Department of Family Therapy Dissertations and Applied Clinical Projects

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences – Department of Family Therapy


Douglas Flemons

Committee Member

Shelley Green

Committee Member

Jerry E. Gale


Family therapy researchers have conducted a variety of studies of brief approaches to family therapy (e.g., MRI, Solution Focused, Strategic). However, despite the fact that Milton Erickson’s approach to hypnosis and psychotherapy was a significant influence on these models, few family therapy researchers have studied Ericksonian hypnosis directly. Hypnosis is a way of communicating with the body to elicit psychological and physiological responses that are not organized by conscious awareness (Erickson, 1980i). Hypnosis becomes hypnotherapy when the context and the participants are oriented toward therapeutic change (Flemons, 2002). Employing the methodology of autoethnography (Ellis & Bochner, 2016) and using Interpersonal Process Recall (IPR) (Kagan, Krathwohl, & Miller, 1963) to conduct process research, the author explored the experience and understanding of both an Erickson-inspired hypnotherapist, Dr. Eric Greenleaf, and a client (herself) during a hypnotherapy session focused on addressing the issue of anxiety. Informed by what Bruner (1986) called a narrative mode of constructing the world, the author presents a narrative account of what transpired. Her analysis distinguishes six hypnotic holons—parts of a whole that are themselves wholes (Koestler, 1967)—that illuminate the co-creative nature of the hypnotherapeutic experience. Each holon indicates a particular kind of invitation extended by the hypnotherapist, the client’s response to that invitation, and what comes out of the interaction. The author also illuminates the particular qualities that the hypnotherapist brought to the interaction and discusses implications of the study for clinicians and researchers.