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Like any other specialised area, the Ericksonian approach has its own jargon. This glossary gives more information about terms used in this model of approach.

Analogue Marking

Way of marking out embedded commands (see 7.1) for unconscious attention – for example, by pausing, gesturing, (appropriate) touching, or using a different voice tonality/volume/pitch/tempo.

Artfully Vague Approach

Hedging your bets and covering all eventualities by using vague process language (see 5.1). Strategies for being artfully vague are encapsulated by the Milton model (see below).

As-if Frame

Acting as if or pretending that a certain state of affairs exists. To paraphrase Erickson, you can pretend anything and master it. Fantasy and reality may even share the same neurology. Good way of constructing, accessing and rehearsing resources. Obvious parallel of actors spontaneously picking up thoughts and feelings associated with character played.

Benevolent Ordeals

Task assignments employed by Erickson to convert the symptom into an “awful inconvenience”. To design a benevolent ordeal Erickson would often find out what his client hated doing then encourage them to agree to do just that were they to persist with the presenting problem. To cite a couple of case examples, Erickson had an insomniac wax floors rather than lie awake and a smoker do neglected paperwork after smoking. There are connections here with behaviourist concepts of response cost and contingency contracting. Benevolent ordeals appear to represent an exception to Erickson’s largely non-directive orientation. He was sometimes keener to “derail” the symptom.


Tuning into and identifying non-verbal correlates of a person’s mental state, frequently for purposes of verification and pacing of applied procedures (see Section 3).

Future Pacing

NLP term for mental rehearsal. Projecting into the future to identify, evaluate and practise desired changes. Tends to “wire in” new attitudes and behaviour. Connections with the as-if frame.


Psychology term, viewing each person as a unique, special, individual case, as did both Rogers and Erickson. It’s said that Erickson used to invent a new therapy for each client. Contrasts with the “nomothetic” (labelling/diagnosing) orientation of, say, orthodox psychiatry.


Refers to similarity/parallels/correspondence. Arguably a more appropriate term than the overgeneralised designation of “metaphor” for Erickson’s (e.g. story-telling) strategies based on multi-level communication.

Milton Model

NLP’s framework for understanding Erickson’s verbal communication. Structured methods for being artfully vague – involving, among other language patterns, nominalisations and unspecified verbs. In direct contrast to NLP’s “meta model”, which relates to precise, unambiguous verbal communication. (See, for example, Bandler & Grinder, 1975; Grinder, DeLozier & Bandler, 1977; Grinder & Bandler, 1981 for more details on this complex area.)

Naturalistic Approach

Another of Erickson’s trademarks. Often applied to the informal use of hypnosis, bringing it into everyday communication (or perhaps vice versa). Corollary that hypnosis happens in language, so why not use it – respectfully – in conversation, including during therapy sessions (through, for example, multi-level communication) without formal trance induction.


Abstract noun – e.g. “experience”, “resource”, “understanding” (see the process instruction generator in 5.1). Can’t be put in a wheelbarrow, but does meaningfully complete the phrase “an ongoing . . .”. Basic tool in being artfully vague and important aspect of the Milton model. Commonly used also by politicians and horoscope compilers.


Assumption, often subtle – in Ericksonian therapy enabling a suggestion to “sneak” past the critical factor. Prior to trance induction, Erickson would say things like, “I’d like to have you take your time about going into a trance”, “I don’t want you to go into a trance too soon”, “Let’s have a little talk first, ‘cause in the trance I will want you to do something of importance for you”, all such statements presupposing that trance will occur and setting up its more likely occurrence. Highly intricate linguistic topic – see, for example, Bandler & Grinder (1975) for further details.

Pseudo-Orientation in Time

Sometimes called age progression or the crystal ball technique. Erickson would ask the client, in imagination, to move forward in time to encourage desired changes and insight into the steps required to get there. Relates closely to the as-if frame and future pacing

Selectional Restriction Violation

Attribution of qualities to a person or object unable to possess such qualities.  “And it’s a nice feeling to a tree to able to confidently welcome with ease first the rain and now the sunshine”. In theory, the listener will identify with the other person or object and apply such statements to themselves.

Tag Question

Invites reprocessing of the previous statement: e.g. “You are enjoying the course, aren’t you?”, “You’ve done it all, haven’t you?”, “You won’t fail the exam, will you?”, etc. The intended effect is to make the previous statement more “solid” or, if not, to elicit overt disagreement which can then be addressed.


Self-evident, indisputable statement: e.g. “You’re sitting there”, “The world is going on around you”, “There are sounds in the room”, etc. Useful for “pacing” purposes during hypnotic inductions

Unspecified Verb

Verb alienated from sensory experience (other than through the listener’s extra interpretation, filling in the blanks). Examples include “discover”, “develop”, “continue”, “enjoy”, etc. (see the process instruction generator in 5.1). Question of degree rather than kind in distinguishing specified and unspecified verbs. “Hit” and “criticised”, for example, are more specified than “hurt”. No verb is completely specified – requires extra information (e.g. an adverb). Basic tool in being artfully vague.

Utilisation Approach

Shunning the textbook and rechanneling the person’s “internal frame of reference” (e.g. behaviour, beliefs, interests, even psychological difficulties themselves) towards the desired goal. Eastern, martial arts type of approach. Archetypal Ericksonian psychiatric hospital tale of encouraging a person suffering from delusions of being Jesus Christ to continue to enjoy carpentry and be of service to humankind by going over to the other wing and building some bookcases (which got the poor chap engaged in constructive activity and eventually lead to a remission).

Yes Set

Potentially persuasive communication technique used, for instance, in sales and Ericksonian therapy. A salesperson might ask a customer a series of questions, the natural answer to which is “yes” – e.g. “Do you want to buy a quality product?”, “Do you want something that lasts?”, “You want to make the right choice?” – to prime the customer to respond similarly when asked to buy their product. In Ericksonian therapy, the yes set could be construed as an example of pacing and leading

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