Milton H. Erickson is generally considered one of the most innovative psychotherapists of the 20th century. Since his death in 1980 he has become a universally admired figure, and has been granted a status comparable to that of other great figures in the history of psychotherapy. He was certainly the most respected and famous hypnotherapist in the world and his influence has been enormous. A recent survey of psychotherapists found that Erickson was considered one of the ten most influential therapists of the past quarter century Erickson was an expert in traditional directive hypnosis, but he created an indirect style of hypnotic induction that contributed to the development of strategic psychotherapy and solution-oriented counseling. Many psychotherapists and counselors have incorporated aspects of Erickson's methods without actually using formal hypnosis.
Erickson emphasized the importance of helping clients resolve their problems by utilizing whatever assets they already had. He individualized his treatment for each client, so his psychotherapeutic methods are difficult to summarize, but generally he suggested to clients that they were capable of using their natural and unconscious abilities to resolve their problems. He focused on the presenting problem, did single-session treatments when possible, and did not make interpretations or provide insight. Erickson prescribed homework activities that were meant to promote change and often prescribed ambiguous tasks or ordeals. He used hypnosis, indirect suggestions, paradoxical directives, reframing, metaphors, and storytelling. His general approach was to engage the client's interest and then direct subliminal suggestions to the client's unconscious mind. Erickson's overall goal was to help clients get unstuck by getting them to have experiences that activated their own natural healing abilities.
For many years, Milton Erickson utilized traditional forms of hypnosis in counseling, but he also developed methods for hypnotizing people indirectly. Instead of a formal hypnotic induction, he would simply talk in such a way that clients would go into trance. For example, he might tell a meandering story that seemed ambiguous and illogical on a conscious level. The client might struggle to understand the story for a while, but then give up and lapse into a receptive state of suggestibility. As another example, Erickson might talk about how children learn the alphabet before they learn to write, implying subtly to the client that a difficult task can be broken into steps, and that the client has already been successful in accomplishing complex tasks. Erickson defined hypnosis as "a state of heightened awareness with increased suggestibility, an altered state allowing communication with the unconscious'.