Hope and Resiliency comes from a collaborative effort among three Erickson experts: Dan Short, Ph.D. a psychologist and former Associate Director for the Milton H. Erickson Foundation, and two of Erickson's daughters; Betty Alice Erickson, MS, LPC a professional counselor and international Ericksonian educator, and Roxanna Erickson Klein, RN, Ph.D., a practicing nurse and member of the Board of Directors of the Milton H. Erickson Foundation. The book draws on the authors' personal experiences as well as on immersion in hundreds of hours of audio recordings by Erickson. It includes several previously unpublished case vignettes.
This book adds to the cornucopia of publications explicating Erickson's work, but it brings accessible, broad, encompassing strokes to his treatment philosophy and methods. The authors' draw on their well articulated conviction that, -œWithout having sufficient hope or resiliency, vast amounts of external resources can be poured into what is essentially a vacuum of despair and surrender- (p. xi). The scope of the book is expansive in that the authors have included formal explications of Erickson's fundamental therapeutic values and strategic approaches, copious and often original case examples as well as an almost homespun narrative biographical account of his life. In addition, the book includes a didactic structure with chapter summaries, caveats on limitations and contraindications for specific techniques and a series of -œSelf-Development Exercises- in the appendix. This suggests that the book is conceived of as a stimulating tutorial for the reader who is presumed to be a clinician but not necessarily an Ericksonian practitioner. But the authors warn that Erickson's techniques are presented not to be uncritically imitated when they write that -œAn understanding of clinical strategies fosters less dependency on predetermined procedures and greater use of clinical judgment- (p. 36). In addition to all of this, as noted in the excellent forward by Stephen Lankton, the process of creating the volume intentionally involved a novel approach to international collaboration, in that colleagues from several different countries were invited to modify drafts of the book to create culturally specific adaptations which would make it internationally accessible.
The book is organized into two main sections. The first section is a personal biographical sketch of Erickson's life. This insider's view presents a Mark Twain-like narrative of Erickson's childhood. This gives the reader a warm, human understanding of the man, as well as several illustrations of how his life experiences germinated and grew into the vital structure of his work. For example, the authors tie Erickson's use of confusion strategies and -œtherapeutic shock- to an early lesson in spelling courtesy of a beloved teacher who understood both Erickson's reading disorder and his hunger for reading. -œHis teacher highlighted the most important features of the symbol -˜3' by turning it on its side. Erickson explains that in a blinding flash of light he suddenly saw the difference between a -˜3' and an -œm' (p. xvii). The thrust of the biographical narrative section of the book is an object lesson of how the adversities and challenges of Erickson's formative years (including dyslexia, color blindness, tone deafness, and in late adolescence, poliomyelitis) informed both the personal and professional cultivation of dogged determination, Hope and Resiliency.
The second section, which is by far the larger part, creates and fleshes out an armature of the basic strategic principles and treatment approaches that Erickson developed. It seeks to present his therapeutic strategies and techniques not from a schematic overview but rather from the inside out: this is accomplished by using copious case examples that stimulate the reader to review and associate to his/her own clinical experiences. The authors have also used a wide angle lens in a chapter entitled -œA Philosophic Framework- to conceptualize Erickson's vantage point in the realms of philosophy and history. This is done with a wide range of references that include among others, Aristotle, explanations of the meaning of meta - teleology, an anonymous Saudi poet, and Viktor Frankl.
The organizing principle of this section of the book is the authors' own nomenclature which they employ in order to delineate the principles, philosophy, and therapeutic applications of what they call Erickson's Six Core Strategies. Through this framework, the reader is led through the various cases which provide clarification of these approaches from many different angles. The authors call the six strategies Distraction, Partitioning, Progression, Suggestion, Reorientation, and Utilization, and they have allocated a chapter to each.
The specific definitions ascribed to these are beyond the scope of this review. Although some of these terms form part and parcel of hypnotic terminology (Suggestion and Utilization for example), others seem to have been appropriated and re-defined by the authors. I wonder why they felt it necessary to do this, as it is the only significant drawback, in my view, to this otherwise illuminating book. For example, the strategy the authors have dubbed -œReorientation- the shift in vantage point, sometimes called -œre-framing,- which allows the patient to deeply see his/her dilemma through a new perspective. This experience can then lead to a therapeutic shift from self-denigration to self-affirmation and to the patient being able to find a previously unseen path through a personal roadblock. As An example, the book cites a delightful Erickson case recounted by Haley in which a medical student and his bride were seeking an annulment because of his inability to obtain an erection to consummate the marriage. By -œre-orienting- the bride and groom to the notion that the husband was paying her a compliment, because undoubtedly his difficulties stemmed from his excess awe at her beauty, the story proceeds to say that -œthe young couple nearly stopped the car on the way back to Detroit in order to have intercourse- (Haley, 1985, Vol. II, pp.118-119, as cited on p.162)). This kind of case provides the delightful -œshock and awe,- a kind of one trial learning for the reader who can only aspire to such brilliance.
The only problem with this, in my view, may be that students of hypnosis will have previously associated the conceptual meaning of -œreorientation- with the emergence from a trance state. A similar confounding word use is implicit in the chapter on -œProgression,- which is used in this book to describe a large schema resulting in paced therapeutic progress. In this chapter, the authors illustrate techniques of geometric progression, progressive desensitization, progressive relaxation, pattern interruption, and Erickson's' famous pseudo-orientation in time. But again, potential confusion arises for the reader accustomed to associating the term with age progression.
In sum though, in this lovely, scholarly and heartfelt book the authors emphasize the heart and soul of Erickson's work. It is not so much a book about hypnosis but more one about the genesis of healing.
Throughout, the authors emphasize that the foundation of Erickson's healing work was his ability to convey his deeply held belief in the -œgoodness and resourcefulness of the mind, the understandable innocence of childhood, and/or the miraculous construction of the body- (p 159). Although broadly and deeply conceived, this book is neither chaotic nor overwhelming. Indeed, it succeeds very well in drawing the reader into a permissive and immersive experience of a learning trance as it moves through the myriad panes and vantage points of a delightful Ericksonian hologram.