Hypnotic trance is altered awareness of states we experience in real, every day life without realizing, such as daydreaming. Traditional hypnotherapy uses this altered awareness for therapeutic purposes to promote positive change in behavior.
Psychiatrist Milton Erickson has influenced many forms of therapy, such as family therapy. He was always interested in behavior, why people act the way they do, and if certain acts can be influenced to produce a different outcome. Specifically, he recognized the importance of hypnosis as a therapeutic tool. He created a new method that moved away from the direct instruction of ‘entering a trance-like state’ in traditional hypnotherapy and instead, moved towards adopting a more subtle, indirect, and conversational type of hypnosis. His work brought a shift to the field of modern psychotherapy and he become became knows as the father of modern hypnotherapy for revolutionizing the practice of hypnotherapy. His method is now considered highly effective.
Ericksonian hypnotherapy (or indirect, metaphorical hypnosis) is the term used to describe a very specific type of hypnosis, which is hallmarked by the use of indirect suggestion, metaphor and storytelling. Ericksonian hypnotherapy is best used for anxiety and phobias; it can also aid greatly in treating addictions and helps in pain management. Some key elements include:
- Having flexibility – approach is tailored and adapted for each individual client; time is taken to get to know the client and their experiences.
- Working with symptoms for change – symptoms are seen as a part of the process of a problem; focusing on changing the symptoms is important in order to change the entire pattern of the problem.
- Engaging the unconscious mind – the unconscious mind contains all the necessary resources to bring about positive change; focusing on storytelling to the unconscious via metaphors, therapeutic stories, jokes, and riddles is important to help the unconscious processes these stories as coded messages and thus understand the point of the story when the conscious mind does not.