The Solution Focused Approach to Hypnotherapy
10th January, 2010
Milton H Erickson: The Inspiration
The history to solution focused therapy is a fascinating one and many people do not realise that it was inspired by the work of the very famous American psychiatrist and hypnotherapist Milton H Erickson. The life story of this gentleman is a huge inspiration and is of its own accord an illustration of the power of a solution focused mind. Erickson battled the paralysing affects of polio not once but twice having very unusually contracted the condition twice, the first time when he was a high school graduate.
When he heard the doctor tell his mother “the boy will be dead by morning” Erickson mustered an instinctive solution focused response to the news. He became infuriated but quickly calmed himself and requested his mother to move a piece of furniture to enable him to see the view from the window better. If his demise really was imminent he was certainly going to enjoy the best possible view!
Erickson regarded the time he spent confined to bed with only the senses of sight and hearing to entertain him as an education. He learnt to be an observer of human movement, intention, thought, expression and achievement. This close observation awakened in him the interest and understanding of unconscious patterns which was to become his future.
He would lay in bed visualising what it would like walk, noting the smallest of mechanics which were the cogs in the machine of the act of walking. Unwittingly he activated the rehearsal room of his as he went over and over the small changes which would be the beginning of standing and of walking, skills which he went on to regain.
Even then Erickson was sowing the seeds of utilisation by locating inner resources gathered in other times and other experiences and applying them in this new context. He qualified as a psychiatrist and hypnotherapist rapidly acquiring a reputation for what came to be known as his “teaching tales” and metaphors. He would often succeed therapeutically with cases where his colleagues had failed to create positive change.
Naturally Erickson’s work was observed by many therapists who sought to recreate his success. Grindler and Bandler were inspired by some aspects of his work and created NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). Most hypnotherapists today incorporate some NLP techniques in their work.
Solution Focused Brief Therapy: The Beginning
Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg (a married couple) became the originators of Solution Focused Brief Therapy when they created the Brief Therapy Centre in Malwaukee, USA. They were soon joined by Yvonne Dolan and others. The solution focused approach was radical in that it was solution rather than problem focused; thus clients were enabled to move from a problem centred mindset to solution focused mindset. The approach is client centred, non-judgemental and solutions are often not linked to the problem in a direct way. For example, a client who found playing tennis improved her ability to concentrate as work and her social life!
The Brief Therapy Centre dealt mainly with family problems which had often become very complex over time. It was a revelation for the therapist to be able to ask each family member present what they would see as improvement, how would they recognise improvement and what changes those small changes which were the beginnings of improvement would bring to others close to them. In this way the Clients move away from problem formation mode into solution formation mode.
The originators of Brief Solution Focused Therapy used the therapy for a wide range of problems including depression, behavioural problems, addiction, family and relationship problems, depression, anxiety, phobia and stress related issues.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy
When hypnotherapists began to be trained in the Solution Focused Approach the circle of inspiration had really turned full circle linking back to Milton H Erickson the hypnotherapist who inspired Steve de Shazer and Insoo Kim Berg.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy and Neuroscience
Modern neuroscience and solution focused hypnotherapy are very natural partners.
Solution Focused Hypnotherapy: What to expect
a) Time spent discussing problem formation to be limited to understanding the difference between operating in problem formation mode and solution formation mode.
b) The formation or origin of a problem to be explained in terms of how the brain works. The influence of thinking styles will be discussed.
c) The therapist presumes you have inner strengths, potential, resources, creativity and life skills which you are not yet utilising.
d) Hypnotherapy is used in every session to lower anxiety, help you into solution focused mode and create the changes you identify with greater ease and rapidity. A CD is usually provided for use at home.
e) In second and subsequent sessions the therapist will ask you what has been different, what has been better even in very small ways.
f) Creativity is increased and positive happy memories are accessed spontaneously and far more often.
g) Playfulness, lightness, laughter and creativity to be present.
h) Therapy is non-judgemental, encourages mindfulness and is respectful of your own wisdom.
j) Homework experiments are suggested by therapist with clients being invited to add their own. If a client wishes to substitute their own homework experiment for the one suggested that is welcomed.
k) NLP techniques will be used in some circumstances particularly phobic or compulsive responses.
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