Talk:Milton H. Erickson

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"Communicating by Metaphor - This is explored extensively in Sydney Rosen's 'My Voice Will Go With You', but a beautiful example is given in the first chapter of David Gordon's book Phoenix:"

"Beautiful" necessary? (Encyclopedic, for that matter?)

"Compare Erickson's metaphorical strategies with the teaching tales of the Sufis (those of Nasreddin eg.) and the Zen tradition of Koans, each also designed to act on the unconscious mind." I don't think an imperative belongs in an encyclopedia article; perhaps "Erickson's metaphorical strategies can be compared to..." Obviously they can be compared with chocolate ice cream, but I believe "compared to" implies similarity, and this rewrite avoids the command.

I disagree. One could argue that there is a significant similarity between such tales and those of Erickson. With the intention to affect the Unconscious...or lead one in the direction of enlightenment. One might include th parables of Jesus, as well. — Preceding unsigned comment added by 2602:306:32CD:B130:E5DE:E605:A08E:98E3 (talk) 07:50, 9 July 2012 (UTC)

I'm not bold, sorry :D (talk) 23:51, 28 February 2008 (UTC)

I am sufficiently bold. Your suggestions have been followed... but in the future, you can knock nearly fourteen months off of the response time by doing it yourself. ;) Jonathansfox (talk) 09:29, 21 April 2009 (UTC)


Erickson's work is controversial in many respects, and was when he was alive. Even more controversial are the many "neo-Ericksonian" interpretations of it. The article doesn't mention any of this. There are also several references to NLP here but no mention of the controversy surrounding the relationship between NLP and Erickson's work.

Erickson's work is mostly well-regarded, but NLP is highly controversial and considered by many to be a fraud or a cult, as the wiki article on NLP mentions. The references to NLP in the article on Erickson imply that Erickson himself endorsed NLP which is not necessarily true. I would vote for removing most of the NLP references and noting the ones that remain that Erickson's ideas were used by NLP but he did not create or endorse it. 20:00, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

I agree that Erickson was controversial. E.g., from Campbell Perry, "Can Anecdotes Add to an Understanding of Hypnosis?", International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, vol. 52, no. 3, 2008, pp. 218-231,

"One of my favorite colleagues was the late Donald O’Connell. During my 2 years at Martin Orne’s lab in Philadelphia, between 1966 and 1968, I came to know Don well. He had been trained at Harvard, by Edwin G. Boring, one of the great historians of psychology, and later at Swarthmore by Wolfgang Kohler, one of the leaders of the Gestalt psychology movement. Visitors were frequent at Martin’s lab, and I remember well the time when Milton Erickson paid the lab a visit. A student who had worked extensively with Don was chosen for the demonstration that Erickson was to perform. The student was accustomed to the directness of experimental inductions and took an instant dislike to Erickson and his indirect procedures, both of which he perceived as slippery and manipulative. He decided to take Erickson down several pegs by refusing to respond but then realized that if he were to do this, it would be a disloyalty to Don. Accordingly, the student resolved this dilemma by imagining that Erickson was really Don performing an experimental induction. The session was completed without incident and without Erickson being aware that much had been happening during a seemingly routine demonstration." (pp. 221-222)

Also see the Steven J. Lynn et al. reference below from the user at IP

I don't think Erickson is held in very high regard by experimentalists in hypnosis.

Lippard (talk) 23:33, 11 February 2010 (UTC)

I don't see any such implication. Erickson did not endorse NLP, but he did write the introduction to one of the 'Patterns' books, which is somewhat significant. To write about Erickson without mentioning NLP at all would also be a misrepresentation. (Like discussing Nietzsche without mentioning Nazism). More important might be Bateson's shift of position on the 'Milton Model'. It was Bateson that first encouraged Bandler and Grinder to seek out Erickson, and Bateson originally supported their work. However, he withdrew his endorsement later, claiming that Bandler and Grinder were mixing up logicial levels. This strikes me as a very important detail, although it probably belongs in the 'Milton Model' section.

For example, Andre Weitzenhoffer, one of the most respected authorities in the field and a contemporary and colleague of Erickson, was highly critical of modern interpreters of Erickson's work, he adds,

"Others, like Richard Bandler and John Grinder have on the other hand, offered a much adulterated, and at times fanciful, version of what they perceived Erickson as saying or doing guided by their own personal theorising." (Weitzenhoffer, 2000: 592-593) 20:00, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

This strikes me as highly relevant. Many people will move from NLP to Erickson, so perhaps there should be a brief section discussing Erickson's non-straightforward 'relationship' with NLP and Bandler/Grinder.

One of the key assumptions of Ericksonian hypnotherapy, mentioned here, is that indirect suggestion somehow bypasses the conscious mind's critical faculties. These leads to the claim that indirect suggestion is more effective with clients who are "resistant" to traditional direct suggestion. However, this is contradicted by research evidence, such as the systematic review of 29 studies comparing direct and indirect approached published by Lynn et al.,

"[…] contrary to the view of Ericksonian hypnotists, suggestion style appears to have little effect on objective responding to hypnotic items found on standardised scales. […] In short, our review provides no support for the hypothesis that indirect suggestions diminish resistance to hypnotic suggestions, at least as measured by objective responding." (Lynn et al., 1933: 137).

