HOW ERICKSONIAN THERAPY HAPPENS
( This account reflects the views and practice of Keith Bibby and is not intended to describe
the work of other practitioners. )
No matter how seemingly depressed or distressed or defeated by a
particular personal problem, every individual has a wide range of strategies that operate perfectly effectively in other contexts.
Often - within their own personal repertoire - people have all the resources which could solve an otherwise unyielding problem - if only these could be brought to bear. But often we have to learn different ( and easier ) ways of engaging with difficulties before this can happen.
Strategies for doing this are largely founded on original insights
gained by Milton Erickson in his youth into his own medical condition. He observed, one day, how his paralysed body, which he was incapable
of controlling by willpower, generated some spontaneous motion in the rocking chair in which he was sitting. Although he was incapable of the appropriate conscious movement, he was able to further amplify this motion - by engaging his imagination in a new way.
Further experimentation led him to discover how - by engaging similar imaginative strategies - he was able to induce movement into his fingers and his limbs and thus, over a period of some months, to rehabilitate his whole body. Basically he was exploring and exploiting the brain’s capacity to mobilise alternative pathways to achieve an end result.
He realised that in thinking about problems and trying to solve them in
commonly adopted ways, the mind may be overwhelmed with their seeming enormity and insoluble quality.
Our capacity to solve many problems lies in our psychological flexibility - and our ability to let go the problem and its limiting mind-state - to allow more flexible unconscious processes and a wider range of resources to be brought into play.
It was his capacity to be observant of and curious about his own
response, which had allowed him to discover what it was he was doing
unconsciously that caused the motion of the rocking chair.
Often we are too close to problems and too fixated in the desperate pursuit of failed conscious strategies to notice the clues the unconscious offers us about their solution.
All our processes are individual and distinctive. Despite the fact that we may call a problem by a certain name or label - or give it a particular diagnosis - every individual “ does ” the problem in their own individual way. Therefore, solutions to problems need to be respectfully tailored to have these same individual qualities.
Careful appreciation of the individual's way of having the problem can identify where things are going wrong. This indicates which individual resources need to be harnessed or enhanced - or even where new resources must be created - to solve it.
Carefully structured suggestion can be used to install such resources.
Clients may also be asked to do curious but harmless things which seem to have nothing to do with the problem as they perceive or experience it.
Some of these tasks may seem quite extraordinarily odd.
They will be designed to access process from an entirely different direction - generating a new context with greater potential.
Skilful framing of the task allows the right unconscious resources to be brought to bear without engaging the ‘consciously trying’ mind set - which has previously failed.
The results are often so successful that neither can the client give any account of what they are doing differently, or how they are doing that - but nonetheless they now succeed where previously they failed.
A perfect solution - which does happen - is one where the client cannot even remember having had the original problem !
Neither do clients have to experience formal ( ' heads down and eyes shut ' ) hypnosis. A really skilful practitioner is able to observe and access constructive states in the client ' on the fly ' as these occur spontaneously in the course of their exchanges.
A good practitioner uses every part of the process - from the very first phone call - to help the client. Practitioners need an excellent command of language and a clarity of mind to enable them to be systematic in discovering the structure of the problem. They also need to be very purposive and careful in the way they frame suggestions.
Powerful though these methods are, the Ericksonian therapist is not exercising control over your mind or making you do anything you don't want to. The therapist is only generating possibilities.
Only solutions which are compatible with your own aims and wishes and process will take. Ericksonians know only too well, the complexity and unpredictability of human process makes all notion of control laughable. For the Ericksonian practitioner the tasks in hand - even in the most apparently simple cases - are plenty enough with which to engage our minds.
Copyright Keith Bibby© December 2008 >> Return