History of NLP

Milton Erickson – Legendary Hypnotherapist

Dr Milton Erickson was both a psychiatrist and psychologist. He was the founding president of the American Society of Clinical Hypnotherapists. Richard Bandler and John Grinder used his work as part of the foundation of NLP. He was one of three extraordinary therapists modeled by them – along with Fritz Perls and Virginia Satir.

Bandler and Grinder named the Milton Model in his honor and created many NLP Techniques using his trance inductions and communication skills as detailed by Robert Dilts in his Encyclopedia of NLP. For instance, NLP Rapport, NLP ReframingNLP Anchoring, Change Personal History and Future Pacing Technique.

I had some great videos of Erickson in action, but they were pulled off YouTube due to a copyright claim by the Milton H Erickson foundation. I have a real issue with people doing things like this. “Lets hoard our stuff, we don’t want to use it, but it’s ours so we don’t want anyone else to have the benefit either.”

At least make it available – got two words for you guys “public relations”

Anyway here is the only video I could find actually featuring Erickson. Doesn’t come close to showing how extraordinary he was.

Here is a better one

And an extract

Robert Dilts on Milton Erickson

This is a fabulous insight into the man, and also what is possible for us all. How easy is it to throw up our hands and say “it’s all too hard, everything is against me, I’m just going to give up?”

Dr Jeffrey Zeig on Ericksonian Hypnosis

For any of you interested (and keen) this video is more than 1 hour – don’t say I didn’t warn you, but well worth watching. Dr Zeig was a student of Erickson and has some fabulous stories about his use of metaphors, states and the foundation of hypnosis.

Some highlights

  • Good explanation about the unconscious mind.
  • Utilization is the foundation of solutions – using the problem as the solution
  • You can’t tell people what to feel – only lead them to an orientation
  • About the use of precision and vagueness in communication
  • The strengths of people are much more interesting and useful than the pathology
  • About how we respond to cues, associations and priming


Having been severely paralyzed with polio at 17, he overcame severe difficulties and disabilities. During the time he was bedridden, he developed almost superhuman sensory acuity and observation skills of both verbal and non verbal communication. Given he was also color blind and tone deaf, this narrowing of perception contributed to his amazing success with hypnotherapy.

He taught himself to walk eventually by modeling his baby sister learn the process, as well as recalling the muscle movements of his own body when he was previously mobile. While able to move his arms and talk, and still unable to walk, he then took the process further by an ordeal of going alone on a 1000 mile canoe trip .

There are some powerful lessons for all of us in his story. How often do we make our limitations into obstacles rather than using them to our advantage? How often do we stay comfortable in our restrictions and say there is nothing we can do about it?

The narrowing of his range of senses forced him to pay attention to things most of us never notice. The arduous trip in a canoe when still severely disabled forced him to a level of self reliance I certainly wouldn’t consider voluntarily. Most of us will never come close to discovering what resources we have buried inside us. Underneath all the shoulds, can’ts and don’t know how tos.

NLP Models and Books from Dr Milton Erickson’s work

The Milton Model

Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H.Erickson: Volume 1 John Grinder & Richard Bandler

Patterns of the Hypnotic Techniques of Milton H.Erickson: Volume 2 John Grinder, Richard Bandler & Judith DeLozier

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