This year I`ve read a lot. Some psychology books, but also fiction. One of the psychology books I`ve read, that I want to review here, is “Uncommon therapy” by Jay Hayley. The book is from my favorite therapist, who I wish I was. I have written about him before, and try to remember that nothing is impossible every time I have a client myself.
Milton H. Erickson, M.D. is generally acknowledged to have been the world’s leading practitioner of medical hypnosis. His “strategic therapy,” using hypnotic techniques with or without actually inducing trance, allows him to get directly to the core of a problem and prescribe a course of action that can lead to rapid recovery.
Milton Erickson was an interesting therapist and scientist: With creativity he tailored therapy to each client so that it fitted perfectly. He was the perfect “mirror” for others, so much that he actually could “talk” exactly like the client in front of him. He strongly believed in the unconscious, and in letting people find their own insights. He could tell little anecdotes that were completely right for the client. An example was an alcoholic that lived in a family where everyone drank (even his own wife) and drunk for several years. He was considered a hopeless case. Milton gave him a task: He should go to a park and sit down to watch a cactus for several minutes. Erickson told him this cactus could live without water for three years. 5 years later his sister called Erickson and told him both he and his wife had stopped drinking. He also used Reframing, mirroring and the paradox intervention. And example of the first, is when he sent a rootless client to Flagstaff so that she created new positive associated to a place that just seemed negative before. An example of the second is when he met a patient that tore things apart. She tore and threw everything she saw: Clothes, curtains, wallpaper. Generally, she was acting out. Erickson stood beside her and did the same thing, he tore up pieces of the wallpapers and threw things here and there. He exclaimed: “This was fun! Let`s go somewhere else and do more of it”. They came to a hospital, where he ripped the clothes off a nurse.
After this event, the girl became an angel, not knowing that the nurse in on the whole thing. An example of the paradox intervention was telling a woman who had severe problems with her weight. Erickson told her to try a new method where she first would gain a certain weight before she started with dieting. When she no longer had to restrain herself, she suddenly lost the weight she needed.
The book “uncommon therapy” provides a comprehensive look at Dr. Erickson’s theories in practice, through a series of case studies covering the kinds of problems that are likely to occur at various stages of the human life cycle. The results Dr. Erickson achieves sometimes seem to border on the miraculous, but they are brought about by a finely honed technique used by a wise, intuitive, highly trained psychiatrist-hypnotist whose work is recognized as a major contribution to the field.
I loved the book, even when I was somewhat shock at how brutally honest he could be at times. But it seems like it works, since he always wants the best for his clients. Even if Erickson`s dead, his legacy lives on.