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Part Twelve: Part B Re-Modelling Hypnotic Inductions and Hypnotherapy

This article first appeared in Rapport 55, Spring 2002.

Modelling Ericksonian Hypnotherapy

Erickson was the recognised master of therapeutic hypnosis. Many people have studied and modelled Erickson including Bandler and Grinder. Bandler and Grinder only modelled a fraction of the range and depth of Ericksons hypnosis and therapeutic work. Their main modelling involved the recognition that Erickson was using language in a way that could be described as an inverse of their Meta Model. With some additions this became the NLP ‘Milton Model’. What is not included in the Milton Model is how to use it for hypnosis. [Patterns vol. 2 outlined some other patterns for hypnosis].

In Erickson’s work there are richer examples of utilising “Investigating” to activate the potential for new ”Knowing”, understanding of hypnosis and change, and doing different things to further explore and build new understanding. He demonstrated an effective range of skills from the micro skills and sensory acuity and language patterns through induction techniques and processes to the macro skills of therapeutic interventions.

Levels of skill

Erickson and other effective hypnotherapists demonstrate many levels of skill. As a modeler we can model the skills in isolation (as with the NLP ‘Milton Model’) or model them in relation to each other? The second is more challenging but offers the greater potential rewards.

When we model levels of skill there is little understanding of the necessary transfer of information between levels. This results in the models being limited in their application and in a reduced potential for learning and developing from using them. A fully developmental approach uses all levels of skill. This is consistent with Erickson’s approach and needs to be included in any model of Erickson’s work as a whole.

My modelling experience has resulted in the creation of an integrated model for Ericksonian style therapy and hypnosis.

Traditional NLP and related models aim to assist the client at two levels:

1. Change behavioural outputs
2. Change the clients model that produces the outputs

With DBM we added a third level to the two above:

3. Assisting the client to change their modelling

This is a very different emphasis from traditional approaches. The end result will produce the benefits of the two traditional levels while offering a more empowering change, one that will enable the client to continue making other changes.

Modelling Development

Why did Erickson favour hypnosis for therapy so much? In discussing the “Nature of Hypnosis” Erickson says:

“I would like to define hypnosis as a state of special awareness characterised by a receptiveness to ideas.  That receptiveness allows the person to examine the new ideas for their inherent worth.  Once the ideas have been examined, the subject is then at liberty to accept or reject them.  If the ideas are accepted, the subject then responds to those ideas in accordance with their inherent worth”. Erickson, Life Reframing, Page 223

..and later on page 224: “Why?  Because, again, it is a state of special awareness, of special receptiveness to ideas, of special willingness to examine ideas for their inherent values”.

This is clearly a pattern of “New Investigate -> New Know.” This is the highest levels of change; Developmental and Life Learning change. This is the highest level of organisation of therapy and change and one that Erickson clearly operated from.

A complete therapy approach will operate and all the levels will be integrated. I will now outline one such model.

DBM: Ericksonian Therapy Model

When I integrated these different levels I created a holistic model that can be used to practically organise all levels and stages of Ericksonian style therapy. We can now obtain the benefits of the ‘traditional’ lies, tricks and dodges’ without lying, tricking or being dodgy!  This is very effective and even more so when this is used in conjunction with other models and modelling tools.  Together they form a total approach to change using modelling and re-modelling as the methodology.

This model is useful for connecting different levels of organising therapy, learning, trance induction and utilisation as well as specific language and behaviour skills.

I will now outline the five integrated levels of the model.

1. Development
2. Therapy
3. Language Sequencing
4. Induction
5. Specific Language Patterns

Each of these levels can be followed with a general priority identified. This priority is relative to the relationship between the therapist and the client. The general

developmental priority is the background priority that the others will be related to. This may result, for example, in getting the client to follow simple instructions, ‘Do‘ as part of the induction, within the overall priority of building a new understanding of self, ‘know’ at the therapy level, which in turn is part of assisting them to open up to investigating their world more effectively.

For each of these levels to be effective all three, investigating, knowing, doing, will be required for optimum effectiveness through time.

1. Development

This is the main change priority in life; that we continue to develop through life.
We must be open to what is new and beyond our current knowledge and skill. This is the level of generative and life learning change. The priority sequence for Development is:

2. Therapy

When we have difficulty with life and our developing then some remedial action is required. Here the need is to things differently and feel things differently. The priority sequence for therapy is:

3. Language Sequencing

The language sequences are identified using the Fractal Language Model.
The priority sequence and main sequences for these are:
Investigate: What  – How – Why
Know: Judgement – Equating – Inferring
Do: Directive – Concurrence – Causation

There are other specific language sequences for each of these three sequences of three.

4. Induction

Erickson emphasised the need to get the client doing. In fact any doing that could then be redirected. This can then be built upon by the reverse sets of ‘do’ and ‘know,’ ‘not doing’ and ‘not knowing’ as the clients’ sense of curiosity and wonder are utilised.

