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Book review of ‘My Voice Will Go With You’

Book review of ‘My Voice Will Go With You’

Although this book won’t tell you anything about the average stress management programme in London, it’s a fascinating insight into a legendary hypnotherapist.

US psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson has been called the father of modern hypnotherapy. Although I tend to favour traditional hypnotherapy techniques, Erickson has inevitably had a major influence on my work, and the work of many other therapists. For example, he was the inspiration for Neurolinguistic Programming (NLP), with the creators of NLP, Bandler and Grinder, having observed the Erickson many times in order to model (i.e. emulate) his techniques.

Erickson can be credited with inventing a huge range of techniques and strategies. An example is utilitzation, which means using whatever attributes the client brings to therapy in order to help them overcome their problem. Various examples of utilization can be found in the book My Voice Will Go With You, a collection of stories showing Erickson in action at his psychiatry practice, written by his friend / student / colleague Sidney Rosen. The use of indirect (subtle) methods and utilisation is part of the magic of Erickson, demonstrating that he was an extremely shrewd assessor of human motivation and behaviour.

To the uninitiated, this book is a collection of bizarre tales of how people bring their problems to an eccentric psychiatrist, and are cured (usually) by methods that often seem wholly unrelated to their presenting problem. Those who already know about Ericksonian techniques will recognise the method to his madness, but most others might find themselves amazed and even nonplussed from time to time.

The book is enjoyable and easy to read, teaching by example rather than offering a cookbook of clinical techniques to be followed step-by-step. Possibly some readers will find Rosen’s accompanying explanations of Erickson’s style somewhat vague and unsatisfactory, but other readers will enjoy the fact that the great man’s ingenuity has not been overly dissected, leaving it possible to enjoy his skill on an intuitive level.

Reference

Rosen S (1982). My Voice Will Go With You. The teaching tales of Milton H. Erickson. London: WW Norton & Co.

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