Lynn, S. J., Neufeld, V., Mare, C. (1993). ‘Direct versus indirect suggestion: A conceptual and methodological review.’ The International Journal for Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis, vol. XLI, no. 2, April 1993, 124-152. 20:00, 24 October 2006 (UTC)

Also a good point, but if the 'standardised scales' mentioned are the Stanford scales, then this is hardly surprising, since they are based on the direct suggestion approach. It's not really a matter of whether the client is resistant, but whether the suggestion itself is presented in an acceptable way, from an acceptable source. In other words, 'resistance' is a property of the whole communication (which necessarily involves both a 'speaker' and a 'listener'), rather than the subject alone.

If you tell a friend to 'give up smoking', that's a direct suggestion which they can ignore or accept. If your friend hears the same suggestion from someone they dislike, they're almost certainly more likely to ignore it. If they hear it played on a tape recorder, then such 'indirect' aspects of the communication as tone of voice and sound quality, must still be considered.

So what appears to be missing in this research you mention is the role of 'ethos' (to borrow a term from Classical Rhetoric): Who's making the suggestions, and what opinion (conscious or unconscious) does the experimental subject have about the source of those suggestions? 'Ethos' is a part of all human communication, including hypnosis, and functions in itself as an indirect suggestion coloring other aspects of the communication. Therefore it is practically impossible to communicate 100% directly or 100% indirectly. Gregory Bateson has described this dilemma in some detail. Do you know whether Lynn's research has taken it into account?

On his middle name[edit]

Which is genuine, Henry or Hyland?

According to The Milton H. Erickson Foundation:

Kadzuwo 02:48, 17 Sep 2004 (UTC)

The user who changed it to Henry's edits contain many inaccuracies, and as you note "Milton Henry Erickson" returns no google hits except clones of this article, so I would go with "Hyland".

Milton's middle name is Hyland, not Henry. Hyland was a relative of his.


Should "MD" be removed from the name line? Is that typical Wiki practice to include it? Thanks ~ Dpr 13:47, 22 Apr 2005 (UTC)

Encyclopedic article or did someone start a new book here?[edit]

The article contains /a lot/ of text with low relevancy to the person of Erickson. All parts about techniques should be shortened (by someone knowledgeable) and the deleted content moved into article of its own. Pavel Vozenilek 18:19, 15 February 2006 (UTC)

'Someone knowledgeable' about what? A neurologist? A psychologist? A consciousness researcher? A storyteller? A hypnotherapist trained by which school? A psychiatrist who believes strongly in pharmaceutical therapies? An NLP nut? A linguist? A cyberneticist? An educationalist? What would be the subject of the 'other article'? What figure/background relationship are you proposing?

You can blame me for the bulkiness of the article, because I gathered the greater volume of the text of this article towards the end of 2005 according to my own understanding of the most important points. Please note that this bulk comes mostly from transcribed interviews in Haley's book 'Uncommon Therapy'. It is not intended to be 'ultimately definitive', but to add more meat to the meagre skeleton I found here. I'm just a layman, but I'd argue that I improved the article by adding more 'stuff', which we are now discussing. There was hardly any discussion before!

Clearly there's now some fat to be removed, but I always think it's better to pare down rather than discuss every tiny detail which might be added one day when we all agree. We might differ on that point. I took some pains to add examples to illustrate each major theoretical point, precisely because these theoretical points arise from (and come alive in) practice. Maybe it's these examples which deserve an article to themselves?

Erickson's work has informed so many fields and disciplines that any expert analysis needs to come from multiple angles. The whole point of wikipedia is that we work on this together, and yes, we all value different aspects of the subject differently. The 'art' is to make the context obvious in each case. I definitely think it would be a shame to strait-jacket the entry on Erickson to the field of Psychology alone, just as figures like Freud, Marx and Einstein need to be discussed in many different contexts.

But the more important question, (relevant for encyclopedia entries in general): Is it 'the person of Erickson' that should be discussed here, or his theories and practice, or all of these?

I'm all for keeping the subjective and biographical details distinct from the scientific ones, although in the case of Erickson, his theories and practice can be seen to have arisen directly from his extraordinary early life experiences. For example, his paralysis due to polio and subsequent 're-learning' of his own motoric system add considerable depth to our understanding of his discoveries as something primarily practical and 'of the body' rather than coming from a purely scientific approach.

Erickson did plenty of bona fide 'pure research', but the core of his practice can be linked to his own experiences and phenomenology. He used stories so often in lectures, papers, books and seminars to make his scientific ideas more accessible, that an exclusively sober concentration on theories and clinical practice would not be in the spirit of the man. The important thing for me is that Erickson was not 'just' a scientist. He was also something of a humanist philosopher and a great storyteller. He understood and had great respect for the scientific method, applying it rigorously, yet his research papers are peppered with 'non-scientific' anecdotes. Why do you think he chose to do that?

