HYPNOTHERAPY - MILTON ERICKSON
The practice of hypnosis has a very long history. There are written testimonies concerning this art dating back to the Sumerian civilisation. Subsequently, it was adopted for centuries in various oriental practices, including Yoga. However, until 1770 hypnosis had never been employed for any truly therapeutic purpose. The first person to do so was Franz Mesmer, who ‘magnetised’ his patients, passing his open hands lightly over the body with downward movements. In the last century, Milton Erickson conducted studies which led him to elaborate his own forms of intervention and contributed towards our comprehension of the dynamics of hypnosis.
Another fundamental contribution was made in this field by Jean Martin Charcot, who worked in Paris in the second half of the nineteenth century and with whom Sigmund Freud also collaborated briefly. Hypnosis is a therapeutic technique based on the engendering and attainment of a state of trance. Once this has occurred, the hypnotherapist proceeds to help the client, through inductions, restructuring, analogies, the use of mental images and other techniques, all aimed at achieving the objectives previously agreed upon.
There are many legends, myths and commonplace ideas regarding hypnosis which should be clearly challenged. False information regarding hypnosis is often originated and to a large extent spread by television shows and other means of mass-communication, which frighten many of the people who might derive some benefit from this kind of therapy. Although their opinions are based on no truly rational point of reference, nevertheless many people believe that through hypnosis an operator can gain control over the mind of the person who submits to the experience, who may then be exploited in some way.
Although an induction of amnesia or the loss of consciousness are possible during a hypnotic session, in clinical practice induction of these phenomena almost never occurs and, more importantly, people may rest assured that it is not possible by means of hypnotic technique to manipulate a person to an extent greater than that which would be expected when watching a television commercial or listening to a good public speaker.
The work of the hypnotherapist consists in analyzing a patient’s problems and evaluating to what extent hypnosis might help the person. After completing this preliminary operation, therapist and patient decide together which technique is most suitable, in consideration of and respecting the client’s needs, values and goals.
Hypnosis is not a remedy for all ills, but it is particularly effective for a vast array of psychological disturbances, including Anxiety Disorders. Its positive effect in the reduction of anxiety has been proven by various studies.
The technique induces a state of physical and mental relaxation in the patient, which leads to a state of enhanced perception of stimuli from the unconscious. This relaxed state can be obtained for example by inviting the person to concentrate his thoughts on a specific object. Hypnosis offers an opportunity to access more easily the internal resources of the person, which may be capable of producing beneficial effects or allow a patient to see his or her problems in a different and more constructive way.
The therapist, then, does not tell his clients what they must do or believe but helps them find internal resources that can be useful for recovering their psychological and emotional wellbeing. The hypnotic state is not a deep sleep or a state of complete unconsciousness: it is rather a sort of drowsiness in which a subject’s ‘rational’ defences become less effective. Modern hypnotic techniques require patients to lie down on a couch with their eyes closed or they can remain standing up.