Posts Tagged ‘hypnosis’

Connection with the Milton Erickson Foundation By Marilia Baker

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes, 49 seconds.

It is with immense pleasure that I present to you the engaging interview below, conducted by Dan Short with Jeffrey Zeig, founding director/president of the Erickson Foundation. The Foundation is celebrating 40 years since it was established in 1979, while Erickson was still actively practicing as a clinician and teacher. The first Erickson congress took place in Phoenix, December 1980, and was just completed the 13th Erickson Congress this past December. Throughout these past four decades, the Erickson Foundation – whose two of its Board of Directors are the Europeans Camillo Loriedo and Bernhard Trenkle – has advanced the development and expansion of the fields of hypnosis and psychotherapy. The Foundation has also promoted many international gatherings, including the Evolution of Psychotherapy conferences, to further not only Milton Erickson’s therapeutic methodologies, but also to honor the relevant pioneers and proponents of diverse theoretical and clinical practices. Jeff Zeig ponders and expands on those pioneers throughout the interview with Dan Short.

Both Jeff and Dan are well known to European professionals through their lectures, workshops, and publications. The most recent by Zeig is a group of four books, part of his Empowering Experiential Therapy Series published by The Erickson Foundation Press (2019).

Dan Short: The Erickson Foundation, which you founded, has acted as a vehicle for education, as well for the spread of Ericksonian institutes around the world. Could you tell us something about your original plans for the Foundation, 40 years ago?

Jeffrey Zeig: To tell you the truth, I did not know it would become so robust. I couldn’t have predicted that it would become integral to the incredible interest around the world in learning about Erickson’s contributions. But the Erickson Foundation is not solely dedicated to the work of Milton Erickson. The Foundation is a psychotherapy organization that began in 1980 to help organize Ericksonian congresses. But then, in 1985, I organized the first Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, which brought together 26 distinguished leaders of different schools of psychotherapy.

The first Evolution of Psychotherapy conference was a seminal event, timed to coincide with the hundredth anniversary of psychotherapy’s conception. Some of the leaders of various schools of psychotherapy met for the first time at that conference. For example, I saw 78-year-old Joseph Wolpe walk over to 83-year-old Carl Rogers to say hello. The titular founder of behavior therapy and the titular founder of humanistic therapy recognized that they had never met before.

The  first  Evolution   conference   was  designed around the schools of psychotherapy. It provided a forum in which leaders could talk about their developments and be honored for what they had offered to the field. Since then, the underlying theme of Evolution conferences is consilience: Finding the commonalities that make psychotherapy work. It is my belief, my hope, and my continued goal that the Evolution conferences continue to serve as a vehicle for the integration of psychotherapy.

According to some historians, psychotherapy began in 1885 when Freud became interested in the psychological aspects of medicine. Up until World War II, there was a tight therapeutic community, based on understanding the Freudian, Adlerian, or Jungian perspective.

But after World War II, when Europe was decimated, psychotherapy found a new home in the United States. There was a proliferation of different schools and streams of psychotherapy, including the humanistic school, the behavioral school, the family system school, the cognitive school, and now affective neurobiology. So, after World War II there was a wild proliferation of approaches, by some estimates there are currently more than 800 different schools of psychotherapy. But after so much expansion, I believe that there needs to be some contraction. We need to search for integrative principles that help explain what makes psychotherapy work. I hope that the Foundation has been instrumental in that endeavor.

DS: What do you see happening in the field of hypnosis?

JZ: The United States used to be the most fertile bed for interest in hypnosis. Today, the interest and growth has shifted to other countries, including Italy, France, and Germany, as well as other European countries which are bringing a new vibrancy and life to hypnosis. The European audience in France and Germany is especially strong, and in these countries as well as others, there are more developments and experts. Over the course of its history, there has been a mercurial rise and fall in interest in hypnosis. Because of this, I imagine that people in the U.S. will once again be stimulated into learning about it.

DS: Of all the people that you have met, who has inspired you most?

