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The Milton H. Erickson Foundation
Newsletter Vol. 23, No. 2 spring 2003
Short Questions/Lasting Impact
By Richard Landis, Ph.D.
The Brief Therapy Conference: Lasting Solutions -- Orlando, Florida 2002
1 audiotape: BT02-SC21
Available from The Milton H. Erickson Foundation, Inc.
Richard Landis is the training director for The Southern California Society for Ericksonian Psychotherapy and Hypnosis, and the Executive Editor of The Milton H. Erickson Foundation Newsletter. In the introduction to this recorded workshop, he describes Milton Erickson as one of the most playful people he has ever met. Landis then goes on to demonstrate how playfulness can be utilized in teaching and therapeutic settings to install resourceful strategies at the unconscious level. In the process, Landis simultaneously manages to simplify and demystify, for those just being introduced to Ericksonian approaches to brief therapeutic intervention, and to amplify for the advanced student and practitioner familiar strategies for working with the unconscious in a respectful manner. Freely using confusion, embedding suggestions, paradox and metaphors, Landis installs the Ericksonian attitude. This tape is one listeners may find themselves frequently rewinding and referring back to.
But there is more woven into this presentation than how to work with the unconscious. He uses recent findings and research from the fields of traumatology and neuroscience, to illustrate how human beings get stuck in different mental states that bring them into therapy. He talks about the difference between guilt and shame, and their impact on the human psyche. He describes how fears of abandonment and childhood neglect linger into and affect adult behavior. People make the best decisions available to them at the time. Paramount is their survival. The human being is wired to survive. Whatever threatens that survival will manifest itself as resistance. Therapists need to keep this in mind. In the event a therapist should forget, he offers his "yes, but" theory, well worth the price of the tape itself. If you get three yes buts when working with someone, you are not solving the problem the client wants solved. When the therapist can identify the problem the client is trying to solve, the therapist can begin to develop rapport with the part that produced the problem. Once rapport is established, the therapist will be able to reframe the client's experience and open up all the possibilities not previously considered.
Landis recalls when he was a young therapist straight out of graduate school, and like most of us, he felt the need to know what the client needed, to have the right answer, even before he met the client. He credits Dr. Erickson with doing something with him, internally, inside his head, to get rid of his need for certainty and to develop the desire for curiosity. Landis tells us that Dr. Erickson implanted three "friends" inside his head: curiosity, confusion and doubt. Curiosity shifts our mental state and sets the stage for the framing that makes things happen. It breaks the trance of the problem state, and opens us up to all possibilities, to look at things from multiple perspectives. Confusion lets us all know we don't know enough. It gets us to look for answers. Doubt tells us we don't necessarily have the right answer, so any answer that we have is a working answer. It is around these three "friends" that Landis structures his, what this reviewer would call, beginning, intermediate and advanced Ericksonian approaches to therapy workshop.
Landis's presentation style is conversational. He is so familiar with the topic he is able to effortlessly describe and demonstrate it. It seemed to this reviewer that he is telling a story, one that invites the listener to go inside and really notice. The audiotape, of course, cannot adequately show us what he was wearing or his non-verbal behavior. But some of his comments, and the sound and pace of his voice may open a window into the imagination that allows the listener to be there. The sound quality of the tape is good, probably sounds better than if you were in the room distracted by the visuals, the sound of the air conditioning, and the room temperature.
Short Questions/Lasting Impact will most likely have a lasting impact on the listener. It is chock full of content and hypnotic work. Landis takes what others have turned into multiple step procedures, and transforms them into a very brief format. By doing so he reveals essence, not merely technique. He tells us that his father once told him: if you're working too hard you're using the wrong tool. It is around this principle that he organizes his presentation. Landis is a master teacher and storyteller, who playfully shares his "friends" with his audience. And, who knows, maybe they will become implanted in some of our heads.
Reviewed By: Halim A. Faisal, LCSW
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