Milton Hyland Erickson was a renowned American psychiatrist and hypnotherapist who, despite terrible suffering throughout his life, did not prevent him from having a distinguished career.
She went down in history to revolutionize the conception of the subconscious, in addition to using hypnosis as a therapeutic tool in a serious clinical context.
A sign of a prolific life, he founded several organizations focused on the study of hypnotherapy, leaving his mark in the fields of psychiatry and psychology. Let’s take a closer look at his life through it biography of Milton H. Erickson in summary form.
Biography of Milton H. Erickson: Who was this psychiatrist?
Milton is known to have perfected hypnotic techniques beyond a purely psychoanalytic context, and can be extrapolated to other currents of psychiatry and psychology. Among its most notable vital milestones are the establishment of organizations such as the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, as well as the participation in the establishment of other institutions such as the American Psychological Association and the American Psychopathological Association.
Milton Hyland Erickson was born December 5, 1901 in Aurum, Nevada, USA. His family consisted of his parents, seven sisters and one brother, all of whom immigrated to Wisconsin to work on a family farm.
Her childhood was not a bed of roses. From an early age, Erickson suffered from various illnesses which made his health very poor. In fact, if in adulthood Milton H. Erickson admitted that he barely remembered his early years, and that much of his memories could be encapsulated in a sort of “self-hypnotic trance”.
At the age of 17, Erickson contracted polio, A disease that with the medicine of the time was barely treatable, taking the lives of many people. The polio left him with serious consequences, losing much of his mobility to the point where his doctors believed he would not survive. However, this experience would prove to be fundamental for the development of his career, marked by strong tenacity and the fight against adversity.
Reclining in bed from illness, almost unable to move or speak, Erickson began to realize the power of body language to communicate with others. Additionally, Milton H. Erickson claimed that this was when he began to have what he called “body memories” of movements that he could easily do before losing mobility.
To cope with the disease, Erickson he began to use his own memories, to focus on those bodily memories and to gradually regain control of his body. to the point of being able to speak and move their arms normally.
His doctor advised him to use upper end force and Erickson listened to him, taking it very seriously. So much so that, to recover as quickly as possible, planned to make a trip of no more and no less than 1600 kilometers by canoe, with the intention of strengthening his body intensely and being able to attend university. After this dangerous feat, Erickson was able to walk again with a cane and attend the University of Wisconsin to study medicine and psychiatry.
Academic training and contact with hypnosis
Student in Wisconsin, Milton Erickson began to document the effects of the suggestion on patients. It would only be a matter of time before he discovered hypnosis, a field relatively unknown even to psychiatrists, and perhaps because of its mystical appeal or interest in finding out more about it, he has. started to delve into the subject.
The student of medicine and psychiatry at the time would realize that he could use self-hypnosis to combat the pain what had caused him the polio, which was terribly intense. So, through auto-suggestion, Erickson gained a better quality of life for a while, which led to further knowledge in this area.
By the age of 30, he had already gained some fame in American psychiatry. His work on hypnosis and his particularly remarkable way of applying it in therapy have earned him a great reputation.This allowed him to work as a psychiatrist while working as a teacher at several universities.
Beginner in private practice
In 1948, Milton H. Erickson moved to Phoenix for medical reasons because he could enjoy a healthier climate there. Unfortunately, after a year he was forced to teach therapy at home because his physical condition deteriorated and ended up having to use a wheelchair, in addition to constant pain.
To combat these discomforts, Erickson himself used self-hypnosis techniques every morning that reduced the intensity of his pain. Thus, he could cope with the tasks of daily life appropriately. It was through the use of these techniques and his strong tenacity that Milton Erickson continued to perfect his knowledge, making great strides in psychiatry.
One of the great contributions of this time was to found the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis in 1957., Serve as its president for several years. He also founded the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, which was the first publication in the United States to take the subject of hypnosis seriously, with Erickson as editor for a decade.
Milton H. Erickson’s physical condition has worsened over the years. However, he continued to lead a very active professional life. In fact, in the decades since his beginnings as a private therapist he is the author of hundreds of articles and five books on clinical hypnosis and its application. Among the most notable books are Hypnotic Realities (1976) and The Man of February (1989), published posthumously.