JZ: When I think of all the master therapists that I have been fortunate enough to know and study with, Erickson has been the one who has spoken most deeply to me. He was instrumental in helping me improve who I am as a person and as a professional. Of course, I will never be his equal in experiential wizardry, but I have trained myself to be less left-hemisphere dominant, operating instead from the right-hemisphere, which enables me to be more evocative.

I also had the good fortune to spend time with Carl Whitaker,  who  conducted consultations with me as I met with families. And, I learned a lot from Viktor Frankl. In fact, I use logotherapy regularly in my practice. I’ve had exceptional training in gestalt therapy because I attended a doctoral program that was influenced by Joan Fagan and Norma Shepard who are first-generation students of Fritz Perls.

I have a background in transactional analysis and was a clinical member of that society at one time. I also had a year of training with Bob and Mary Goulding who profoundly influenced me in understanding parts of the human psyche. I developed a great rapport with Salvador Minuchin, whom I adored. I am now the curator of one of Minuchin’s archives.

If you go to you can see some of Minuchin’s clinical work. It was his wish to make his archives available to people around the world. But of all these individuals, Erickson has been the most profound influence on me both personally and professionally. His precision, his humanism, his way of orienting toward, his strategic nature, his evocative experiential way of approaching things, his basis in utilization, are all things that have intrigued me. To this day, I continue to learn a lot from Erickson.

DS: What are some of the resources available to people who wish to learn more about Erickson?

JZ: We have an expansive archive at the Erickson Foundation with hundreds of hours of audio and video recordings of Milton Erickson. And we are just at the cusp of being able to launch this resource on the internet for the professional world, so that people will have the opportunity to see footage of Dr. Erickson doing teaching seminars in the latter half of the 1970s. We also have videos of me discussing Erickson and offering my perspective on his work.

The best video of Erickson that we have is titled, “The Artistry of Milton Erickson”.

It is available in several language on our store at:

For those who visit Phoenix, we offer tours of the Erickson Historic Residence, so that people can see where Erickson lived and worked the last decade of his life. The Erickson children have been especially active in developing the historical residence as a museum, so that visitors get a feel for the modest way in which Erickson lived and practiced.

The Erickson Foundation has also published the Collected Works of Milton H. Erickson, which is a 16-volume set of the written work completed by Erickson across five decades. This resource can be found at the Foundation’s web store. In addition to these resources, I am the author of several books on Ericksonian hypnotherapy. I have written four books that are the corpus of what I teach, including one on hypnotic induction, one of the Ericksonian model of brief psychotherapy, one on therapist development, and one on the evocative nature that I think is essential to skillful psychotherapy.

DS: I know that you are currently working on a biography of Milton Erickson. Could you tell us more about this important project?

JZ: Over the years, I have conducted 200 interviews with colleagues of Milton Erickson. I have also interviewed all eight of his children and three of his siblings. Before Erickson died, I spent a significant amount of time with him, seeking to know and understand him as best I could. Jerry Piaget, who is one of the leaders in promoting psychotherapy education, has provided a grant, which is helping to make it possible for me to write the Erickson biography.

When I first met Erickson in 1973, he seemed that he just took all of this wisdom off the top of his head. He just seemed to be so complete. But as I came to know him, I realized that he was very diligent about crafting what he would say and do and how he would be in therapy.

He worked hard to develop his incredible skills; his remarkable perceptiveness, his ability to communicate with such loving precision, as well as his impressive ability to overcome adversity.

While seeking to utilize all of his limited faculties, he tried to make other people’s lives a little bit better. Erickson suffered from the degenerative effects of post-polio syndrome, but he was still an inspiration. If you had limitations, he certainly had more. If you had pain, he certainly had more. Yet he was laughing all the time. It seemed that he wanted to make the world a better place by virtue of his presence on this planet.

When I first visited Erickson, my thought was that he would train me to be a better psychotherapist, but in a sense, I was wrong. It became apparent to me early on that the time I spent with him was an experience about life and learning to be a better Jeff Zeig. It was not about being trained to be a better therapist.

