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Hypnosis is a type of therapeutic treatment used by therapists to help people to obliterate phobias and pain, as well as addictions such as smoking and overeating. Even though people tend to think of hypnosis in the traditional format of commands being put forth while the subject is in a trance, there are other types of hypnosis, including Ericksonian hypnotherapy. Ericksonian hypnotherapy is not to be confused with direct hypnosis, during which the therapist controls the thinking of the client by making straight forward suggestions that the client accepts without question or resistance. As the Ericksonian therapist imparts a short story, suggestions are made which work in alignment with the client's own principles and belief system. The client is sometimes placed into a trance-like state, but may also be simply engaged in a conversation with the therapist and not even know he or she is in fact hypnotized.
Working through subtle conversation and stories, the Ericksonian hypnotherapist adheres to the utilization principle, where, as opposed to introducing new beliefs and values to the receiver of hypnosis, the therapist works within the subject's own personal realities and the values most important to him or her. In this way, the person being hynotized learns how to use what he or she already possesses in increasingly new ways that work to benefit him or her. This form of hypnosis is particularly useful for those who do not accept the traditional hypnotherapy process.
Dr. Erickson's development of hypnotherapy stemmed chiefly from his experience with tragic circumstances, namely his polio diagnosis as a teenager which left him without the ability to walk or speak. His limitations had an influence upon his method of observing others and the way in which they communicated without actually saying anything out loud to each other. Helping him increase muscular control, his thoughts were used in such a way to produce a trance in himself periodically and the paralysis eventually left him completely. These experiences are thought to have played a significant role later in the development of certain aspects of his theories.
Development of certain therapies such as neurolinguistic programming (NLP) were largely influenced by Erickson's theories and Ericksonian hypnotherapy. Neurolinguistic programming refers to a group of skills used by therapists and practitioners to help people experience success in their careers and personal lives. A primary basis of NLP, the concept frequently referred to as modeling, involves studying successful attributes of someone else, the behaviors responsible for producing the desired results, and then applying them to one's own life. The client of NLP actually adopts the specific mental and physical patterns of others who have demonstrated successful outcomes consistently, while Ericksonian hypnotherapy is one particular skill utilized inside of the NLP process to make the changes permanent.