Posts Tagged ‘Innovative Psychotherapy’
The following was a Christmas gift from Mrs. Erickson to Jeff Zeig in 1986. Mrs. Erickson wrote this to Zeig, penned by hand.
It is her account of Milton Erickson’s extraordinary talent in being able to diagnosis a psychiatric patient by looking at the art he or she produced:
“Milton was always deeply interested in the manner in which neurotic and psychotic symptomatology, and ways of experiencing and interpreting the world, were manifested in the artistic productions of the artist. → Read more
Cathy was a 55–year-old single client of a colleague. Her initial complaint was that, although she was very competent in her work, she repeatedly raged at her boss and at coworkers. It soon emerged that she had a history of sexual abuse from her father, and had a very difficult time separating her own experience from others. Hence, it was hard for her to know her own needs, and defend herself from the expectations and intrusions from others. She showed what is often called “codependence,” or “enmeshment.” My colleague had done a lot of work with her intermittently over a period of several years, and she had made a lot of progress, but they had reached a plateau.
Cathy’s sense of herself was still wobbly and unclear, and she often felt numb, as if she were “just going through the motions,” and she wanted to feel “solid in my skin.” My colleague knew that one of my specialties was working with self-concept, so she asked me to do a session with Cathy while she observed. → Read more
Sue was a 27-year-old, single woman who was intelligent and valued self-awareness. She came to therapy after her roommate told her that she needed therapy because she was “far too rational to be real.” She was able to see everyone’s perspective and rarely got angry. Sue had recently broken up with Clay, a boyfriend of three years after she had walked in on him having intimate relations with his secretary in his office. Sue admitted being hurt and feeling betrayed. However, she quickly was able to rationalize his infidelity by citing his difficult childhood and that the secretary was pretty. She genuinely felt sad for him because she thought he would never be able to have a monogamous relationship. I was beginning to understand why her roommate was concerned.
Physically, Sue was suffering from several different but related gastrointestinal disorders and severe tension headaches that seemed to “come out of nowhere.” When I asked if she were happy, Sue replied, “I am satisfied, but I couldn’t actually say ‘happy’.” → Read more
Milton H. Erickson Institute of Western Australia
In Erickson’s work I learned about treating clients as individuals, listening to their metaphors, and utilizing their resources. I also found permission to be bold, take risks, and venture beyond the restrictions of theory. However, as I have discovered many times over, my clients are my best teachers; Pat was one.
Her physician’s referral letter said she suffered severe insomnia following hospital admission for minor surgery twelve months earlier. Pat, a middle-aged ethnic Chinese, said, “I’ve lost my soul.” Previous therapy failed to bring relief. According to her metaphor, a person’s soul leaves the body when asleep and, if not reunited, can cause both physical and emotional distress, including insomnia. → Read more
This is about a dream and an image. The client, Lydia, is dreaming about her youth in Mexico and when she tries to talk, worms come out of her mouth instead of words. In the dream, Lydia’s father sits and chats with his mother, Lydia’s abuela. Mother and son have sought refuge from the implacable midday Jalisco sun by setting their chairs in the shade, close to the doors that open into the bedroom where Lydia, her brother, and her sister are having their siesta.
The girl’s bedroom doors have been left ajar and the snuffling, groaning sounds of incest leak out, suspended in the parched, salt-laced ocean of summer air. Lydia’s grandmother and her father shift slightly in their elaborately carved, ladder-back chairs. Their conversational hum rises in volume, seeming to absorb sounds produced by Lydia, her younger brother, and her older sister, as each is molested in turn by their uncle.
Juanita was a 31-year-old Marriage and Family Intern who had twice failed the oral examination for her license. She wanted hypnosis to reveal sabotaging herself so she could pass her orals. We would only have time for one session.
