Ericksonian hypnosis: what it is and how it is used in therapy

Hypnosis in psychotherapy is widely used; thanks to it, a pleasant state of well-being and relaxation is achieved which strengthens active thinking. One of its creators was Milton H. Erickson, who developed it so-called Ericksonian hypnosis.

This is considered to be a type of self-hypnosis that promotes connection with oneself and access to unconscious resources and abilities. In this article, we will know how it was born, its characteristics and premises, its advantages, how it works, its uses and its applications in the therapeutic context.

    Mr. H. Erickson: the origin of his hypnosis

    Milton Hyland Erickson was an American physician and psychologist born in 1901 in Nevada. Erickson was one of the creators of hypnosis; developed hypnotherapy and proposed innovations and changes in this type of therapy.

    It all happened because at the age of 17 he suffered from polio which left him paralyzed and prostrate in his bed. Doctors thought he would die. However, Erickson began to use self-hypnosis methods to recover, through a mirror, which have been shown to be effective in blocking conscious thoughts, for example. This is where his Ericksonian hypnosis began to emerge.

    What is hypnosis?

    Hypnosis can be understood in two ways; on the one hand, like a type of psychological therapy, And on the other, as that state of unconsciousness or relaxation reached by a hypnotic process (or the process of hypnosis).

    This state is similar to sleep, and is achieved by the suggestion and submission of the person’s will to the commands he receives from the hypnotist or therapist. Erickson developed certain adaptations and innovations to “classic” hypnosis to create his own method: Ericksonian hypnosis. Let’s see what it is.

    Ericksonian hypnosis: what is it?

    Ericksonian hypnosis is a scientifically supported type of hypnosis that focuses on fully focus conscious attention. The results it produces are similar to those obtained through meditation or mindfulness.

    One of its goals is to access a person’s unconscious, to reach their resources, skills and unconscious memories and bring them to the foreground of consciousness. The goal is to be able to use them in conscience in order to solve a problem.

    Trance states

    On the other hand, Ericksonian hypnosis is used in psychotherapy and in other fields (coaching, neurolinguistic programming sessions [PNL], Education, sport …), and focuses on promoting a transit state in the person.

    We can experience trance states naturally; for example, when we are very relaxed, distracted or absorbed, or when we undertake a journey which we know perfectly well automatically and without activating the consciousness (for example in the car, on the road). Other examples of trance occur when we read, listen to music, or create art.

    Ericksonian hypnosis seeks to obtain these states of trance so that the person is more aware of their capacities and the resources they have, By accessing its most unconscious part.


      For Ericksonian hypnosis to be effective, a series of fundamental premises of the technique must be taken into account in its application:

      1. Availability of resources

      The first premise is that everyone has, within us, the necessary resources to resolve our conflicts; that is, all of us, in a way, “bring a psychologist in”. Ericksonian hypnosis helps us access these resources.

      2. Potential of the unconscious

      According to Ericksonian hypnosis, the unconscious is a very powerful source of resources, where important memories for the subject are also stored. The unconscious always sends messages to the outside, Through our body, our words, our trance states …

      These are verbal and non-verbal messages that we must know how to detect and understand in order to access our most unconscious part.

      3. Based on experience

      Ericksonian hypnosis it is based on experiences rather than theoretical knowledge or explanations. According to Erickson himself, having an experience will always be more effective than hearing an explanation.

      4. Heterogeneity of responses

      Not all people respond to Ericksonian hypnosis the same way. The response we give will be influenced by our previous beliefs, experiences, habits, thoughts, etc., which is why it will vary greatly from person to person.


      Ericksonian hypnosis, as we have said, involves a state of concentration of conscious attention; this state it involves a dissociation in the mind which allows access to the unconscious capacities of the person. The dissociation is momentary, of short duration. All this allows the person to access a state of deep relaxation.

      In this state, the unconscious is more accessible, more present and takes center stage. By accessing it, Ericksonian hypnosis seeks to create new possibilities in the subject to meet challenges, changes in behavior and habits. Thus, it also promotes the learning of new behaviors and new patterns of behavior.

      Erickson himself defines Ericksonian hypnosis as a process of communication with the mind and with oneself, Thanks to which the person “manages to focus on his own thoughts, memories, beliefs and values ​​that he has about life”. Ericksonian hypnosis is active learning that seeks to reach a state of transit, which in turn allows access to unconsciousness and to make the most of one’s personal resources.


      Ericksonian hypnosis, as we mentioned, is actually a type of self-hypnosis. Self-hypnosis is learned to develop on your own (through appropriate training), and is a process that facilitates the balance between the two cerebral hemispheres, empowering the corpus callosum (brain structure that unites them) .

      Once you have learned this technique, with proper training it becomes easy to put into practice. Moreover, it can be used almost anytime and in different scenarios.


      As we said at the beginning of the article, this practice has been shown to be effective in different studies and to produce effects similar to those obtained from mindfulness or meditation techniques.

      The benefits of Ericksonian hypnosis as a form of self-hypnosis include learn to deal with stress, An increase in concentration, improvement in mood and emotional state, reduction in anxiety, improvement in creativity, improvement in decision-making processes and better self-control.

      In addition, Ericksonian hypnosis improves connection with oneself, by focusing and directing energy and attention in the inner world, moving away from external stimuli. The goal is to bond with oneself and to connect body and mind.

      Therapeutic applications

      Ericksonian hypnosis is a tool that has multiple uses and purposes in psychotherapy. Mainly, it can be used to induce states of relaxation, and for the patient to know and experience different hypnotic states of trance. It is also used to generate emotional states in the patient, which can be of well-being, for example.

      On the other hand, Ericksonian hypnosis also allows access to the person’s subconscious, momentarily blocking the most rational and conscious part of his mind. This facilitates the emergence of repressed thoughts and memories that are currently affecting a person’s well-being.

      This type of hypnosis also allows you to catalyze and induce processes of change in times of crisis, for example, as well as facilitating decision-making and managing painful moments or processes. In fact, it is a technique that has proven to be effective to reduce pain in people with fibromyalgia, For example.

      One of the goals of Ericksonian hypnosis is for the person to regain control of their emotions and thoughts, and to feel confident and firm in their decision-making processes. the decisions.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Álvarez-Nemegyei, J., Negrers-Castell, A., Nuño-Gutiérrez, BL, Álvarez-Berzunza, J. and Alcocer-Martínez, LM (2007). Efficacy of ericksonian hypnosis in fibromyalgia syndrome in women. Rev Med Inst Mex Segur Soc, 45 (4): 395-401.
      • Erickson, BA (1994). Ericksonian Therapy Demystified: A Simple Approach. In: Zeig JK, editor. Ericksonian applications in the use of art in therapy. New York, United States: Brunner-Mazel: 147-162.

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