Without knowing Erickson and experiencing him, I wouldn’t be here today. I actually don’t know how my life would’ve turned out had I not spent those years in the ‘70s traveling to Phoenix to see Erickson. In fact, I’m living in Phoenix because I moved here 40 years ago to be closer to him.

Now my desire is to encapsulate the inspirational spirit of Erickson on the written page so that people around the world can experience him.

DS: Thank you Jeff. I am grateful for your insights and for what you have done through the work of the Erickson Foundation.


Article compliments of European Society of Hypnosis in Psychotherapy and Medicine from their newsletter here:

By Carrie Rehak, PhD Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 24 seconds.

I did not know what time it was when I came downstairs to finish our winter display — images and symbols communicating the holiday season, as observed and celebrated by various sacred traditions in anticipation of the coming of light. All I knew was that it was cold and dark outside, and I was ready to head home.

Just as I was hanging one of the last ornaments, I caught a glimpse of her in the corner of my eye — a student of mine, who I knew had an extremely long commute. And, I also knew she had cancer, as she asked our community to remember her in our prayers at a service she could not attend last year.

“It’s beautiful,” she said, referring to our twinkling display.

“It really is,” I agreed. “A student worker put it up. I just came down to hang these last few pieces.”

I asked how she was doing.

She pointed to an area under her left arm, saying, “I am in a lot of pain — scar tissue. It’s unbearable.” She said the pain was so distracting she was uncertain if she would be able to finish her program.

I asked what time she had to be at class. She had an hour. I asked if she would like to take 15 minutes for a meditation that might help with the pain. She agreed, even though she just finished a nearly two-hour drive.

We found an empty classroom. I adjusted the lighting so that it was neither too dark nor too bright.

I invited her to get comfortable in her chair, and then listened as she described her pain.

“Does it have a color?” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “it’s red, fiery red. Like flames.”

I asked if she had a place of health or strength — physical, mental, or emotional.

She said she was emotionally strong.

I asked what that place of strength looked like. She said it was blue.

“Light blue or dark blue?” “It is sapphire, she replied.

“Sapphire blue….Does it have a shape?” “No,” she said, “it’s like water.” I asked if she could bring it to her place of pain.

Then I queried, “Is the water cool?”

“It’s getting warm,” she answered. “It’s putting the pain out.” “How is it feeling now?” I asked, after a long pause.

“The pain is gone. It feels tender.” “Does it want anything?” I inquired. “It wants ointment,” she said.

“OK. Can we apply some ointment, so it’s just right?” “Yes,” she said, “I am applying it now and it feels good.”

“Take as much time as you need,” I said. “I am covering it with gauze now,” she said.

“That’s right,” I said. “It will protect it, while allowing it to breathe and the tissue can stretch.”

“It feels good,” she said, dreamily, after another long pause. Then, opening her eyes widely, she said, “It’s cool!”

“It’s cool?”

“Yes!” she said, “the area — it’s cool! And what we just did — it’s cool!” “Yeah, it is cool,” I agreed.

When I got home, I called my mom who is in severe pain after a terrible fall that resulted in a broken hand and fractured knee. By the time we got off the phone, she said she could no longer feel the pain — pain that had made it nearly impossible for her to sleep.

But, that’s a story for another time.

Commentary By Eric Greenleaf, PhD

Student work is often more impactful and immediate than other work. It carries authority because it is relational, not technical. And it is also fresh, taking the essence of teaching to heart. Carrie Rehak, a student of mine who is studying Ericksonian approaches, has years of experience in spiritual direction and pastoral care. This example of her work with imagery was spontaneous and effective, and utilized the spirit of a class exercise we had done, called “A Pain Map.” This consists of drawing one’s physical and emotional pains on the outline of a body; drawing one’s strengths and resources on a second map; and, in trance, placing a particular strength on a pain and then taking note of what happens. In, Carrie’s example, the exercise is focused, empathic, and succinct.

By Tom Kennedy, Estimated reading time: 3 minutes, 45 seconds.

