social icons graphic



There are few set Ericksonian inductions, and technique per se is often de-emphasised. The following induction themes, however, are typically Ericksonian: pacing and leading, naturally occurring trance states and the somewhat controversial confusion technique. Brief notes on the key principles behind these three themes (which will be expanded upon during the lectures) are outlined below.


Key Principles

  • The main idea is to create a heightened state of receptivity by synchronising with (pacing) the client.
  • This is a common communication technique – designated as such by NLPers – used notably in sales training (e.g. the yes set) and in the resolution of interpersonal conflict (see, for example, Howie, 1997).
  • In a hypnotic context, it involves commentating on the client’s ongoing experience (pacing) – remaining artfully vague and using truisms, if indicated – so that the client becomes more amenable to accepting your subsequent (leading) statements.

Sample Pacing Statements

You’re sitting there, listening to various sounds around you, feeling the weight of your body in the seat, the temperature of your face, the texture of your clothing, where your feet touch the floor, noticing shapes and colours behind your eyelids, focusing on your breathing, etc.

Sample Leading Statements

Relax more and more, let go of the outside world and its daily tasks, enjoy a deeper sense of comfort, comfortably savour shifting your awareness inwards, become more absorbed in your own inner experience, allow your conscious mind to drift off safely, etc. (To recap, such leading statements are more likely to be responded to if preceded by a series of pacing statements.)

Linking Pacing and Leading Statements

Simple conjunction: “You’re listening to me and relaxing more and more”.

As . . . then format: “As you listen to me, you’re relaxing more and more”.

Direct causation: “Listening to me is making you [or helping you to] relax more and more”.

(Pacing and leading inductions would tend to begin with the first two categories.)



Key Principles

  • Evocation, rather than direct elicitation, of the hypnotic state.
  • Erickson viewed hypnosis as an commonplace (“naturalistic”) occurrence: several times per day, we enter the hypnotic state. (Such a notion has also been advanced by Rossi [1986] in terms of ultradian rhythms – natural ninety minute cycles of activity and rest.)
  • As the therapist vividly describes a context in which hypnosis (or perhaps more correctly, the hypnoidal state) naturally occurs, the client is gently oriented to the hypnotic state.
  • There are many such contexts, including watching TV, driving, listening to music, reading a book etc. (see sample script in 4.4).
  • The naturally occurring trance states theme could be considered as an indirect version of imagery deepening taught on Stage One of the National College training.



There are significant reservations about including confusional techniques on this, essentially introductory, course. There are, for example, contraindications: used inappropriately, confusion can elicit an unintended abreaction (see Stage One handout 2.0) and an angry rather than relaxed state in the client. As such, course members are advised to use confusion within the context of a trusting and respectful working alliance. Confusion also presents an ethical dilemma, tending to be less effective when the client is informed of its use and rationale. Those clients who are over-analytical may benefit significantly, however, from a confusional induction procedure.

Main Principles

  • Derailment (“depotentiation”) or overload of the conscious mind set.
  • Confusion tends to be uncomfortable, increasing motivation to reduce the state of uncertainty. Hence, the client will be more amenable to options presented to reduce the confusion – for example, latching onto the next sensible communication.
  • In a hypnotic context, the most viable option is to drift into hypnosis – either as a general “escape” to relieve the sense of confusion or as a response to embedded commands (see 7.1) which make some sense out of the chaos.

Confusional Techniques

As some of non-verbal techniques presented in the literature (e.g. the handshake interruption technique) appear bizarre and manipulative, this course concentrates on verbal techniques of confusion. Examples of Ericksonian grammatical violations, non-sequiturs and complexity will be presented during the lectures. Course members will also have the opportunity during practical sessions to try out the “stereo” technique: two therapists either side of the client talking simultaneously.


Recent Posts