Ericksonian Hypnosis Training Guide

Ericksonian hypnotherapy is based on the work and teachings of Milton Erickson.

This training guide will help you understand Milton Erickson’s influence in the hypnosis community, and why we’re all such fans of his work. For hypnotherapy certification information beyond Ericksonian hypnosis, make sure to read our Hypnotherapy Certification Guide.

Not only will we introduce Erickson, but we will take a brief look at the techniques and theories you should expect to find in any quality Ericksonian Hypnotherapy training.

My Voice Will Go With You

"And I want you to choose some time in the past when you were a very, very little girl. And my voice will go with you. And my voice will change into that of your parents, your neighbors, your friends, your schoolmates, your playmates, your teachers. And I want you to find yourself sitting in the school room, a little girl feeling happy about something, something that happened a long time ago, that you forgot a long time ago." - Milton H. Erickson

Who Is Milton Erickson?

Milton Erickson often used garden metaphors in his work.

Milton Erickson has often been called the “father” of hypnotherapy. However, hypnotherapy has a few “fathers”. Erickson is a favorite because he affected how most modern hypnotists approach hypnosis, to this day.

Erickson was born in 1901, and spent much of his career regarded as a maverick. 

According to the website historyofhypnosis.com, the American Medical Association so mistrusted him that they tried to revoke his license in the 1950s. Yet today, his influence can be seen in almost every hypnotherapist’s office around the world. Over time, Erickson’s approach to therapy and hypnosis made an indelible impact on the world of hypnosis.

There is a lot of information about Milton Erickson on the internet these days, so we will not spend a lot of time talking about the man himself here. At the end of this page you will find a resource list that includes some website links to more in depth articles about Milton Erickson, as well as a list of his books.

What Should You Look For In An Ericksonian Hypnosis Course?

Milton Erickson treated clients as individuals.

One of Milton Erickson’s greatest contributions to hypnotherapy was the idea that every client is an individual, and therefore required a unique approach. He considered problems to be processes, and spent a lot of therapy time changing perspectives and ideas about the “process” of a client’s “problem”.

His perspective on the individual meant that there was no one way to do hypnotherapy – it depended entirely on what would work for the client.

Every session was different, because every person is different.

Any quality Ericksonian Hypnosis course will spend some time on enhancing your ability to be flexible in your approach to a client centered hypnotherapy session. There are several core elements you should master in order to become a Certified Ericksonian Hypnotherapist.

Core Elements of Ericksonian Hypnotherapy Training

  • History of Milton H. Erickson
  • Indirect And Embedded Suggestion
  • Permissive Language
  • Milton Model – (Ericksonian Language Patterns)
  • Erickson Style Inductions
  • Metaphors and Nested Loops
  • Milton Erickson’s Principle of Utilization
  • Post-hypnotic suggestions

History of Milton H. Erickson

Milton H. Erickson, MD, was one of the fathers of modern hypnosis.

Understanding a bit about Erickson and his life will help you understand the foundation of his impact on the world of hypnosis.

He was a psychiatrist and therapist, and hypnosis was just a part of his work. However, his perspective was influenced by his life, and those influences formed the way he approached therapy, and hypnotherapy in particular.

His experiences being disabled as a child, for instance, gave him the ability to watch people and observe how they interacted with the world.

Your Ericksonian hypnosis training should absolutely teach about the life and history of Milton Erickson and his influence on the field of hypnotherapy.

Indirect And Embedded Suggestion

Milton Erickson often used indirect suggestion.

Milton Erickson often used indirect and embedded suggestions as a way to bypass the subject’s critical factor and reach the subconscious mind. This is a foundational element that should be included in any course addressing Ericksonian hypnosis.

Indirect suggestion often uses permissive language. For instance, “Stop eating before you are too full” might be worded more permissively using words like “maybe”, “might”, or “I wonder if”.

For instance: I wonder if you’d like to stop eating before you are too full. You might notice a sensation that could allow that to happen easily.

Permissive Language

A permissive style of suggestion or induction provides the client options to find their way.

Permissive language can be part of indirect suggestions, but it can also be part of hypnotic inductions, stories, etc.

Erickson often used permissive language in his inductions, creating room for the client to interpret choice and softening the impact of delivery.

Because Erickson used what would work for a given client, if a client seemed resistant to an authoritative approach, Erickson might have softened his approach by offering options, encouraging a client to choose HOW they would go into a trance.

Note that for this to work, the client had to buy into the supposition that they WOULD go into a trance.

Milton Model – Ericksonian Language Pattern

Ericksonian Hypnosis Training should include study and practice of Ericksonian language patterns.

The Milton Model was created by modeling Erickson’s hypnotic techniques.