Juanita had no prior experience with hypnosis. I asked to get in touch with the body sensations she experiences when she was in the oral exam. She was able to do this easily. I then had her focus all of her attention on this feeling. I had her imagine that she was inside her body, inside that feeling and then I asked her to turn the feeling or sensation into a room so that when she was inside that room, she was inside the feeling. I then asked her to imagine a doorway at the end of the room, a doorway to an elevator. I had her get in the elevator and imagine it going down as she went back in time, back to a time in the past when she had the same feeling. When she got there the elevator door would open and she would share with me the contents of what she became aware of.
Note: Joe was not a “usual” client. Highly motivated, in therapy at exactly the right time, he believed life was good, and the therapy fit his paradigm perfectly. Even though it is not common that everything works so well, the concepts and ideas used in this case can be useful in many situations.
Joe walked into the office with a diffident yet paradoxically firm attitude. A handsome 32-year-old, he had never had a long-term relationship. He used to start out just fine, he said, but after having sex a few times, he would lose his erection half-way through. As time went on, he would lose his erection more quickly. Now he couldn’t even get one at the beginning of an encounter. Worse, he was starting to choose people who were not his type, who drank too much or had no ambition. He was sure the two problems were related.
Rick was a 17- year- old boy who had stuttered since he started to speak. He and his mother came to Arizona from Massachusetts to see Erickson, who said, “I took one look at the mother, and Rick and I recognized the ethnic group.” He got a history. The parents were both from a certain community in Lebanon. They came to the United States and married and became citizens. Erickson explained, “Now, in that culture, man is a lot higher than God, and woman is a low lower than low. Now, a man’s children live with him, and as long as they live with him, he is an absolute dictator. And girls are a nuisance. You try to get them married and off your hands because girls and women are fit for only two things–hard work and breeding. And the first child of the marriage should be a boy. If it isn’t a boy the man says, ‘I divorce you,’ three times, and even if his bride brought a million dollars in dowry, her husband confiscates it…Because the first child should be a boy.”
In this case, Rick was the third child with two older sisters. Erickson continued, “Rick was broad-shouldered and sturdy, about 5’10” and his father was 6′ and slender. So Rick was an insult also, not only because he was the third child, but because he didn’t resemble his father.” → Read more
When children paint the sun, they often draw a circle with rays coming out. You’ve all seen that; you probably did it yourself when you were young. A year or so later, a child might paint the sun partly behind clouds. Several years later, they might paint rays coming out from the clouds, but the sun is not visible — what a friend of mine calls a “God sunset.” Even subtler is to paint only the scattered reflection of sunlight on water. An accomplished artist doesn’t paint the sun at all but suggests where the sun is by painting a tree with a little more light on one side than the other, and a subtle shadow to indicate the sun’s location. I think that’s a good metaphor for implication: indicating something without ever explicitly stating it. One of my favorite quotes is: “The larger the island of knowledge, the longer the shoreline of wonder.” (Ralph W. Sockman) Knowledge and wonder are stated; the ocean of ignorance is implied.
On the first page of the first volume of Conversations with Milton H. Erickson, (in which the word “implication” appears about every third page) Jay Haley says, “I have a whole week, so I suspect I can learn all about psychotherapy in that time. I wouldn’t expect that anywhere else but here.” Erickson laughs and says, “Well, we can have our dreams.” That’s a polite way of implying, “You are wildly optimistic!” → Read more
My wife, Jennifer, is not a big traveler, but she has always wanted to go to Alaska to see the wildlife. So in the summer of 2015, we signed up with National Geographic/Lindblad and went for two wonderful weeks. Jennifer is a hospice nurse, and what makes the story interesting is that for many years if you asked her how someday, she would like to die, her answer was that she would like to be eaten by orcas—those magnificent creatures sometimes called “killer whales,” even though they are actually oceanic dolphins. She had recurring but not frightening dreams of a big orca devouring her—she had talked about it several times. And here I was, signing up to be in a two-person kayak in Alaskan waters teeming with orcas with someone who wants to be eaten alive! → Read more