He did not stray from university life, continuing to give seminars and travel the world. As his health deteriorated, he received his students at home and, in fact, a few days before his death, he continued to work with his students at home.. As a teacher and therapist, he was highly respected within the psychiatric community.
One of the aspects that made him particularly respected was being able to deal with very serious cases, which no other therapist could solve. this caused many of Erickson’s techniques to be transferred to other types of therapy, Which makes the influence still present today.
Milton Hyland Erickson died in Phoenix, Arizona, USA on March 25, 1980 at the age of 79, shortly after the Milton Erickson Foundation was inaugurated and in the midst of preparing for what was to be the world’s largest meeting of psychotherapists organized to date. the conference “The evolution of psychotherapy”.
Theory and hypnosis
Erickson he insisted a lot on the role played by the unconscious. However, his way of understanding it is not similar to that of psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud, but rather sees it as a reservoir of personal resources to solve each individual’s problem for himself.
As we commented, Milton Erickson’s approach to psychotherapy was unconventional at the time., Even by the hypnotherapist himself. His method is so special and striking that it has become an independent branch of other disciplines that use hypnosis, calling it “Ericksonian hypnosis”.
The most traditional hypnosis was based on the idea that we can communicate with the subconscious at specific times. These moments are called “trance states” and this is why the most conventional hypnotherapists try to get them to be able to speak directly to the subconscious of their patients. Thus, they can apply suggestions and, depending on their psychotherapeutic vision, bring about a change in behavior, of emotions and thoughts.
This was not the opinion of Erickson, who believed that the subconscious mind was always listening and therefore it was possible to communicate with it even when the subject was not in transit. Like that therefore, all his therapeutic techniques were aimed at reaching this part of the mind, indirectly and without eliciting resistance in the patient.
Traditional hypnotherapists used techniques such as relaxation or deep inductions to weaken patients’ defenses and thereby induce the transit state. Instead, Erickson he used other tools such as talking to clients using metaphorical storiesWhat at first may seem irrelevant but really contained hidden hypnotic suggestions that reverberated through his subconscious.
Among the tools used by Milton H. Erickson in his therapy is confusion, one of the most famous. This consisted of using seemingly meaningless stories, or using other resources meant to confuse the patient’s conscious mind. Thus, Erickson was able to initiate his patients into a trance not as intense as that of other hypnotherapists, suggesting them without realizing it.
Among the techniques in the confusion is the handshake handshake induction. Erickson developed a technique that allowed him to confuse patients by simply giving them a handshake. This seemed harmless allowing him to introduce deep hypnosis into the patient, which from his point of view allowed him to work on their minds.
As surprising as it may sound, this method worked very well for Erickson, so much so that even his own acquaintances had some trepidation in shaking his hand to keep him from hypnotizing them. Other therapists have seen this technique so useful that they have incorporated it into their therapies., As is the case with the founder of neurolinguistic programming Richard Bandler.
Erickson also used word-of-mouth confusion, using techniques such as the false dilemma. In this tool, the patient is presented with two options which are convenient for the psychiatrist but which give the impression to the individual that he has the capacity to choose the course of the psychotherapy, which greatly facilitates the therapy and its results.
- O’Hanlon, WH, (1993), Deep Roots. Basics of Therapy and Hypnosis Milton Erickson, ed. Paidós Family Therapy, Spain.
- Robles, T. (1991), Tailored Therapy. An Ericksonian seminar with Jeffrey Zeig, ed. Milton Erickson Institute in Mexico City, Mexico.
- Rosen S., (1991), My voice will accompany you. The didactic tales of Milton H, Erickson, Ed. Paidós, Argentina.
- Simon, FB, Stierlin, H. and Wynne, LC, (1988), Vocabulary of Family Therapy, eds. Gedisa, Argentina.
- Zeig, J. (1991), Ericksonian Hypnosis Training, ed. Mexican Center for Neurolinguistic Programming, Mexico.
- Zeig, JF, (1992), A Didactic Seminar with Milton H. Erickson, ed. Amorrortu, Buenos Aires.