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.
What is “NLP”?
One of my very first clients came in with a phobia around driving her car on highways. It had been a difficult experience for around twenty years, and she had only a vague idea as to when and how it had started. Now, this is one of the very first types of conditions all beginning NLP students learn how to treat, even though years ago people used to spend enormous amounts of time and money trying to de-sensitize themselves from the experience, and often well intended treatments made things far worse. Naturally, having just graduated from my NLP training, I was both eager and a bit nervous to see how well the famous NLP “Fast Phobia Cure” would work on a real client outside of class.
Twenty minutes later (and this was twice as long as it usually takes), to her great surprise, the mere thought of driving on a highway, even with trucks passing her, no longer triggered a panic. She felt a sense of control and ease… how could that be? She asked me if that was all there was to it. Even though the job was pretty much done as far as I was concerned – her phobia was neutralized – I put her in a hypnotic trance because that’s what she had come for. Her drive home, on the highway, was uneventful. A couple weeks later she reported having taken the highway to go attend a concert, and she still couldn’t believe she was “cured”, and it was that easy!
NLP, short for “Neuro-Linguistic Programming”, is based on the assumption that our brains “code” our experiences according to certain patterns, similar to the filing system in a computer. We each have our own unique ways of coding, or filing away our experiences such as our emotional reactions, what we see, hear, etc., and the various techniques for working with this aspect of our experience make up the “neuro” part of NLP.
Likewise the language we use has a profound impact on our belief patterns, hence the “linguistic” side of NLP. These neuro-linguisitic coding patterns that we all have can make us behave in ways that maintain our fears, phobias, anxieties and so forth, or can allow us to live strong, confident, effective, successful lives.
Why is all that important? Because the ways of working with our brain’s coding systems that NLP provides have proven to be not only surprisingly effective with many problems such as phobias, anxieties, and more, but can achieve their results in very short time frames.
A simple metaphor might make this easier to appreciate:
Imagine using a certain map to drive from one place to another for years and years… then one day a friend takes our map and marks out a shortcut that uses a road we weren’t aware of. In less than an hour after try out the shortcut we realize: “This is easier! Now I have more choice in how get to where I want to go!”.
Anthony Robbins and others have developed huge followings based on their use of NLP. And many other systems, including EFT (Emotional Freedom Technique), while unique contributions in their own right, borrow heavily from NLP. I have, by the way, also used EFT with clients, with a strong “dollop” of NLP, with great success.
What is Metaphor Facilitation?
Recently a client came to see me feeling like she “wasn’t allowed to be herself”. Through a gentle questioning process she came up with her own metaphor of feeling like she was “carrying a backpack full of stones,” one was guilt, another was rules…etc., and that she also felt like she was “wearing a straightjacket with strings tied in the front”. Through a process of metaphor facilitation she was able to let go of the stones, one by one, as well as untie the straightjacket. Along with hypnosis to deepen her work, by the end of the session she said she felt more from that single session than from hours and hours of other types of therapy.
I hear this often. And this is not in any way to put down other forms of therapy – they all are appropriate in the right context. I just happen to believe that very effective techniques for expanding our choices are becoming available that are only now starting to emerge and will hopefully one day be incorporated into standard coaching or therapy practices.
What amazes me about the metaphor facilitation techniques in particular is how much a client’s own spontaneous metaphors can have such a profoundly positive and lasting impact on their beliefs, goals and conflicts. Like Sigmund Freud’s famous saying: “Dreams are the Royal Road to the Unconscious”, our own metaphors can be a very, very powerful way of accessing unconscious resources to help facilitate deep change.
Psychologists and linguists have determined that we use up to six metaphors per minute, and that significant feelings, thoughts, beliefs and experiences are recorded as internalized metaphors, and that metaphors are the way our brains “get a handle” on our world. Working with metaphors is a powerful way of using those “handles” that is both safe and effective, and most clients report it being a surprisingly interesting experience.
By actively engaging a client’s metaphors, meaningful changes to thoughts, feelings, and actions come about because new neural pathways are established and strengthened. The old neural pathways or memories are not erased. Instead, new pathways become the primary routes when cues such as a memories or other behaviors are activated, giving the client new choices for responding.
Scope and Contra-Indications
If you are having difficulties with a family member or spouse or with someone at work or in another context that may involve physical, emotional or sexual abuse, you are advised to see a qualified family counselor or therapist, or other qualified mental health care practitioner. They are trained to help you understand and act appropriately in such contexts and to better understand the behaviors of others that are or are not appropriate.
Furthermore, I do not diagnose mental health conditions – such diagnoses can only be performed by qualified mental health practitioners.
For help with chronic or acute pain you must obtain prior approval from a qualified health care practitioner. Likewise, I do not offer advice or direction for taking any medications – or food supplements, as these can sometimes interfere with medication. Such advice can only be given by qualified health care professionals.
I am happy to work with you as an adjunct to help facilitate any work you may be doing with a mental health care practitioner, or with a medical doctor when dealing with pain challenges.
Our sessions will last around 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
Note: Although we can meet in person if you live in the Pioneer Valley area, I regularly work with clients by phone or by Skype. My clients report the work to be as deep and effective as when we meet in person.
Typically our sessions will start out with a brief exploration of what it is you would like to change – i.e. define the “problem”.
The next stage of our work involves exploring the resources you already have that can help you bring about change. This is where my training to work with you using a number of techniques, including metaphor facilitation (using Clean Language), Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP), Transpersonal Hypnotherapy, or Cognitive Hypnotherapy can help facilitate change.
Later in the session, if appropriate (and it usually is), we reinforce the work at a deeper level using naturalistic (Ericksonian) hypnotic trance. Again, the trance may feel mild and “not much different from conscious awareness”, or it may feel “deep”. Either way is fine and scientific studies have indicated that both ways of experiencing hypnosis generally work equally effectively.
The combination of initial “change-work” and following “trance-work” provides for a depth such that many of my clients often tell me this work is surprisingly effective.
At the end of the session I may suggest certain “homework” type tasks. If agreeable we may schedule either a follow up visit, or some other follow up type of communication. While a first visit in person is optimal, it is not absolutely required. I am able to work nearly as well via Skype or by phone.
Please remember during our sessions that:
- it should feel easy;
- if you don’t know an answer, that’s fine;
- clients often report the meanings of their metaphors become clear at some later time, or they may report change without even knowing how or why
- I give no advice;
- this is a cooperative effort – I facilitate, and your job is to let me know if you need any adjustments.
If you have any further questions you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to either book a free initial introductory 1/2 hour session (see sidebar), or to ask any questions.