Milton H. Erickson

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The young Milton H. Erickson

Milton Hyland Erickson (born December 5, 1901 in Aurum ( White Pine County ), Nevada , † March 25, 1980 in Phoenix , Arizona ) was an American psychiatrist , psychologist and psychotherapist who significantly shaped modern hypnosis and hypnotherapy and who used it in who promoted psychotherapy.


Milton H. Erickson was born the second of nine children to Albert and Clara Erickson. His father was a child of Norwegian immigrants and his mother came from a long-established family in New England .

At the age of five, his family moved to Lowell, Wisconsin, where he attended elementary school and then high school in nearby Wishfield. He suffered from dyslexia . His nickname at the time was "Dictionary", which was due to his lack of understanding in dealing with the dictionary. Erickson is said to have always started reading the dictionary from the beginning when looking for a term. For a long time it was considered to be retarded in development . Apparently he was able to overcome his dyslexia by practicing seeing difficult letters in front of him, i.e. mentally visualizing them.

In 1919, shortly after graduating from high school, Erickson fell ill with polio and fell into a coma. At first it seemed that he would not survive the disease. After three days, however, he regained consciousness, but was completely paralyzed. Later he was unable to move in a rocking chair. In the months that followed, he learned to train his perception through his observations and began to experiment with his imagination. During this time he understood the verbal and non-verbal communication of his surroundings. The intense desire to look out of a window is said to have caused the rocking chair to move slightly. This ideomotor experience motivated him to keep practicing. He worked through imaginations to make his paralyzed muscles more functional again. After almost a year he was able to walk on crutches and attended the University of Wisconsin. Contrary to medical advice to rest, he went on a 1,200 mile canoe trip on the Mississippi. In doing so, he again achieved considerable physical strength. Two years later he was able to walk without crutches, he only limped with his right leg.

In his sophomore year at university, Erickson studied hypnosis. He was fascinated by the possibilities, practiced incessantly and developed different techniques. In contrast to the prevailing doctrine of the time, he developed customizable methods.

In 1925 he married for the first time. This marriage resulted in three children.

In 1928 he completed his studies with a Master of Arts (M.A.) in Psychology and a Doctor of Medicine (M. D.). From 1930 to 1934 he held various positions up to senior physician at Worcester State Hospital in Massachusetts. Here he was able to continue researching hypnosis and its possible uses.

The marriage ended in divorce in 1935. A short time later he met his future wife Betty. The wedding was in 1936. This marriage had five more children.

In 1939 he received his license to practice medicine as a specialist in psychiatry. From 1934 to 1948 he was a full professor of psychiatry in the medical school of Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan.

Milton H. Erickson's home in Phoenix, Arizona. Today it's a museum.

In 1947 he suffered an injury from a bicycle fall. Because of the risk of tetanus infection , Erickson was treated with it despite allergic reactions to the vaccine. The result was an anaphylactic shock , which he barely survived, followed by a severe allergy to pollen, which forced him to move to the milder climate of Phoenix, Arizona, where he opened a private practice. There were other allergies to house dust and various foods. He therefore ran his practice from home.

Milton H. Erickson always wore purple clothes.

In 1953 he fell ill with post-polio syndrome . He moved to Maryland. As far as he could, however, he continued his extensive literary activities and lecture tours. During this time he worked extensively with Jay Haley , Gregory Bateson , Margaret Mead , Lawrence Kubie and John Weakland .

In 1957, Erickson founded the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis , which he chaired. In 1958 he founded the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, which he published until 1968.

Because of his deteriorating health, he stopped lecturing and traveling in 1969. In 1974 he also gave up his private practice. From 1976 he fell ill a third time with polio with muscle wasting and multiple pain conditions. After that he was forced to use a wheelchair and one side of his face was paralyzed.


He later called the unconsciousness into which the illness brought him the beginning of his interest in trance states. Erickson used the phase of convalescence , in which medicine left him little hope of a full recovery, to practice partial dissociations .

It is thanks to Erickson that hypnosis is being used more frequently in psychotherapy after it had been pushed into the background for a long time by Sigmund Freud's rejection. Erickson developed a new approach that emphasizes individuality and therefore makes it necessary to find a special approach and approach for each client / patient. Erickson was in contrast to the previously standardized methods that prevailed until the 1950s and 1960s. Erickson also emphasizes the positive role of the unconscious. In contrast to Freud, for Erickson the unconscious is an inexhaustible resource for creative self-healing. The unconscious is the refuge of rarely used human experiences. Erickson's approach claims to expand the ability of the consciousness, which is limited by rigid thought patterns, in that the hypnotist uses special verbal and non-verbal techniques to enable the unconscious to assume the leading role. At the same time, the conscious mind should be enabled to use unconscious self-healing powers and creative resources.

