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Approaches to Ericksonian Hypnosis

Approaches to Ericksonian Hypnosis

In the view of the author, there are certain aspects which are essential to Ericksonian Hypnosis. These are Utilisation, Metaphor, Language Patterns, and Fractionalisation.

Utilisation(Part 1)

If anything can be said to encapsulate Erickson’s work it is utilisation. Utilisation means that we as hypnotists should use anything and everything the client brings us to help effect change. Additionally, we should use everything around us (ie distractions, environment, etc) to assist in the trance induction process. If we use what the client comes in with, rather than to automatically attempt to overcome it as many therapeutic modalities insist on, we can cut down on the resistance of the client to change. It is important to note that even when change is preferable and inevitable, clients will more often than not resist it in the first instance.

Rapport is one of the most important if not the most important component to the hypnotic relationship. Utilisation lends itself to rapport building and maintenance. One sure way to break rapport with a client is to ridicule or criticise out of hand anything that the client comes in with.

Utilisation is where Erickson’s work departs from the more traditional approaches to therapy in that it does not rely on insight as being necessary for change to occur. This need for insight is probably most common and necessary for the more psychodynamic approaches to therapy. Utilisation requires the therapist to understand that the unconscious is not only the source of most issues with clients, but it is also the greatest therapeutic ally to assist in the change process. Erickonian hypnosis was more behavioural than analytical in that it is symptom based which lends itself perfectly to brief intervention. Additionally, (which was most certainly not part of Erickson’s grand plan), it lends itself to well to hypnotists without a psychological or medical background. This is due to the fact that Erickson did not view problems as indications to deep-seated pathology, but as attempts to adapt in order to function effectively (Zeig & Munion, 1999)

Another excellent example of utilisation is the Early Learning Set, which is a novel way that Erickson utilised obvious past issues which are universal in order to induce trance. Additionally, this approach also utilises naturally occurring trance phenomena which are ratified for the client as the process goes along. This was laid out as such in Hypnotic Realities Erickson & Rossi (1976):

When you first went to nursery school, this matter of learning letters and numbers seemed to be a big insurmountable task. To recognise the letter A, to tell a Q from an O was very, very difficult. And then too, joined up writing and print were so different. But you learned to form a mental image of some kind. You didn’t know it at the time, but it was a permanent mental image.

And later on in primary school, you formed other mental images of words or pictures of sentences. You developed more and more mental images without knowing you were developing mental images. And you can recall all those images.

Now you can go anywhere you wish, and transport yourself to any situation. You can feel water, you may swim in it, you can do anything you want.

You do not even have to listen to my voice, because your unconscious will hear it. Your unconscious can try anything it wishes. But your unconscious mind isn’t going to do anything of importance.

You will notice that your conscious mind is somewhat concerned since it keeps fluttering your eyelids. You have altered your breathing rate, you have altered your pulse, you have altered your blood pressure, and without knowing it, you’re demonstrating the immobility that a hypnotic subject can show.

There is nothing really important except the activity of your unconscious mind, and that can be whatever your unconscious mind desires.

Now physical comfort exists, but you do not even need to pay attention to your relaxation and comfort. I can tell your unconscious mind that you are an excellent hypnotic subject, and whenever you need to or want to, your unconscious mind will allow you to use it.

And it can take time, its own time letting you go into trance helping you to understand anything reasonable. When I speak to you it is necessary for you to listen.

I want you to concentrate on all of the wonderful things that makes you unique, that makes you the very special unique person that you are know. And you might take this opportunity to focus on how you can improve on the things in your life that you would like to improve.

(Pause for 5 minutes)

Revive: Notice the body reorientation when you open your eyes and return to full consciousness. Notice how marvellous you feel, and perhaps you might even feel a bit more enlightened about yourself and how you behave


Erickson, M & Rossi, E & Rossi, S (1976) Hypnotic Realities: The Induction of Clinical Hypnosis and Forms of Indirect Suggestion Irvington, New York

Zeig, J & Munion, W (1999) Key Figures in Counselling and Psychotherapy Milton H Erickson Sage, London


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