Co-created by John Grinder and Richard Bandler, the model takes a formulaic approach to the seemingly magical process and results achieved by Milton Erickson. Bandler and Grinder spent a lot of time just talking to Erickson, studying his work, and breaking his process into recognizable elements.

The techniques in the Milton Model aim at moving the client from a detail oriented perspective, to a more general and open perspective. The language used and the questions posed lean toward generalizations and ambiguity in order to give the client a different way to consider the topic at hand.

Mastery of the Milton Model is a cornerstone to being an effective Ericksonian hypnotherapist, and should be covered in depth, including practice sessions, in your studies of Ericksonian hypnotherapy.

Erickson Style Inductions

Ericksonian Inductions are most commonly thought to use permissive language.

Erickson style inductions take many different forms, just as his hypnotic work in general took many different forms.

Sometimes, his inductions were confusing and impossible to distinguish from what followed. 

Utilizing the power of Ericksonian techniques in your inductions will give you flexibility beyond any scripted or process driven induction. And flexibility is the key.

Having the flexibility to tailor an induction to the subject, to what is happening around you, to what the subject does (or doesn’t do). The ability to generalize, and give the subject permission to do it THEIR way. That’s a certain kind of magic.

All of the techniques you learn when studying Ericksonian hypnosis techniques will serve you well in your hypnotic inductions.

Metaphors and Nested Loops

Milton Erickson used metaphors and story telling to access the unconscious in conversational hypnosis.

Milton Erickson was famous for his winding, seemingly meaningless (sometimes) stories and metaphors. He often confused both his audiences and his clients – which was exactly what he wanted to do. At least, we hope so!

Understanding and practicing the use of metaphor, nested loops, and story telling in general is a vital and core aspect of accessing the power of Ericksonian hypnosis.

If you can imagine the power of a story, can you imagine the power of a story, within a story, within a story … all with the same therapeutic intent? All of the loops leading the imagination, and the unconscious mind, through a maze designed with a final destination in mind. That is the power of the nested loop.

Milton Erickson’s Principle of Utilization

The principle of utilization simply means to use what happens, and what is "there", to enhance a hypnosis session.

The Principle of Utilization may be one of the most useful hypnotic principles.

At its core, it simply means to use what happens. Use what is available. Many hypnotists have a moment of panic when the client does something unexpected, or a loud noise “interrupts” their session.

However, if you are ready and willing to use ANYTHING that happens to help a client deepen their trance, or plant a post hypnotic suggestion, then you have extended your hypnotic opportunities.

Bottom line – whatever happens – use it!

Post-hypnotic suggestions

Post hypnotic suggestion.

“Hey, call me when you get home!” Asking someone to do something “later”, linked to something that we know will happen later. Happens in normal conversation all the time.

Post hypnotic suggestion links an action or behavior or thought to something that will happen after the hypnosis session is complete. It may be related to a follow up session:

“Hey, call me when you get home!” Asking someone to do something “later”, linked to something that we know will happen later. Happens in normal conversation all the time.

Post hypnotic suggestion links an action or behavior or thought to something that will happen after the hypnosis session is complete. It may be related to a follow up session:

“You will go into trance much more deeply and easily the next time you sit in that chair.”

Hypnotherapy is all about creating some kind of change. A shift in perception or behavior…the hypnosis client comes in wanting something to be different when they are done. So suggesting that things might be different after the session is a no brainer! However, delivering post hypnotic suggestions effectively takes some finesse, and is an important part of Ericksonian hypnotherapy.

Ericksonian Hypnosis: Books and Online Resources

A short list of just some of the books by or about Milton H. Erickson:

Books & online resources
  • My Voice Will Go With You – The Teaching Tales of Milton H. Erickson ~Sidney Rosen
  • The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis, Volumes 1 through 4 ~Milton Erickson and Ernest Rossi
  • Conversations With Milton H. Erickson, MD – Volumes 1 through 4 ~Jay Haley
  • Patterns of Hypnotic Techniques of Milton Erickson (VOL 1 & 2) ~Bandler, Grinder, & DeLozier
  • Online Resources About Milton H. Erickson and Ericksonian Hypnotherapy:

    The Milton H. Erickson Foundation – A good resource for all things related to Ericksonian Hypnotherapy. They even offer a $19.99/month membership that gives you access to a plethora of books and videos on Erickson.

    The History of Hypnosis Website – Offers information on many of the historical influences on hypnosis – including a good article on Milton H. Erickson.

    About the Author

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    Maggie is a Certified Hypnotherapist, Certified NLP Master Practitioner, Certified NLP Coach, and a NLP and hypnosis trainer.

    She has been working in the fields of hypnosis and NLP for over 25 years, after getting her Bachelors Degree from the University of Colorado in Marketing and Communication.

    A life long study of human behavior continues, as she believes there is always more to learn (especially about human creatures). Maggie also works with the IHA directing operations and member management, as well as helping out with their website.

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