Conversational Hypnosis

Conversational Hypnosis

Conversational hypnosis is a powerful form of hypnosis developed by Milton Erickson (1901-1980) an American psychiatrist specializing in medical hypnosis and family therapy. He was founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis.

Milton Erickson not only convinced the American Medical Association (AMA) of the therapeutic benefits of hypnosis, he revolutionised the whole field of hypnosis with his unique conversational style.

Prior to the arrival of Ericksonian hypnosis, hypnotists would almost exclusively use an authoritarian and direct style.  The traditional authoritarian style used by hypnotists and hypnotherapists perpetuated the myth that the subject is under the hypnotists’s control.

Along came Milton Erickson, a rebel psychiatrist who turned the medical world on its head with his widespread use of conversational hypnosis.

In 1953 the American Medical Association caught wind of the fact that the rebel psychiatrist Dr. Milton H. Erickson was using hypnosis in his medical practice. They scheduled a “disciplinary hearing” in New York where he was to be stripped
of his license, his livelihood, and sent home in shame.

Milton Erickson knew that the president of the AMA lived in Los Angeles. He found out his travel details and arranged to fly out with both the president and another board member. The atmosphere was strained and difficult for the first moments of the boarding and the flight. But soon the two board members started to have strong feelings of rapport and respect for Dr. Erickson.

And the more he “talked ” …. in that special way of his …. his companions
got more comfortable …. and more relaxed…. and more relaxed….. and still
more comfortable … until the two grey-haired AMA officials just listened with
glazed eyes and agreed to everything…

By the time the three doctors landed in New York they were all good friends. The hearing, instead of stripping Dr Erickson of his medical licence, had all the charges dropped against Dr. Milton Erickson. The very next year, the American Medical Association reversed its position and allowed doctors to use hypnosis!

That’s the power of conversational hypnosis.

Conversational or Ericksonian hypnosis is a very powerful tool in the hands of a skilled therapist.  It also demystifies the traditional approach to hypnosis.  Conversational hypnosis makes use of the science of language and communication
to assist the client to enter a hypnotic trance, allowing the therapist to interact more freely with the subconscious mind of the client.

Erickson was a great story teller and would often work with his clients in an indirect way, which is a very effective way of bypassing the critical faculty.  While the critical faculty is there for our benefit it can get in the way during
therapy and keep us stuck in undesirable behaviour patterns and limiting belief patterns.

Many books have been published on the wonderful work of Dr Milton H. Erickson.  Ericksonian hypnosis or conversational hypnosis is in widespread use among modern day hypnotherapists.

>Here is an example of the way Erickson used to operate.  A client may come to Dr Erickson for help with weight loss.  Dr Erikson would simply engage the client in seemingly casual conversation but really utilise conversational hypnosis.  As part of the conversation he would casually relate various stories which on the surface were totally unrelated to the client’s problem.

For example, Erickson might mention that he started a vegetable garden last year and that he was fascinated by the intelligence of tomato plants. “Tomato plants come in all shapes and sizes”, he might say. 

I simply water them and provide them with fertiliser for nutrition and the tomato plants know exactly how much water and nutrition to absorb.  There are no really fat tomatoes and there are no really skinny tomatoes even though they may start
growing at different times.

Tomato plants have this inbuilt intelligence that enables them to grow to just the right size without me having to do anything other than just providing them with lots of water and the right nutrition.

Dr Erickson would go on and on telling his stories and then send the client home.  The client might wonder what happened because seemingly Dr Erickson never actually worked on the problem.  But magically the client’s eating habits would
change and the weight would adjust itself as if by magic.  That is the power of conversational hypnosis.


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