Tom, a young adult, has had a bipolar mental illness with episodes involving complex paranoid delusions. He had been hospitalized four times during the eight-year interval since his diagnosis and the time I saw him. Tom’s latest admission followed a trip, with his parents, in December 1991. Tom’s delusions intensified, on that trip, and he believed the name of a town where they had stopped (Winslow, Arizona) held a special message for him. He walked the streets through the nights, “circling around a U-turn exit and ending back at the hotel.” Tom said he could “…WIN the battle if he went SLOW.” → Read more
Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 46 seconds.
An athletically built young man in his mid-20s, neatly attired in a business suit, consulted me to deal with “rage issues,” “depression,” and a desire to get to the “root” of his relationship with his mother. He told me that he had been raised by a single mother who was alternately extremely dependent upon him, and then physically and emotionally absent. They had suffered poverty when he was a child, and he was determined to continue to rise financially in the world as an adult.
Recently, his last two therapists, both women, had dismissed him because he had refused to enter a drug rehabilitation program as a condition of therapy. He thought that he might be a “borderline alcoholic” because of his daily use of alcohol, marijuana, and opioid pills, which left him “faded,” but still able to work in a high-pressure, high-stakes business environment. → Read more
An admonition from William Alanson White, M.D., then Superintendent of St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, was given to this writer early in his psychiatric career, and a year or so later he was again given the same admonition by Adolf Meyer,
M.D. Both strongly advised the writer never to refuse to consult with a patient. A single interview graciously granted during which the patient’s story was listened to attentively, while not especially remunerative, had often permitted them to encounter many unusual instances of psychopathology and to achieve, in many cases, astonishingly effective results. These results had sometimes proved to be far better than the doctors had considered possible at the time of the interview, even if long-term therapy could have been instituted. They likened such instances to the processes of behavior wherein “love at first sight” has drastically and positively altered the lives of various individuals. One such historical example was the schoolteacher who thought it wrong for an adult man making his living as a tailor (Andrew Johnson) to be so uneducated. The events that unfolded began with teaching and led to love, marriage, a law degree, a judgeship, and eventually the presidency of the United States. → Read more
A 28-year-old male physician, who had done well in medical school in Japan, began working on a doctoral thesis at the surgery department of a national university that was not his alma mater. He also was working at the hospital where his father was a staff physician.
He started having difficulties with his doctoral thesis. As a consequence, he began to suffer from severe insomnia. He decided to treat his own insomnia by taking prescription sleeping pills (methaqualone), a type which is no longer manufactured in Japan because of their severe side effects. Soon, the young physician became dependent on these pills as well as tolerant of them. He increased the dosage and finally began taking them during the day as well. → Read more
TIME, OCTOBER 22, 1973Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 18 seconds.
A shy, gap-toothed young woman arrives at the simple home of a doctor in Phoenix, Ariz. She says she is embarrassed about her teeth and bashful with men. Then, with sudden force and apparent malice, the doctor commands her to practice spurting water through her teeth until she is sure she can hit the young man who often meets her at the office watercooler. Soon after, the woman carries out her mission. The next day, the young man lies in wait for her with a water pistol. Eventually they marry. Her problem seems to have vanished magically.
This and many other oddly simple cures are credited to the foxy grandpa of American hypnotism, Milton H. Erickson. At 71, Erickson stands in the forefront of a revival of hypnotherapy -in eclipse since Freud rejected it as too superficial and impermanent. “Erickson is the most innovative practitioner of hypnosis since Mesmer,” says Dr. Thomas Hackett, chief of the psychiatric consultation service at Massachusetts General Hospital. Although Erickson sometimes uses deep hypnotic trances to work his will on his psychiatric patients, he often limits himself to straightforward commands. He does not, however, explain the exact cures. → Read more
Estelle is a friend who at age 75 was diagnosed with breast cancer. She knew that I had done volunteer work with people who have life threatening diseases. The first session was devoted to going over the kinds of things I do to help people. For instance, teaching them how to relax and meditate, guided imagery for healing, and asking direct questions about living wills and medical treatment. Considering the information Estelle provided, I prepared two 15- minute guided imagery tapes for her. I used the first session to elicit information about past surgical experiences and any fears Estelle had about the upcoming surgery. I told her about research which indicated that while under anesthesia patients can hear what is said in the operating room. Using the information she gave to me I led her through a hypnotic session centered on preparation for surgery. → Read more
Estimated reading time: 15 minutes, 25 seconds.
Our purpose in this chapter is to describe a hypnotic technique we use to help our clients enhance their performance in almost any enterprise. Our approach remains fairly constant no matter what area of life a person wishes to improve. Whether a client wants to lower his or her golf score, become a better salesperson, develop new interpersonal skills, or simply feel better emotionally, we conduct our sessions in essentially the same manner.
ENHANCING FUTURE PERFORMANCE
After an initial diagnostic interview to determine why the person is there and what he or she wants to accomplish, we use hypnosis to clarify the thoughts, sensations, emotions, and behaviors that individual associates with the desired outcome. During this trance session, the client is instructed to imagine how it will feel to accomplish the desired goal and to examine all of the elements of this imagined situation, including the events that led up to it. This utilization of the individual’s own prior experiential learnings and understandings to establish the treatment outcome ensures that the particular objectives, personality, and background of that person are taken into account and that the prescribed changes truly suit the activity under consideration. → Read more
A fellow church member whose husband died 10 years ago called out of concern for her 30-year-old daughter, Amy, who had never gotten over the loss of her father. The woman said, “I think Amy’s depression is affecting her health and her marriage.”
“Haggard” would not be too strong a word to describe Amy when she entered my office. She looked much older than her years. Tears began flowing down her face even before she sat down. The visual evidence of depression was so dramatic, I could understand why her mother reported that it was taking its toll. → Read more
Milton H. Erickson & Ernest L. RossiEstimated reading time: 4 minutes, 54 seconds.
THERAPEUTIC BINDS AND DOUBLE BINDS
The concept of the double bind has been used in many ways. We use the terms “bind” and “double bind” in a very special and limited sense to describe forms of suggestion that offer patients the possibility of structuring their behavior in a therapeutic direction. A bind offers a free choice of two or more comparable alternatives-that is, whichever choice is made leads behavior in a desired direction. Therapeutic binds are tactful presentations of the possible alternate forms of constructive behavior that are available to the patient in a given situation. The patient is given a free, voluntary choice between them; the patient usually feels bound, however, to accept one alternative. → Read more