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Milton Erickson MD

Milton Erickson MD
   Milton Erickson focused on the presenting problem and changed the person or family through that focus. He saw therapy as an intervention into the life a person in difficulty in such a way that the person recovers from his “current dilemma” and is shifted to a more successful level of functioning in the real world. Erickson combined discussion and action, with action taking place both in the therapy room and outside of it in the social arena. 

          He approached each patient with an expectation that change is not only possible but also inevitable. Characteristically, he acted as if change for the better is a natural development. Erickson felt the type of treatment should vary with the nature of the client’s problem. Erickson turned sharply from the belief that a person will change if he learns why he is the way he is or what is behind the presenting problem. He assumes that attempting to make the person more aware would not be helpful. 

         Erickson believed that symptoms serve a function in the present. He felt the ways the client deals with other people and they with him, produces his feelings of distress and restricted ways of behaving. Erickson said, “Symptoms are like a handle on a pot. If you have a good grip on that handle, you can do a lot with the pot. If you ignore symptoms you never learn to change what the client wanted changed.” The problem of how to change the person becomes one of how to change his relationships. 

          Erickson believed that a symptom is adaptive to the present social situation and that situation must be changed to change the symptom. Erickson would change the relationships of a client to change the problem. He placed a greater emphasis on the relationship rather than on the individual.

         For example a student’s anxiety can be a result of their relationship with their mother or with their mother and father. The emphasis is on the relationship. Erickson made maximum use of the way a person dealt with other people. 

           Erickson viewed the unconscious as a positive force. He instructed and encouraged the client to expand what he or she has done to solve the problem since the unconscious, if free to act, will do what is best for the person. Erickson offered alternative experiences. He moved the patient into action, which required new behavior and then blocked the symptomatic behavior, which had been restricting the client. 

            Overall, Erickson felt that the intimate social context in which the clients lives in has an enormous influence on the nature of the individual. We know that social contexts change with the passage of time and as a result people must adjust to various changes over the course of their lives. Erickson called this process the Family Life Cycle. Erickson used this model when developing solutions for clients. He would determine at which stage the client was having difficulty “in” or “getting through” and then create an intervention to get clients moving again. Erickson’s described the Family Life Cycle as stages a person goes through in their lifetime. Each stage comes with its own unique experience to deal with. 

            The stages in the cycle are: 
                  The Courtship Stage 
                  Marriage and Its Consequences: Childbirth       
                  Dealing with the Young 
                  Middle Marriage Difficulties 
                  Weaning Parents from Children 
                  Retirement and Old Age 

Here is a sample from our workshop on Milton Erickson.

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