Modern (Ericksonian) Hypnosis Historical Overview

Modern (Ericksonian) Hypnosis

In traditional hypnosis the therapist uses direct suggestion under trance. Milton Erickson (1901-1980) replaced this practice with indirect suggestion, metaphors, and storytelling. According to Milton Erickson there is no co-relation between the depth of trance and therapeutic success. Richard Bandler and John Grinder, co-developers of Neuro-Linguistic Programming, modelled Milton Erikson and developed most of their NLP therapeutic techniques. We can possibly say that NLP is the suggestion part of Ericksonian Hypnosis.

The direct suggestion in traditional form of hypnosis consists of positive affirmation. In modern hypnosis the suggestion is a complete thought consisting of image, words and feeling.

In modern hypnosis there are two types of therapy practices, namely, Trance Therapy and Non-trance therapy. In trance therapy, the therapist guides the client to access the subconscious mind through trance. In Non-trance Therapy, the therapist guides the client to access the subconscious mind through the thought process of the client.

Trance Concept: Hypnotic trance is not a sleepy or an unconscious state. It is a focused, alert and relaxed state of mind. In trance the conscious mind gets aligned with the subconscious mind. This trance state can be used to access our subconscious mind through our conscious mind.

In trance an alignment happens between conscious and subconscious mind. The subconscious mind is always focused and in charge of the present moment, whereas our conscious mind is like radar engaged in the surveillance of the past, present, and the future. When the conscious mind is focused on the present moment, it gets aligned with the subconscious mind and can access the information stored there.

The more the therapist keeps a person’s mind focused on the present moment the deeper will be the trance.

What is the role of a therapist?

A therapist’s role is that of a guide. He will help the client to access his own subconscious mind and make the changes that the client wants.

It is not a passive response from the part of the client. Client does all the work. Therapist only guides the client in the process. Hence the co-operation from the part of a client is very essential. According to Ericksonian hypnosis, ‘every hypnosis is self-hypnosis’.

What happens in a modern hypnotherapy session?

Our brain gathers information through five senses, processes it, interprets and codes it and stores it for future use. It pops up, every now and then, in our conscious awareness and generates in us the original feeling.

Any past experience or future thought of a client will contain minimum three of these sensory inputs or modalities and maximum five. The three modalities that you find in any experience or future thoughts are: images, words and feelings. In some cases, there may be also smell and taste, and nothing else.

Through the hypnotic process, the therapist guides the client to access, from the memory, the subconsciously processed and stored information, and change it the way s/he wants, and to initiate personal changes through creative personal interventions.

What we do in a hypnotherapy session is to change one or two of these modalities in the client-experience. When the modalities of an experience change, the impact of that experience on the client also changes.

Modern (Ericksonian) hypnotists update their techniques through the current research on neuroscience and biochemistry

Hypnosis & meditation: Hypnotic and meditative states of mind are practically same: it is a very focused, alert and relaxed state of mind, with reduced peripheral awareness and enhanced suggestibility. In meditation you spend some quality time with yourself and then come out of it. In hypnosis you use that state of mind to access your subconscious mind and make the changes you want.

How does the therapist change client’s experience?

First, we have to identify the client’s mental processing preferences. A client may process information visually if s/he is more of a visual person. Some may prefer auditory or kinaesthetic processing. Others may use a combination of all the three.

Then, we identify the specific technique that is the most effective for the client’s information processing preferences. What works for one client may not work for another. The therapist may have to experiment with different techniques before s/he narrows down to the one that best suits the client.

Once the technique (mind exercise) is identified, the client is guided to access own negative experience change it through effective intervention; and the client is asked repeat the exercise till the result is achieved and sustained. We often say: “Be at it to beat it”.