Milton Erickson


Indirect and Conversational Hypnotherapy is associated with a more permissive style of delivering suggestions to the patient. Dr Milton Erickson used direct approaches, but also was a master of a more indirect conversational style of hypnotherapy. Indirect approaches are sometimes refereed to as Ericksonian hypnosis.

 Milton Erickson was a well known doctor who pioneered the use of permissive and indirect approaches when working with patients.

  • Some students often assume that because Erickson and indirect approaches are associated, Erickson didn't use direct suggestion approaches, this is a misconception.

  • Erickson deployed both direct and indirect techniques when working with his patients; in fact, he could be very direct with patients if it was required.

  • Milton Erickson believed in the wisdom of the patient’s unconscious and phrased his suggestions to express what he wanted to accomplish, but not the exact means for going about it.

Nowadays, therapists try to be more indirect and demonstrate empathy with their patients, wanting to build and maintain rapport with the patient. This is important for the success of the therapy.

  • Also, patients today volunteer to come and see a hypnotherapist, so there isn't so much resistance and patients have an expectation to close their eyes and be hypnotised. So they can said to already be in a state of trance to some extent when they come to see you.

  • Indirect suggestions do not explicitly state the ideas they convey.

  • Instead, the suggestion may be implied, hidden or present only by association.

  • The creative use of analogies and metaphor (story telling) is a very powerful means of delivering the suggestions in an indirect way, allowing the patients subconscious processes to do the therapeutic work for the patient.

  • This type of indirect approach often works for patients who feel threatened by more direct authoritarian procedures. However, many clients prefer a more direct approach and will resist an indirect approach, so using an indirect approach with all clients will not lead to success.

  • Also, an indirect approach can be more effective as the patient is in most cases unaware that the therapist is doing any therapeutic work. It tends to be under the patient's radar so as to speak.

  • These techniques can be deployed to prevent a patient analysing or thinking too much about what is going on and hence potentially have a negative impact on the outcome of the therapy.

  • Skilled indirect approaches are elegant and are delivered without the patient even knowing anything was done.

Indirect approaches can be applied to inductions, deepeners and the therapeutic intervention techniques.

  • The idea behind using indirect suggestions to induce trance is that, because they do not appear to be commands, they are less likely to arouse conscious attention or resistance. For example. an indirect suggestion in therapy might go something like: “soon you will find the weight issue resolving itself by eating more or less of the right kind of healthy food”.

Again, the skill for the practitioner is to be able to mix all of the approaches to deliver the best solution for the patient/client. Throughout a course of client treatment, the skilled practitioner may need to integrate and deploy all of the different approaches in some way for the individual patient/client.

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