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      In a new interview with Michael Hoyt, Michele Ritterman recounts her experience with Ericksonian hypnosis.

      Michele Ritterman

      Interview with Michele Ritterman, Ph.D.
      By Michael Hoyt, Ph.D

      Who is Michele Ritterman?

      Michele Ritterman has made significant contributions to Ericksonian psychotherapy. A student of Milton Erickson and Salvador Minuchin, she has written three books, including Using Hypnosis in Family Therapy, Hope Under Siege, and The Tao of a Woman. She also produced the first shared trance CD for couples and has traveled the world giving talks and workshops (visit We became friends in 1992, when I first heard her at the Fifth International Congress on the Ericksonian Approach to Hypnosis and Psychotherapy, held in Phoenix. His presentation was "The Five-Part Poetic Induction for Human Decency." I had the chance to speak with Michele at his home in Berkeley, California.  

      Michael Hoyt: I really like the story you tell about your supervisor at the Philadelphia ChildGuidance Clinic [PCGC], who told you that you were working too close and personal, and that you needed to change. So you have changed... supervisor!  

      Michele Ritterman: My main supervisors were Salvador Minuchin, Braulio Montalvo and Jay Haley. After Salvador summoned me to watch Erickson's video from Le Monde, he said, in his Argentinian accent, that I had been "dazed by the veedeo." I asked PCGC Director Harry Aponte to have Jay arrange for me to go to Phoenix and study with Dr. Erickson. (The video from Le Monde, The Artistry of Milton H. Erickson, is available at the following address: )

      MFH: Wow! What happened when you first met Erickson? Supervisors were Sal Minuchin, Braulio Montalvo and Jay Haley. After Sal called me to watch the video of Erickson hypnotizing Monde, he said, in his Argentinian accent, that I had been "dazed by the veedeo." I asked PCGC Director Harry Aponte to ask Jay to arrange for me to travel to Phoenix to study with Dr. Erickson. (The video from Le Monde, The Artistry of Milton H. Erickson, is available at the following address: )

      MFH:Wow! What happened when you first met Erickson?  

      MR: In 1974, Jay sent me to see Dr. Erickson, "with hugs and kisses from Jay." After my first seven-hour visit, Milton asked me for his gift from Jay. I had no idea what he meant. But I understood, I laughed and I kissed him on the cheek. Thus began a warm relationship between student and mentor that lasted until his death six years later.

      MFH: You got to know him well. 

      MR: After completing my doctoral program in Philadelphia and taking an academic position in Seattle, I continued to travel to Phoenix a few times a year, until Erickson died in 1980. Sometimes I stayed in the cabin from his office. He and his wife, Betty, became godparents to my two children. They never missed a birthday, and we also maintained a strong correspondence.  

      MFH: What do you think was his lasting influence on you? 

      MR: My four-year doctoral research project at PCGC compared family therapy to Ritalin. I concluded that nervous little boys needed to learn to concentrate; they needed skills, not pills. In our era, which I believe is obsessed with time management and regulated by a diagnostic book [the DSM] bigger than the Bible, and also seduced by psychopharmacological agents, Erickson offers an approach that celebrates the novelty of each case. Going against the trend of his time, Erickson taught me to focus on the uniqueness of each case, not its similarity to another. One of his big pieces of advice was: “Never expect anyone to think like you on anything.” As I recount in my book Using Hypnosis and Family Therapy [published in 1983 and reissued in 2005], I was working with a family whose son had two main symptoms: chest pain and difficulty thinking. I watched the video of this session several times and finally saw the part I was missing: how family members influence each other, sometimes psychosomatically. This young man had not presented any symptoms and, within ten minutes, before my stunned eyes, he manifested chest pain through throbbing in the chest and difficulty thinking while holding his head in his hands. I carefully observed how each member of the family suggested, even unintentionally, the young man's symptoms, and how he received these suggestions. When I awoke, I realized that I had discovered how the hypnotic model of suggestion-receptivity provided the piece I had been looking for in the research on structural therapy of psychosomatic families. The symptoms were “automatic behavior” resulting from observable suggestions!  

      MFH: You were the first to integrate hypnosis and family therapy. 

      MR: I immediately shared my revelation with Erickson and said, "Family and society are the daily hypnotists 24/7, and the symptoms are just trancestats." He looked at me and said. said, "If I were you, I would expand on this idea." So I have spent most of my professional life doing just that: studying book after book about family inductions, social inductions, and self-inductions. 