In other words, do we use 'teaching stories' here, to describe Erickson, or do we merely refer to the fact that Erickson used stories to communicate complex information and ideas? For example, I can think of no more clear and usable example of 'the reverse set double bind' than the story of the calf, which comes from one of Erickson's scientific papers.

If there's parts you'd like to see shortened for relevancy, please either specify what you think is irrelevant, or make the edit yourself! There's a 'history' if we ever need to reinstate an excised section.

Milton Model (NLP)[edit]

I'd like to merge the Milton Model page to a subsection on this page.. --Comaze 12:58, 9 June 2006 (UTC)

Not really appropriate as I see it. One is a (long!) biographical article. The other is a linguistic model based upon a person's work. 2 very different things. FT2 (Talk) 14:29, 9 June 2006 (UTC)
Ok, alternatively I could expand the Milton model article.. --Comaze 15:03, 9 June 2006 (UTC)

Yes, the Milton Model is not Erickson's own work, and many self-proclaimed 'Ericksonians' disapprove of NLP and its subsystems. Gregory Bateson himself rejected the Milton Model for its confusion of logical levels, although it is such a significant part of NLP that it deserves a decent description.

NLP's own wikipedia page is 'disputed' and there are plenty of axes being ground over it, so having a seperate and fleshed-out Milton Model page would be a good thing, in my opinion: It's easier to have a sober discussion about the Milton Model than about the whole of NLP.

So yes, I think it would be best to expand the Milton Model article.

Training program[edit]

<removed as junk or vandalism Julia Rossi (talk) 02:58, 27 March 2008 (UTC)>

An article...[edit]

I just hope this wiki page has nothing to do with this article:

it links to this page, and rants around time and over about "Ericksonian" methods of this and that. Maybe the author just had read a book (good advice btw!), but I'd advice to look for any similarities. Stay vigilant! --Sigmundur (talk) 20:06, 2 November 2008 (UTC)

Self Taught?[edit]

Someone added the detail that he was self-taught, but this is not backed up by any reference. Neither does it say what he was self-taught in. Please specify or remove. Milton trained as a general practitioner of medicine and simultaneously as a psychiatrist. (This is stated later). — Preceding unsigned comment added by Brennanyoung (talkcontribs) 19:24, 16 January 2011 (UTC)

Would it be appropriate to say he was self-taught in hypnosis? There's no mention of it being a significant part of his training in psychiatry, and indeed the point is made that hypnosis subsequently became important in therapy largely because of his work.
Bn (talk) 03:35, 16 May 2013 (UTC)


The article contains this line: "his extensive research into ... hypnosis" but there is no reference to any research or experimentation. He did, in fact, do experiments, such as his picture hanging experiment into waking vs. hypnotic states (as documented in his collective works. (talk) 00:02, 23 August 2011 (UTC)

Bandler and Handshake Induction[edit]

I flagged a paragraph with the dubious template because it contradicts the quotation from Erickson below it, and the allegation is inadequately sourced. Further, it does not make any coherent point. It doesn't say who the technique originated with, if not Erickson. Who embedded those impossible parts in it, Erickson or Bandler? Is the claim that Erickson taught others in detail something he did not and could not do himself? Was this a technique he employed before his second paralysis at age 51 and then taught verbally from memory? If this is in fact a controversial point in the field, then a more explicit statement of it must be properly sourced. (I didn't fix the misspelling of "imbedded" because I doubt the paragraph should be retained.)
Bn (talk) 02:52, 16 May 2013 (UTC)


The first sentence of the last paragraph in the section Milton H. Erickson#Controversy is:

Self-professed "skeptical hypnotist" Alex Tsander cited Masson's concerns in his 2005 book Beyond Erickson: A Fresh Look at "The Emperor of Hypnosis", the title of which alludes to Charcot's characterisation in the previous century as "The Emperor of the Neuroses".

I'm wondering whether "The Emperor of the Neuroses" shouldn't be "The Emperor of Neuroses". It would parallel "The Emperor of Hypnosis" better. Perhaps the French title had "Les...", but in English the definite article would probably be dropped. CorinneSD (talk) 23:34, 1 August 2014 (UTC)


The article says he was a psychiatrist, but there is no mention of where he obtained his degrees or training!! Does anyone know? best wishes Veryscarymary (talk) 09:37, 26 December 2014 (UTC)

Exactly. Zezen (talk) 18:06, 28 November 2018 (UTC)

Folk psychiatry[edit]

The following paragraph is highly dubious:

This induction works because shaking hands is one of the actions learned and operated as a single "chunk" of behavior; tying shoelaces is another classic example. If the behavior is diverted or frozen midway, the person literally has no mental space for this - he is stopped in the middle of unconsciously executing a behavior that hasn't got a "middle". The mind responds by suspending itself in trance until either something happens to give a new direction, or it "snaps out".

Shaking hands and tying shoes are not fixed action patterns. The processes do have "middles" and there is no explanation of why this would lead to a trance or why you would eventually "snap out" of it. At the very least it needs a citation. Eebster the Great (talk) 19:37, 2 March 2015 (UTC)