Plaque to Milton H. Erickson on Squaw Peak.

Erickson had a great influence on therapists of his time and posterity. He shaped Jay Haley , Paul Watzlawick , John Weakland and with them the entire Palo Alto group . He also influenced the then emerging family therapy and many schools of systemic therapy , above all the solution-focused approach by Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg , the provocative therapy by Frank Farrelly and the systemic structure constellations by Insa Sparrer and Matthias Varga von Kibéd . The founders of NLP , Richard Bandler and John Grinder , studied and copied his technique - as did that of Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir , in order to construct NLP. You described the way Erickson worked with hypnotic language in a model of their own, the Milton model .

Erickson had already earned a reputation as a master of hypnosis during his lifetime. His numerous scientific publications have revolutionized the conception of hypnosis. Jeffrey Zeig and Ernest Rossi were Erickson's students for many years and have published books with him. In 1978, two years before his death, the Milton H. Erickson Society was founded in his honor, and to this day it houses the most comprehensive archive of his work in Phoenix. Erickson was also in contact with Aldous Huxley , with whom he explored the limits of psychology .


German-language editions

  • MH Erickson, EL Rossi: Hypnotherapy: Structure - Examples - Research. Pfeiffer, Munich, 1999, ISBN 3-608-89672-4
  • MH Erickson, EL Rossi: The February Man. Personality and identity development in hypnosis. Junfermann, Paderborn, 1991, ISBN 3-87387-033-9
  • MH Erickson, EL Rossi: Experience hypnosis: use changed states of consciousness therapeutically. Pfeiffer at Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart, 2004, ISBN 3-608-89718-6
  • MH Erickson, EL Rossi, SL Rossi: Hypnosis: induction - psychotherapeutic application - examples. Pfeiffer, Munich, 1991, ISBN 3-7904-0265-6
  • MH Erickson, EL Rossi: Collected Writings of Milton H. Erickson. Carl-Auer, Heidelberg, 1995-1998, ISBN 978-3-89670-020-9

Original editions

All publications either co-authored with Ernest Rossi or edited by him.

  • Hypnotic Realities. New York: Irvington 1976 [Translator: de, sv]
  • Hypnotherapy: An Exploratory Casebook. New York: Irvington 1979 [Translator: de]
  • Experiencing Hypnosis: Therapeutic Approaches to Altered States. New York: Irvington 1981
  • The February Man: Evolving Consciousness and Identity in Hypnotherapy. New York: Brunner / Mazel 1989
  • The Collected Papers of Milton H. Erickson on Hypnosis. 3 volumes. New York: Irvington 1980
    • Volume 1: The Nature of Hypnosis and Suggestion.
    • Volume 2: Hypnotic Alteration of Sensory, Perceptual and Psychophysical Processes.
    • Volume 3: Hypnotic Investigation of Psychodynamic Processes.
    • Volume 4: Innovative Hypnotherapy
  • The Lectures, Seminars, and Workshops of Milton H. Erickson.
    • Volume 1: Healing in Hypnosis. (Ed. Together with M. Ryan & F. Sharp). New York: Irvington 1983
    • Volume 2: Life Reframing in Hypnosis. (Ed. Together with M. Ryan). New York: Irvington 1985
    • Volume 3: Mind-Body Communication in Hypnosis. (Ed. Together with M. Ryan). New York: Irvington 1986
    • Volume 4: Creative Choice in Hypnosis. (Ed. Together with M. Ryan). New York: Irvington 1990

Additional information

Secondary literature

  • Burkhard Peter (Ed.): Hypnosis and Hypnotherapy according to Milton H. Erickson: Basics u. Fields of application. Pfeiffer, Munich, 1985, ISBN 3-7904-0424-1
  • Burkhard Peter: Milton H. Erickson's way of hypnosis. In: Experimental and clinical hypnosis, 1987, III, Heft 2, pp. 129-141
  • Walker, Wolfgang: Adventure Communication - Bateson, Perls, Satir, Erickson and the Beginnings of Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP). Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 1996. ISBN 3-608-91976-7

Web links

Individual evidence

  3. History of the Milton H. Erickson Society for Clinical Hypnosis ( Memento of the original from April 15, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (here also a short article about Milton H. Erickson) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /