What is Ericksonian Hypnosis

Ericksonian hypnosis is non-directive, or indirect, view hypnosis. Its task is to put a person into a trance in order to turn to the unconscious and activate resources to solve the problem.

A trance here is understood as a special state in which a person is disconnected from external stimuli and plunges into himself. All people periodically experience this and without any interference from the outside – for example, when they think, fantasize or are in prostration.

Method creator Milton Erickson thoughtthat the state of trance is a kind of bridge between the conscious and unconscious levels of the psyche. Using it, you can get access to the rich internal resources of a person, the baggage of experience accumulated over a lifetime.

During hypnosis, critical control is temporarily reduced and limitations of consciousness are removed. In this state, positive changes can be made that will remain and continue to operate after the session.

Trance entry is also present in classical directive hypnosis, but Erickson’s has some important differences.

How is Ericksonian hypnosis different from conventional hypnosis?

Classical, or direct, hypnosis explicitly causes a person to go into a trance or changes his behavior. The therapist gives instructions—for example, “You’re going to sleep”—and then makes a suggestion. He does not need to adapt to the client: the latter is deprived of freedom of action and can only obey.

Ericksonian hypnosis is a gentler and more ethical way to influence a person. Here the therapist adjusts tailored to the client, shows empathy and creates relationships based on trust and acceptance.

Ekaterina Maslova

Clinical psychologist, hypnotherapist, candidate of psychological sciences, associate professor, psychotherapist of the online psychotherapy service Zigmund.Online

Ericksonian hypnosis differs from classical hypnosis in that the hypnotherapist works more gently, interacting personally at different levels and directing his work towards self-disclosure, improving the person’s contact with his creative part and accepting himself.

This method is not commanded – the doctor only suggests to perform some action, for example: “Maybe you want to close your eyes if you want to relax.” The client has the right to choose what to do and what to refuse, what to tell and what to keep to himself.

The therapist does not take power away from the person. On the contrary, he gives him access to his internal resources and teaches him how to use them to solve the problem.

Ekaterina Maslova says that special attention in Ericksonian hypnosis is paid to how a person perceives reality – events and phenomena in his life. The therapist helps him to see the problem from different angles, to make weakness a strength.

A person brings with him not only a problem, but also its solution – only he does not know about it yet.

This approach does not generate the resistance or skepticism associated with direct hypnosis. The person himself decides what to do, and the therapist, with the help of metaphors, allegories and symbols, helps him get the necessary resources from the unconscious to solve the problem.

What methods are used in Ericksonian hypnosis

To achieve a therapeutic effect in Ericksonian hypnosis used several methods.

Customization for the client

To better understand the person and gain their trust, the therapist may use “mirroring” – for example, copying part of the pose or using phrases that the client repeats.

Breathing adjustment techniques are also used. The therapist speaks when the client exhales and is silent when the client inhales. As a result, he breathes with him in time, because you can only speak on the exhale.

goal setting

In order for the unconscious of the client to learn what to strive for, it is necessary to set a clear goal. It is desirable that it be positively formed. For example, instead of “I don’t want to get sick” – “I want to be healthy.”

Fixation of attention

To put the patient into a trance, the therapist fixes his attention on some object or event. It can be either something real – a pendulum, a sound, a pain in the body – or an imaginary one, such as a memory or a fantasy.

The main thing is that the person is fully focused on the object or event.

One of the well-known techniques is called “Accompanying in a pleasant memory.” The therapist invites the client to recall some pleasant moment in life and guides him through this memory, referring to visual images, sounds, tastes or smells, touches and actions.

Depotentialization of consciousness

Once the person’s attention is fixed, the therapist takes steps to reduce the activity of the person’s conscious mind. There are many ways to do this:

  • cause confusion – an unexpected action or phrase to knock a person out of his usual way of thinking. For example, the therapist says, “Your sex life…is not going to be our consideration.” In the first half of the phrase, a person experiences a shock – especially if the question is unexpected and not related to his problem. And in the second, he relaxes, but at the same time switches from rational to another way of functioning.
  • Oversaturate the brain – overload with a large amount of sensory information, for example, start talking in detail about some physiological moment. Sooner or later, a person will be distracted and fall into a trance.
  • Shock – to do something unexpected to cause great confusion and instantly plunge the person into a trance. AT leadership give such an example from the practice of Erickson. One of his patients could be in a standing elevator, but was afraid to go down or up on it. To shock him, Erickson persuaded the female elevator operator to try to kiss the man when he went inside. He rejected the kiss, but was so taken aback by what was happening that he asked the woman to take him to the lobby. He lost his fear of elevators.

