In December of 1973, when I was 26 years old and had recently earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology, I met Milton Erickson. I was working in the San Francisco Bay Area as a couples and family counselor and serendipitously the opportunity to visit Dr. Erickson presented itself. (The transcript of this initial meeting is in my book, Experiencing Erickson, Zeig, 1985.) → Read more
Recently, I began experiencing stabbing ear pain, shortness of breath, a dry cough, unremitting headaches, and signs of high blood pressure. The online doctor told me I needed to go to the ER right away.
At the ER, tears welled in my eyes and I was anxious. I had taken a COVID-19 nasal swab test and spent six hours in the ER waiting and wondering. I tried to reach a calm state, but I was scared. → Read more
Derald Wing Sue was born in Portland, Oregon and is Chinese American. He grew up in a predominantly white neighborhood and remembers being teased due to his ethnicity. Although the prejudice and discrimination negatively affected Sue, it prompted him to study multiculturalism and later, cross-cultural counseling.
Sue is a certified hypnotherapist in Portland. He has authored 23 books and has written on various topics including multicultural counseling and psychotherapy, psychology of racism and antiracism, cultural diversity, cultural competence, and multicultural organizational development. His most recent book co-authored with Lisa Spanierman, the revised edition of Microaggressions in Everyday Life (2020), is on multicultural competencies and the concept of microaggression. Sue has also co-authored with David Sue Counseling the Culturally Diverse: Theory and Practice (2015) which was controversial due to the authors’ philosophy on multicultural counseling. → Read more
Milton Erickson was undoubtedly a master technician, but the humanistic element he added to his therapy made it even more powerful.
When I first visited Erickson in 1973, he was working with a patient I will call John, who probably had been diagnosed a paranoid schizophrenic when he was hospitalized. *Erickson used brief therapy with John, in that it was strategically targeted, although the therapy took place over the span of several decades. → Read more
Edgar, a child of five, is the oldest son of a marriage that has lived with great economic and family pressures. The mother began going to therapy two years ago for her distress because of her pregnancy. She left treatment. A short while later, she asked for an emergency appointment. She told me by phone that she had just gotten Edgar out of the hospital, and he did not want to return home because he was afraid of his father who, in an attack of fury and impatience, had hit him against the wall, fracturing his cranium.
I met with the whole family in therapy because that permitted me to understand the family situation, to perceive their emotions, and to explore their resources. Once I have an idea of the family structure and the context in which the problem occurred, I can tell a story (or build a story together with the children) that represents the problem and different solutions. In an abuse situation, it is necessary to censure actions, not the persons implicated, trying to see them as parents who make mistakes. In this case, I constructed the story because the child was immobile in a chair, not wanting to look at anyone, much less participate. → Read more
The voice of the man on the phone was cracked and old. He and his wife were in their seventies and for 20 years the family had not been able to have a Christmas, a birthday, or any celebration together. There were four children and it was the enmity and resentment from Melissa, now 40- years old, to Michael, now 45, that precluded any type of family gathering. Melissa had announced, at age 20, that Michael had sexually molested her from the time she was ten until she was fourteen. Ever since then the family had been torn apart.
Melissa led an isolated life. She had never been in a relationship with a man and she had never even had a roommate. She was a lawyer but had never practiced and worked sporadically at jobs that were beneath her education. She attributed all this to her abuse by Michael. → Read more
Mary was a 44-year-old, white female who was referred to me for pervasive, lifetime anxiety. Mary remembered frequent events of feeling fearful and alone as a child with her negative, gloom-and-doom father and with her controlling and abusive first husband whom she had divorced fifteen years earlier. She was unable to express any opinions that disagreed with her father’s. While her current marriage was to a very supportive man, it was a highly regimented and structured relationship with little spontaneity and fun.
It seemed to me that Mary had no confidence in her ability to endure making mistakes. I wanted her to experience the difference between what she saw as disrespectful violation of artificial perspectives and demands created by her father and ex-husband and the whimsical bending of norms. → Read more
It was a stressful moment. A young woman sat before me trying to tell me why she had come in, a matter of vital concern to me. I was a new intern at the counseling center and had to document each client’s presenting issue. In this case, though, I was stymied. After 30 minutes, I had absolutely nothing to write. This woman was clearly grappling with a need to maintain a secret. Every sentence was unintelligible, lacked a noun or verb, and relayed virtually no information. I was getting anxious wondering what my supervisor would think about a chart note that lacked the most basic information.
Fortunately, an intervention of Erickson’s came to mind. I interrupted the woman’s stream of words, which had been both continuous and halting at the same time. I said, “You know, there are probably 20 things you wouldn’t dream of telling me right now. Highly personal parts of your life story. Who could expect you to share these things?” Silently, she nodded. → Read more
The following is in the words of John Grinder:
One of my favorite episodes with Erickson was when Bandler [Richard] and I were dazzled with the elegance and effectiveness of the Ericksonian patterning somewhere in the mid to late ’70s. In our obsessive quest for the testing of patterns we had modeled and coded, we decided to take one of the young people who had spontaneously gathered around the adventure called NLP, and determine whether we could transfer a significant portion of the Ericksonian skill set to such a person. One of our students — Stephen Gilligan, then in his early 20s — had caught our attention by demonstrating an enhanced ability to alter his state. → Read more
A woman told Milton Erickson about her eight-year-old daughter, Ruth, who hated EVERYBODY:
A very MISERABLE kind of girl. I (Erickson) asked the mother what she thought made the girl hate herself and everybody else.
The mother said, “Her face is a solid freckle. And the kids call her, “Freckles.” → Read more