      MFH: I know you developed this idea in your work with couples. 

      MR: At the second Erickson Congress in 1983, I began with my speech, "Breaking the Spell of the Dysfunctional Rapport," which was intended to help families build a better rapport and use that rapport to send message streams to each other. useful that do not negatively affect their recipient. I then developed this approach with couples. I once worked with a couple whose relationship was hostile. One partner still wanted to have sex and the other didn't. So I asked the person who wanted to have sex more often if they knew what foreplay was. He described an intimate physical act to me. I then asked the other partner what would make him feel sexy, and he reiterated that doing lighter household chores would take the pressure off him and allow him to relax. So I gave homework to the partner who wanted more sex: He was to provide foreplay that his partner requested, not foreplay that he thought his partner should like, and then we would see what happened. Both partners left laughing. They did their homework – and their household chores – and voila! In 1995 I produced a CD called Shared Couple's Trance. Erickson told me: "In therapy, the therapist doesn't change anything. You simply create circumstances in which clients can respond spontaneously and change. The symptom is an opportunity to unlearn self-limiting behavior and, for an individual, couple or a family, to learn to do something creative at the same time. Erickson's goal was to accept and use the individual and their idiosyncrasies. He spoke the language of his patients and invited them to discover their vital unconscious and their inner and outer creative resources. His art of healing called upon friends, relatives, teachers, neighbors, and other caring people to help patients gain the support needed for change. He cared of others. He was respectful. I developed the idea of ​​therapy as a cooperative exchange, and resistance provides the map for where to touch the client, and where it hurts too much or is not pleasant. The symptom becomes the self-cue to signal a person to "stop the clock" of external time and enter a subjective mental state in slo-mo or to signal a person to "stop the clock " from outside time and entering a subjective mental state in slo-mo or to change position - what I call "symptom-cueing", instead of elimination of the symptom. By studying with Erickson, I learned not to falsely reassure couples and families. Instead of incurring a client's resistance to his prescription, Erickson preferred to set things up so that the client demanded the right to make the change they needed for a better life. He knew from his own experience recovering from polio that one small change can encourage an individual or family to pursue further changes. In therapy, it is more important for a person to have an empowering experience than to gain a better understanding of their problem. The idea of ​​relying on small changes may seem insignificant, as we often look for big-picture remedies to relieve depression or change our personality, but Milton suggested balance. When I told him that he was an optimist and that I often felt like Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh, he replied: "I am neither an optimist nor a pessimist, but a realist, which means that I believe that a little rain will fall in every life, so it is up to us to enjoy the sunshine.”  

      MFH: Destructive destruction can also occur on a broader scale, on a societal scale.

      MR: That’s right. I have lectured around the world, in Denmark, Germany, Australia, South Africa, Chile, Mexico and Argentina, on torture as a counter-therapy to the state. The willful breakdown of a person and their family or other social group often includes the misuse of the healing tool hypnosis. I successfully worked with the Swedish government to secure the exile of a prisoner, met with therapists treating torture survivors in Chile, El Salvador, and South Africa, and helped to raise money for them. I was a spokesperson for Amnesty International. In my 1991 book, Hope Under Siege: Terror and Family Support in Chile, with a preface by Isabel Allende, I describe some of these experiences. Minuchin highly recommended it, saying: “It must be read.”  

      MFH: I remember in July 2016, you and I watched Trump's nomination acceptance speech together. 

      MR: I have observed how political leaders make suggestions that influence others on a subconscious level. Using Hitler's film, Triumph of the Will, a diabolical masterpiece in inducing mass hatred, I taught how these methods can be used to help control people. I see this repeatedly in Trump's performance - his use of distraction and suggestion. In his acceptance speech, he said, “When you wake up the day after the election, you will find a state of law and order.” Erickson wrote about the mistreatment of the Native American population, and we watched Jimmy Carter on television together. We both appreciated the fact that the unassuming new president wore jeans to the White House.  

      MFH: How do you think a woman’s perspective informs therapy?

      MR: As I wrote in Using Hypnosis in Family Therapy, most therapies are based on a contradictory model of eliminating symptoms, or on the therapist being powerful and the patient weak or inferior. I have developed a nurturing sister or mother approach that is more collaborative; a series of steps based on "presentation", clearly laid out in my book as a respectful series of interrelated gift exchanges. This therapy is a process of mutual empowerment, mutual uplift and mutual dignity. Healing therapy is an act of human rights, an act of love in a deep and sometimes luminous relationship.  

      MFH: Love and connection are at the heart of your work. 