Starting an unconscious search

After the person has entered a trance, the therapist can begin to use different types of indirect suggestions.

One of the good tools is metaphors. For example, instead of discussing a specific problem, the therapist tells a similar story that happened to another patient, to himself, or even to his children.

When choosing a story, the doctor can use what the client told him.

For example, if a person wants to get rid of a migraine and at the first conversation mentions that “the head is like a vise squeezing,” after inducing a trance, the doctor may come up with a story about unclenching the vise.

Symbols are also often used. For example, if a woman wants to overcome the lack of sexual desire that is often associated with cold, ice, thawing, defrosting the refrigerator may appear in the story.

The metaphorical story of the therapist is a direct appeal to the unconscious, an offer to do what the client needs. At the same time, a person has a choice – to accept what the doctor says, or to ignore it. If the offer is accepted, the unconscious starts looking for resources to complete the task.

For example, once Erickson treated a patient who could not part with the crutches, despite the fact that the leg had already recovered, and the cast was removed. Since the man was an auto mechanic, the doctor told him the story about the car.

Erickson came up with a parable about a man whose car broke down and he began to harness his horse to it. It was long and inconvenient, but he continued to do so after the car was fixed. But then one day he thought about something, went into the garage, got behind the wheel and started the car. After that, he stopped harnessing the horse.

After listening to the story, the man stopped walking on crutches that were no longer needed.

Ekaterina Maslova

When the hypnotherapist’s suggestions are accepted, there are lasting changes in the behavior and consciousness of the patient.

What is Ericksonian hypnosis used for?

Ericksonian hypnosis apply to solve different problems:

  • weight loss,
  • getting rid of addiction
  • solving relationship problems
  • obsessive-compulsive disorder,
  • post-traumatic syndrome,
  • neurosis,
  • phobia,
  • anxiety
  • habit adjustments,
  • sleep disorders,
  • irritability

as well as to develop pain control and increase self-confidence.

And scientific research confirms that hypnosis effective for the treatment of depression and anxiety. He helps cope with distress, reduce pain and reduce the amount of medication used after surgery and medical procedures.

Hypnosis can spare from acute and chronic pain, irritable bowel syndrome, to improve the results of other types of psychotherapy – for example, cognitive-behavioral.

Who Shouldn’t Try Ericksonian Hypnosis

Do not advise use Ericksonian hypnosis if you are psychotic or have a personality disorder. In this case, first consult with a psychiatrist (not a psychologist) whether you can undergo therapy with entering a trance.

Also, if you have a serious physical illness, such as cancer, check with your hypnotherapist if he has had experience working with such clients.

How to try Ericksonian hypnosis

Find a psychiatrist or psychologist who uses Ericksonian hypnosis. Ekaterina Maslova recommends looking for professional communities of hypnotherapists when looking for a specialist.

Discuss with your doctor in advance which methods you agree to use and what you want to achieve. Be sure to warn him about the presence of mental disorders, if any.

As for the number of sessions, Ekaterina Maslova argues that Ericksonian hypnosis refers to short-term methods of psychotherapy. One session may be enough for a person to get the necessary attitudes that will ensure positive changes in life.

In addition, many therapists teach their clients self-hypnosis techniques so that they can continue treatment without the doctor’s involvement.

If you want to try Ericksonian hypnosis yourself, here is one method, reduced in the systematic course of Ginzburg and Yakovleva.

Sit down, put your hands on your knees. Go into a trance, for example, by concentrating on body position or breathing. Then consider that the index finger of the right hand will be responsible for “Yes”, and the left – for “No”. Say in your mind the following: “When my unconscious is ready to make contact with me, the yes finger will go up.”

Next, you need to wait until one of the assigned fingers begins to move up in small trembling movements. No need to do this on purpose – it should rise as if by itself. When this happens, you can ask mental questions. For example:

“Is the problem I have now related to some event in my past?”
– “Yes”.
“Was that before the age of twenty?”
– “Yes”.
– “Until ten years old?”
– “Yes”.

And so on, until you find the answer to the question and solve the problem.