Milton Erickson, considered by many a leading (if not the leading) influence in both modern hypnosis and psychotherapy, often told his students this story:
I was returning from high school one day and a runaway horse with a bridle sped past a group of us into a farmer’s yard, looking for a drink of water. The farmer didn’t recognize it so I jumped up to the horse’s back, took hold of the reins and said “Giddy-up” and headed for the highway. I knew the horse would take me to the right direction. I didn’t know what the right direction was. And the horse trotted and galloped along. Now and then he would forget he was on an highway and would start off into a field. So I would pull on him a bit and call his attention to the fact that the highway was where he was supposed to be. And finally about four miles from where I had boarded him he turned into a farmyard and the farmer said, “So that’s how the critter came back. Where did you find him?” I said, “about four miles from here.” “How did you know he should come here?” I said, “I didn’t know, the horse knew. All I did was keep his attention on the road.”
I think that is how you do psychotherapy.
Many will recognize the ‘horse’ as the unconscious mind which, if properly invited, can return us to our true, powerful selves. Since Erickson’s passing in 1980, other techniques such as Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) and Metaphor Facilitation with Clean Language, among others, have greatly expanded, extended and deepened Ericksonian Hypnosis, which even by itself is already a truly wondrous phenomena.
My working style is largely “Solution Focused” meaning that rather than trying to find and analyze the the source of the problem (which is where psychotherapy can be helpful), I help you discover possible solutions within yourself, and internal resources you have available going forward to help achieve those solutions. My role is to act as a “facilitator,” not as a “therapist.”
To that end, the work we do in our sessions is a gentle and safe combination of working with various cognitive processes (NLP), with hypnotic trance, and your own internal metaphors (“Metaphor Facilitation”) to get changes you want. I describe each in more depth below, as well as what this work is not about (see “Scope and Contra-indications” below).
Although I am trained to help resolve painful memories or trauma if they happen to come up, contrary to the beliefs of many therapists, I find it is not so much about “feeling the pain” as it is about “healing the pain”. When a physical wound has been properly treated there’s no reason just keep feeling the pain. Likewise, if a dentist needs to fix a cavity, how many of us want to spend hours and hours “feeling the pain?” The job, thankfully, can most often be done quickly and still be effective. And my clients often find the work we do helps to change difficult memories, feelings, habits or outlooks in ways that seem surprisingly easy yet deep and effective without addressing or accessing the painful memories directly.
What is “Hypnosis” About?
I like to think of “hypnosis” and “trance” as “Conscious Dreaming”. Ericksonian hypnotists focus on what we call “Every Day Trance Phenomena”, which are hypnotic abilities that all human beings naturally experience every day many times a day, including:
- when you’re vividly imagining some future or past situation
- or you’re imagining things happening (like hearing somebody call our name) that didn’t
- or perhaps you’re not perceiving things (like car keys or glasses) that are actually there in front of you
- when we’re losing track of time, or time seems longer, or shorter, than expected
- forgetting or blanking out on something that was on your mind just moments before
- when you’re not feeling something, such as a scratch or bump, because you’re focused on something else
- or watching some part of yourself act “on automatic”, such as when musicians or artists watch their fingers performing their music or art “all by themselves”
These “Every Day Trance Phenomena” activities, as with sleep, are ways we naturally “program ourselves” and are often useful and beneficial, such as when we’re relaxing, engaged in our hobbies, our work, learning new skills, etc. But these same phenomena can also become how we “program” or “install” our problems, such as with stressful activities or other problems we all do “on automatic”.
As a certified hypnotist, I am trained to help you take your own hypnotic abilities to a much deeper level, to “amplify” or “expand” or in other ways make use of your own unconscious abilities to help you create the changes you want.
Although many people originally come to hypnosis for the first time feeling concerned that they may lose conscious awareness or control or that the hypnotist may “take control of them”, this is not the case. Often the client may feel only mildly different from regular waking consciousness. Studies have shown that whether the trance is light or deep has little relation to the extent to which the work is effective.