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Wizard of the Desert

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Biographical Video |  Erickson Materials
Milton H. Erickson MD
1 Hour 39 Minutes
Audio and Video
Original Program Date:
Jan 31, 2013
Never expires.


This documentary explores the personal life and incredible career work of Milton H. Erickson, M.D., founder of Modern Hypnotherapy. This unsung American genius was a pioneer in psychiatry using radical and unconventional hypnotic techniques to cure not only patients but to control his own debilitating pain and paralysis.

The work of Milton H. Erickson, M.D., often referred to as “The Mozart of Communication,” shocked the scientific community with new and effective theories for therapeutic intervention, which even today defy scientific explanation. But it is his personal story that commands our initial attention.

How does a child born in the silver mining community of Aurum, Nevada, and soon to be ghost town at 7,500 feet above sea level, survive all odds after being stricken with polio to grow into the man destined to become an evolutionary genius in the fields of hypnosis and psychotherapy?

To overcome paralysis and chronic, debilitating pain and muscle wasting, Dr. Erickson ignored his doctor’s prognosis of helplessness and hopelessness, and went on to invent a protocol for hypnosis, which controls the mind, body and spirit. His exceptional work exposes his true genius and continues to lend hope and curative relief to vast numbers of patients through the hypnotic techniques he developed.

In “Wizard of the Desert,” we see an extraordinarily gifted and extremely disciplined man in a wheelchair, whose victories over severe pain, paralysis and life altering medical conditions continue to inspire awe long after his death. Uncompromising in the demands he placed on himself and his family, Dr. Erickson’s story redefined medical philosophies and continues to mesmerize students and audiences alike.

Through the eyes of those closest to him, our film reveals three dimensions of this unsung American genius whose contributions to modern psychotherapy and hypnosis forever memorialized him as the…”The Mozart of Communication; The Eccentric; and The Wounded Healer.”



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Milton H. Erickson, MD, was an American psychiatrist who specialized in medical hypnosis and family therapy. He was founding president of the American Society for Clinical Hypnosis and noted for his approach to the unconscious mind as creative and solution-generating.
Dr. Erickson was plagued with enormous physical handicaps for most of his life. At age 17, he contracted polio and was so severely paralyzed that doctors believed he would die. While recovering in bed, almost entirely lame and unable to speak, he became strongly aware of the significance of nonverbal communication – body language, tone of voice, and the way that these nonverbal expressions often directly contradicted the verbal ones. He also began to have “body memories” of the muscular activity of his own body. By concentrating on these memories, he slowly began to regain control of parts of his body to the point where he was eventually able to talk and use his arms again. His doctor recommended exercising his upper body only so Milton Erickson planned a 1,000 miles canoe trip to build up the strength to attend college. His adventure was challenging, and although he still did not have full use of his legs at the end, he was able to walk with a cane.

The Ericksonian approach departs from traditional hypnosis in a variety of ways. While the process of hypnosis has customarily been conceptualized as a matter of the therapist issuing standardized instructions to a passive patient, Ericksonian hypnosis stresses the importance of the interactive therapeutic relationship and purposeful engagement of the inner resources and experiential life of the subject. Dr. Erickson revolutionized the practice of hypnotherapy by coalescing numerous original concepts and patterns of communication into the field.
The novel psychotherapeutic strategies which Dr. Erickson employed in his treatment of individuals, couples, and families derived from his hypnotic orientation. Although he was known as the world’s leading hypnotherapist, Dr. Erickson used formal hypnosis in only one-fifth of his cases in clinical practice.
Dr. Erickson effected a fundamental shift in modern psychotherapy. Many elements of the Ericksonian perspective which were once considered extreme are now incorporated into the mainstream of contemporary practice.