      MR: At the risk of sounding unscientific, I would say that the true therapist or healer is guided by feelings of love. During poetry inductions, I ended two speeches by raising my hand, my fingers representing five words. The first time, the words were: Hatred hurts; compassion can mend The second time it was: Love and healing takes time. We can help people open their minds, if they give us the means. When it comes to being a woman in the field, part of what dissuaded me from traveling and teaching more when I had children at home was an effort to keep my family together and to work in the field of human rights. In her book, Composing a Life, Mary Catherin Bateson explains how women sometimes sacrifice themselves professionally to maintain an entire system of relationships. I want young women to know that this does not mean we are less intellectually or emotionally, or that our contributions are less on the field. We simply have other priorities that can take over. I think women are sometimes more aware of negative social forces, such as long commutes, low wages, aggressive bosses, racial and sexual persecution, etc. -- which may suggest family and individual symptomatic transitions, which must then be specifically monitored, addressed and countered. As Braulio Montalvo pointed out to me, even Skinner's pigeons reacted in part because of the way they were treated.  

      MFH: Besides your work as a therapist, what are your other interests? 

      MR: My adult children and three grandchildren, following my beloved friends, and now singing semi-professionally. I am also helping my son organize a retreat in Costa Rica [see].  

      MFH: You are very attentive to language. Erickson was a prose storyteller, but I am first and foremost a poet. This is why I started doing my poetry inductions in a large group. It's my way of telling stories.  

      MFH: In the Tao of a Woman, you present a poetic meditation on Erickson. How does it take place?  

      MR: Of the 100 lines in the book, this line was my own suggestion on how to continue after the death of my great mentor Milton. The cover of the book features a design that resembles a tree. When you turn the figure upside down, you can see that it is coronary arterial disease. Your heart is an upside-down tree that branches to support the body and is rooted in light. The poem is called “A Lesson from the Heart” and reads: I embroidered for my teacher a gift he had received a few weeks before his death. It appears to be an extraordinary apple tree, like the one he described as a child, but it is a representation of the coronary arteries. Your heart is an upside-down tree that nourishes the earth and is rooted in the divine. Even your broken heart can be an entry point for someone who is grieving. Not a day goes by that I don't think of something Milton said. At the end of my time with him, he asked me how I planned to repay him for his seven years of private training and for housing me, my then-husband, and our granddaughter. I was a penniless beginner. I gave up. It was indeed an awareness! I thought he trained me out of the goodness of his heart. I mumbled, “But, but, of course I have to…”. Hethen told me how his aunt - who helped him, a poor farm boy, go to college and then medical school - asked him the same question after he graduated. his doctorate in medicine. He went on to say that she told him that he could either pay her a specific amount or become a great healer. Now I offer you the same choice," he said. Not only did Milton take seriously the wish he had made to his aunt, but, in true Erickson style, the only repayment he wanted was that the "we continue to dedicate ourselves to the arts and sciences of healing. What a compliment he gave to a young woman just starting out! And I honored that gift as best I could every day of my life. If Milton were still alive today, I am sure he would tell all trainees and new clinicians: “You are as unique as your fingerprints. There has never been and never will be anyone like you. So you have the right to be fully." And he urges them to use their own unconscious so that each case is a new experience for them; a new mystery, full of exciting clues and the promise of a brighter future .  

      MFH: A few words to conclude? 

      MR: As Jimi Hendrix said, “When the power of love overcomes the love of power, there will be peace in the world.” 

      MFH: Amen – and thank you! 

      Michael F. Hoyt, Ph.D., is a psychologist based in Mill Valley, California. He has published numerous books, including Brief Therapy and Beyond, Interviews with Brief Therapy Experts, and Therapist Stories of Inspiration, Passion, and Renewal: What's Love Got to Do with It?  

      Ericksonian hypnosis training

      Is there online hypnosis training?

      LACT offers master's training in hypnosis :

      This training in hypnosis allows you to master the instruments and methods of Ericksonian hypnosis through an interactional and systemic approach, to learn how to establish a therapeutic relationship that is both direct and secure, to guide the individuals to access their own resources, use language rich in sensations, place people at the heart of their experiences in the moment, develop a meaningful goal for the patient in a narrative context.


      • Gibson, P (2022). Escape the anxiety trap. Strategic Science Books.

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      A team of more than
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      and abroad

      of our students satisfied with
      their training year at LACT *

      International partnerships

      The quality certification was issued under
      the following category of actions: Training action


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