When asked about James Braid, Ernest Rossi said, “Braid is the true father of hypnosis (personal communication, Dec. 7, 2001). His work forms the basis of what I’m doing today.” This praise becomes understandable after a quick look at Braid’s contributions. He not only popularized the terms hypnosis and hypnotist; he first explained trance states as the interplay of physiology and  psychology.

Historians credit Braid (1795-1860) as both the first researcher of psychosomatic medicine and the father of modern theories of hypnotherapy.

Braid’s work marked the end of Mesmerism, which held that a hypnotist emanated magnetic fluids to invoke trance. Mesmer believed he could ‘mesmerize’ trees in order to hypnotize passersby, reasoning that the magnetic fluid would pass from the trees to the subjects.

Braid debunked Mesmer’s theory by utilizing a simple ocular fix as an induction technique. He had subjects stare at common, household objects and within minutes, they entered a trance state. His studies proved that hypnosis occurs naturalistically within the subject and wasn’t dependent on the showmanship of the hypnotist. He wrote, “The whole (of the induction) depended on the physical and psychical condition of the patient… and not at all on the volition, or passes of the operator” (Braid, as cited in Tinterow, 1970, p. 283).

Erickson often echoed this theme, “Once you really know…that you don’t do it, your subject does it, you can have unlimited confidence…that your patient is going to go into a trance” (Argast, Landis & Ruelas, 2000, p. 55).

Braid asserted that everyone can be hypnotized, assuring his contemporaries that, “success is almost certain.” (Braid, as cited in Tinterow, 1970, p. 287). Braid described trance as a “universal phenomenon” and “a law of our species” (p.288). Erickson was later to concur, stating, “As long as your subject is alive, you can expect some developed trance state” (Argast et al., 2000, p. 55).

In 1843, Braid conceptualized trance as a, “shift of the nervous system into a new condition,” (Braid, as cited in Tinterow, 1970, p. 271) marked by excitement and the mind’s fascination with a single idea. “It is this very principle, of over-exciting the attention, by keeping it riveted to one subject or idea which is not of itself of an exciting nature… and (a) general repose which excites in the brain and whole nervous system that peculiar state which I call Hypnotism” (p. 301).

Similarly, Braid characterized psychopathology as a mind fascinated with a single, negative idea.

“Abnormal phenomenon are due entirely to this influence of dominant ideas over physical action, and point to the importance of combining the study of psychology with that of physiology, and vice versa” (p. 369). He added that, “all the natural functions may be either excited or depressed… according to the dominant idea existing in the mind of man… whether that has arisen spontaneously, had been the result of previous associations, or the suggestion of others” (p. 369).

Braid regarded hypnotism as a “valuable addition to our curative means,” describing it as “a powerful and extraordinary agent in the healing art,” while cautioning that it wasn’t a “universal remedy” (p. 272). About hypnotherapy, he believed that “the imagination has never been so much under our control or capable of being made to act in the same beneficial and uniform manner by any other mode of management hitherto known” (p. 272).

Braid also detailed the first list of naturally occurring, hypnotic phenomenon: eye movements, pulse and respiratory changes, and catalepsy. He stated that, “All the (hypnotic) phenomena are consecutive” (p. 307). He reported an “extreme acuteness of hearing during the first stage of hypnotism” and advised “allow(ing) the hearing to disappear, by which time all of the other senses will have gone to rest…I allow all of the senses to become dormant and then rouse only the one I wish to exhibit in the state of exalted function, when operating carefully” (p. 312).Braid wrote poetically about how subjects find a somatic balance so they do not topple over. “They acquire (a) center of gravity, as if by instinct, in the most natural and therefore in the most graceful manner ” (p. 305). He added that because of this “faculty of retaining any position with so much ease, I have hazarded the opinion that the Greeks may have been indebted to hypnotism for the perfection of the sculpture” (p. 305)


Argast, T., Landis, R. & Ruelas, G. (2000) Now You Wanted A Trance Demonstrated Today. Laguna Nigel, CA: SCSEPH

Tinterow, Maurice M. (1970) Foundations of Hypnosis: From Mesmer to Freud. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas