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Stephen Gilligan : biography

December 26, 1954 -

Stephen G. Gilligan (born December 26, 1954) is an American author, psychologist and psychotherapist. Gilligan was one of the first students and developers of the work of Milton H. Erickson, considered the founder of modern (or "Indirect") hypnotherapy. He is known for his work in hypnosis and psychotherapy, and was one of the contributors to the early development of neuro-linguistic programming. He has had a private practice in psychotherapy and has taught his approach to hypnosis and psychotherapy for the past 20 years.,, accessed June 22, 2012.

  • Chris & Jules Collingwood, ,, accessed June 28, 2012.

In the anthology, "Ericksonian Approaches to Hypnosis and Psychotherapy" (1980), his article, "Ericksonian Approaches to Clinical Psychotherapy," shows keen (one might say "remarkable") insight into the core of Erickson's approach and style of "Indirect Hypnotherapy."

Where Erickson emphasized hypnosis as a communication, Gilligan took this as a starting point to pioneer a field he called Self-relations Psychotherapy, which takes Erickson's viewpoint that all symptoms are communication. His work uses the concept of "sponsorship," the acknowledgment, holding and naming of positive and negative feelings and experiences.Evie McClintock, Room for Change: Empowering Possibilities for Therapists and Clients. Allyn & Bacon, 1999, pp. 38–39, 98.

Gilligan is the author of several books on psychotherapy, including Therapeutic Trances (1986), The Courage to Love (1997), and The Hero's Journey (with Robert Dilts, 2009).


  • Therapeutic Trances: The Cooperation Principle in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy (Routledge, 1986)
  • with Jeffrey K. Zeig (eds.). Brief Therapy: Myths, Methods, And Metaphors (Brunner/Mazel, 1990)
  • with Reese Price (eds.). Therapeutic Conversations (W. W. Norton & Company, 1993), Journal of Family Therapy (1994) 16: 439-444
  • The Courage to Love: Principles and Practices of Self-Relations Psychotherapy (W. W. Norton & Company, 1997)
  • The Legacy of Milton H. Erickson: Selected Papers of Stephen Gilligan (Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, 2002)Harriet E Hollander, , American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, Volume 47, Issue 1, 2004, pp 56-58
  • with Dvorah Simon. Walking in Two Worlds: The Relational Self in Theory, Practice, and Community (Zeig, Tucker & Theisen, 2004)
  • with Robert Dilts. The Hero's Journey: A Voyage of Self Discovery (Crown House Publishing, 2009)
  • "Generative Trance: The Experience of Creative Flow" (Crown House Publishing, 2012)

Background and research

After receiving his doctorate in psychology from Stanford University, Gilligan became a teacher and practitioner in the field of Ericksonian hypnotherapy. His Therapeutic Trances (1986) explains nine hypnotherapy techniques the patient can use to explore the self.Jon Carlson and Steven Slavik, . Taylor & Francis, 1997, p. 216.

Gilligan also developed a new therapy, known as self-relations psychotherapy, using ideas from Ericksonian, Aikido, Buddhism, meditation, and the performance arts., NLP Academy, UK The cornerstone of the therapy is a process known as "sponsorship," where positive and negative experiences – including deeply traumatic experiences – are regarded as resources that need to be acknowledged, named and placed, a form of mindfulness. Gilligan argues that each self contains a cognitive and somatic aspect, and that when the latter is suppressed or not fully under control, the sponsorship and mindful awareness of each self, or aspect, can bring healing. His most recent publication, Generative Trance: The Experience of Creative Flow explores the use of cooperation between the cogntive conscious part of the self, and the somatic unconscious to bring about generative trance expeirences.


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