust to a new product, envision a new
    product based on its need, get the new product
    into production and into the market quickly.
    Companies had to be able to completely retool in
    a matter of months or even weeks, a task that
    used to take years if not end the life of most

  • This requires a much more flexible approach to
    management and some of the regulations became to
    be seen in a negative light, as standing in the
    way of progress. The Old guard was often let go
    as they had difficulty letting loose of the tight
    strands of red tape that held the old
    organization (and their positions in it in place.

  • This set the stage for human relations theory of
    organizational management. The old operated on
    the notion of X or Y theory. The management
    viewed production staff as only interested in
    tangible rewards or punishments in terms of how
    they would respond to management. This was called
    X theory of management. At the other end of the
    spectrum was the career management person who was
    felt to be in his place due to company loyalty
    and a shared vision. This reflected the Y theory,
    that someone does something for more intrinsic
    rewards instead of extrinsic rewards.

  • X inherent dislike for work must be forced or
    threatened directly with job loss or pay loss
    inherent preference for being directed and shuns
    responsibility. Security critical
  • (better fits with the classical approach)

  • Y expects to work as a part of life goals self
    directed to objectives to which they are
    commited self actualization is highest goal
    wants responsibility untapped creativity pool
    untapped potential in everyone.
  • (better fits with the human relations approach)

  • Due much to the increase in prod
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