In the traditional inductions a ‘false fact’ is used as a new ‘knowing’ that in turn is used to facilitate the clients following subsequent suggestions.
The priority sequence for inductions is:

For learning how to go into a trance and for ‘uncertain, resistant or reluctant’ subjects the reverse sequence is the priority. They need to explore and learn about themselves and the processes of trance first so that they can take part fully in the trance.

The priority sequence for inductions is (see Erickson example above):

When the induction is integrated with the levels above it can function as a Performative Metaphor for the therapy and / or development [see article 11].

5. Specific Language Patterns

The sequence of Questions to open thinking, explore possibilities, followed by Statements to consolidate an agreement, and then Commands as the clearest way to proceed based on this agreement. This translates as the following priority sequence:

The eighty-one patterns of the Fractal Language model offer a very detailed and precise tool at this level. Each of the distinctions can operate directly as well as through presupposition.



Priority Sequence
Language SequencingInvestigateKnow
Language PatternsInvestigateKnowDo

Developing Understanding and Skills

NLP has offered a series of techniques for trance work and change work. Many other modellers of Erickson’s work have also produced techniques through which a procedure for trance induction or change work could be followed. These have a useful place in developing skills and understanding. As with my own modelling they are a beginning and certainly not an end. We owe it to our client to offer them the most effective assistance possible. To that end therefore we need to be constantly developing our understanding and skills.

In the table below I have outlined some of the elements involved in professional development at different levels of modelling and skills development that relate to distinctions in previous articles.

Extract from “DBM Modelling Form”

StagesStage One:
Stage Two:
Stage Three:
Skills Development and
Professional Practice
Add to professional practice
Operate within a larger professional approachFully Professional:
Basis as total approach
Level of
(See Article 1)
Level of FunctionProcedureProcessPattern
Level of Formalisation of
Level of operation
(See articles 1, 5)
Level of Choice
(See article 7)
Offers Variability in style.Offers Flexibility to vary procedureOffers Creativity in selection of the whole approach.

Clearly Erickson operated from the WHY level. This allowed him the maximum opportunity for creativity.

Erickson is also an inspiration for the ‘beginners mind’ that continues to explore and lay the basis for future new skills and developments. As each person is unique we are beginners with each new client. We can demonstrate openness, positive inquiry and a desire to learn as we work together with them building a model of their uniqueness and cooperating on the great adventure that ‘modelling therapy’ can be. This is the basis for developmental and life learning change for the client and for the therapist.


Bandler, Richard & Grinder, John, The Structure of Magic vol. 1, Science and Behaviour Books, Inc. 1975
Bandler, Richard & Grinder, John, Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D., vol. 1, Meta Publications, 1975
Bandler, Richard & Grinder, John, Trance-formations, Real People Press 1981
Erickson, Milton H., The Nature of Hypnosis & Suggestion, The Collected Papers of Milton Erickson, Vol. I, Irvington Publishers, Inc. 1980
Erickson, Milton H., Innovative Hypnotherapy, The Collected Papers of Milton Erickson, Vol. IV, Irvington Publishers, Inc. 1980
Erickson, Milton H., Life Reframing in Hypnosis, Edited by Ernest Rossi & Margaret Ryan, Irvington Publishers Inc. 1985
Grinder, John, DeLozier, Judith & Bandler, Richard, Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H. Erickson, M.D., vol. I1, Meta Publications, 1977
McWhirter, Re-Modelling NLP, Part 1 – Models and Modelling, Rapport (1998)
McWhirter, Re-Modelling NLP, Part 2 – Re-Modelling Language, Rapport (1999)
McWhirter, Re-Modelling NLP, Part 3 – Feeling, Conflict and Integration, Rapport (1999)
McWhirter, Re-Modelling NLP, Part 4 – Basic Structures and Processes, Rapport (1999)
McWhirter, Re-Modelling NLP, Part 5 – Planning, Problem-Solving, Outcomes and Achieving, Rapport (1999)
McWhirter, Re-Modelling NLP, Part 6 – Understanding Change, Rapport (2000)
McWhirter, Re-Modelling NLP, Part 7 – Facilitating Change, Rapport (2000)
McWhirter, Re-Modelling NLP, Part 8 – Performing Change, Rapport (2000)
McWhirter, Re-Modelling NLP, Part 9 – Organising Change, Rapport (2000)
McWhirter, Re-Modelling NLP, Part 10 – Re-Modelling Unconscious Processes and Hypnosis, Rapport (2001)
McWhirter, Re-Modelling NLP, Part 11 – Re-Modelling Metaphors, Rapport (2001)
O’Hanlan, in Ericksonian Psychotherapy, Zeig (ed) Brunner / Mazel 1985


John McWhirter can be contacted at:
Sensory Systems Training
162 Queens Drive
Queens Park
Glasgow G42 8QN
Phone: 0141 424 4177
Fax:  0141 424 4199
Email: johnm@sensorysystems.co.uk