It is characteristic of Erickson to be intensely involved with a person, and the patient who receives his full attention experiences the impact of his personality. Yet other therapists with different personalities and less involvement can use many of his techniques.
Erickson can be considered the master in the strategic approach to therapy. Hehas long been known as the world's leading medical hypnotist, having spent hislife doing experimental work and using hypnosis in therapy in an infinite variety ofways. What is less well known is the strategic approach he has developed forindividuals, married couples, and families without the formal use of hypnosis. Formany years, he has conducted a busy psychiatric practice dealing with every kindof psychological problem and with families at every stage of life. Even when he does not formally use hypnosis, his style of therapy is so based upon the hypnotic orientation that whatever he does appears to have its origins in that art. He hasbrought to therapy an extraordinary range of hypnotic techniques, and he has alsobrought to hypnosis an expansion of ideas that have broadened hypnosis beyonda ritual to a special style of communication.One way to view the strategic therapy of Milton Erickson is as a logical extension ofhypnotic technique. Out of hypnotic training comes skill in observing people andthe complex ways they communicate, skill in motivating people to follow directives,and skill in using one's own words, intonations, and body movements to influenceother people. Also out of hypnosis come a conception of people as changeable, anappreciation of the malleability of space and time, and specific ideas about how todirect another person to become more autonomous. Just as a hypnotist can thinkof transforming a severe symptom into a milder one, or one of shorter duration, hecan think of shifting an interpersonal problem into an advantage
Joe, I would like to talk to you. I know you are a florist, that you growflowers, and I grew up on a farm in Wisconsin and I liked growing flowers. I still do. So Iwould like to have you take a seat in that easy chair as I talk to you. I'm going to say a lot ofthings to you, but it won't be about flowers because you know more than I do aboutflowers. That isn't what you want. Now, as I talk, and I can do so comfortably, I wish that you would listen to me comfortably as I talk about a tomato plant. That is an odd thing totalk about. It makes one curious. Why talk about a tomato plant? One puts a tomato seedin the ground. One can feel hope that it will grow into a tomato plant that will bringsatisfaction by the fruit it has. The seed soaks up water, not very much difficulty, in doing that because of the rains that bring peace and comfort and the joy of growing to flowers and tomatoes. That little seed, Joe, slowly swells and sends out a little rootlet with cilia onit. Now, you may not know what cilia are, but cilia are things that work to help the tomato seed grow, to push up above the ground as a sprouting plant, and you can listen to me,Joe, so I will keep on talking and you can keep on listening, wondering, just wondering what you can really learn, and here is your pencil and your pad, but speaking of the tomato plant, it grows so slowly. You cannot see it grow, you cannot hear it grow, but grow it does - the first little leaflike things on the stalk, the fine little hairs on the stem. Those hairs are on the leaves too, like the cilia on the roots; they must make the tomato plant feel very good, very comfortable if you can think of a plant as feeling, and then, you can't see it growing, you can't feel it growing, but another leaf appears no that little tomato stalk and then another. Maybe - and this is talking like a child - maybe the tomato plant does feel comfortable and peaceful as it grows. Each day it grows and grows and grows, it's so comfortable, Joe, to watch a plant grow and not see its growth, not feel it, but just know that all is getting better for that little tomato plant that is adding yet another leaf and still another and a branch, and it is growing comfortably in all directions
When the old gentleman asked if he could be helped for his fear of riding in an elevator,I told him I could probably scare the pants off him in another direction. He told me thatnothing could be worse than his fear of an elevator.The elevators in that particular building were operated by young girls, and I madespecial arrangements with one in advance. She agreed to cooperate and thought it wouldbe fun. I went with the gentleman to the elevator. He wasn't afraid of walking into anelevator, but when it started to move it became an unbearable experience. So I chose anunbusy time and I had him walk in and out of the elevator, back in and out. Then at a pointwhen we walked in, I told the girl to close the door and said, "Let's go up." She went upone story and stopped in between floors. The gentleman started to yell, "What's wrong!" Isaid, "The elevator operator wants to kiss you." Shocked, the gentleman said, "But I'm amarried man!" The girl said, "I don't mind that." She walked toward him, and he steppedback and said, "You start the elevator." So she started it. She went up to about the fourthfloor and stopped it again between floors. She said, "I just have a craving for a kiss." Hesaid, "You go about your business." He wanted that elevator moving, not standing still. Shereplied, "Well, let's go down and start all over again," and she began to take the elevatordown. He said, "Not down, up!" since he didn't want to go through that all over again. Shestarted up and then stopped the elevator between floors and said, "Do you promise you'llride down in my elevator with me when you're through work?" He said, "I'll promiseanything if you promise not to kiss me." He went up in the elevator, relieved and withoutfear - of the elevator - and could ride one from then on.