Louise Smith en Health Professionals Using Hypnosis, Psicólogos uso de la hipnosis, Healthcare Principal Psychologist - Owner • Enoggera Health Practice 15/5/2016 · 3 min de lectura · +400

A Brief Review of the Key Hypnotic Elements of Milton H. Erickson’s Handshake Technique

By Mark S. Carich, PhD and Mark Becker, MA  
in the The Milton H. Erickson Foundation
           Newsletter Spring 2016 Vol 36 No 1, Pages 12 –13.

Milton H Erickson was no doubt a master of masters in inducing hypnotic responses for clinical purposes.

Dr. Erickson was instrumental in developing a number of indirect hypnotic techniques and strategies,
including interpersonal and nonverbal or pantomime tactics (Erickson, 1958, 1964, 1966; Haley, 1967).

One fascinating technique that stands out was the “handshake hypnotic induction technique.”
The purpose of this article is to outline the key elements and a procedure of the therapeutic hypnotic handshake
induction technique.

What is a Trance Experience?

Controversies over the nature and definition of trance phenomena often involve the contextualized experienced “state” vs. nonstate. The present authors consider a trance experience as a contextualized state with multiple levels, expressions, and facets. The central aspect includes an intense focusing and sense of detachment (dissociated response). One particular behavior directly associated with the handshake technique is the dissociative cataleptic response.

 Dissociative Cataleptic Response

 Inducing a cataleptic response is the key to the handshake technique. Edgette & Edgette (1995) categorize the handshake technique as a method of inducing hypnotic catalepsy. Catalepsy is the induced immobility of various limbs and/or entire body. Edgette & Edgette (1995 p. 173) define catalepsy as, “…immobility in one or more parts of the body.” Catalepsy has been defined as an involuntary tonicity of the muscles (Kroger, 1977), and a suspension of voluntary movement and condition of well-balanced tonicity (Erickson & Rossi, 1981). Muscles are felt as being in balance and comfortable, neither too tense nor too limp. The client/subject maintains or sustains a suspended state or immobilized position for a long period of time.

Handshake Technique Procedure

Therapy involves communication within a change-oriented context in which the therapist engages the client in conversation, forming interactions, which can start with a simple handshake. This handshake can be utilized to facilitate the hypnotic elements in these therapeutic conversations.

Erickson and Rossi & Rossi (1976) describe the handshake technique by starting with a firm hand grasp, then slightly adjusting the operator’s fingers, creating momentary confusion by refocusing the subject’s attention with the different sensations felt, as the operator withdraws their hand. As the operator withdraws their hand, the subject’s habitual framework is interrupted, thus creating a hypnotic touch.

This procedure can be detailed into the following steps:

1. Engage with client or subject.

2. Gaze into the client’s or subject’s eyes (as part of the initial exchange via eye contact).

3. Slowly reach out to shake or grasp the hand.

4. Grasp the client’s hand in a normal handshake.

5. Slow the handshake down by pacing and leading the client’s hand during the clasp.

6. Shift the touch and pressure, slowly releasing the handshake.

7. Slowly release the hand from the handshake; slide hand away.

8. Meanwhile, if/or when speaking, use a slow, smooth, monotone relaxing voice.

9. Maintain a gaze, looking into the client’s or subject’s eyes, leaving the client’s hand buoyant, as in arm levitation.

10. Direct the client therapeutically, thus utilizing the outcome.

11. If necessary, for reorientation, provide suggestions.

A similar process naturally occurs when taking vitals. Carich and Junge (1990) noticed pantomime hypnotic experiences when taking vitals, particularly pulses. By taking a pulse, for longer than required, the subject’s arm can be suspended in mid-air, forming a cataleptic response. This experience is similar to the handshake technique in developing cataleptic responses.

Key Elements

There are several key hypnotic elements involved in the technique:

1. Fixation of attention or refocusing the client’s attention by:
    a. Eye gazes.
    b.Touch and pressure.

 2. Inducing behavioral suspension or buoyant response (creating a dissociative response).

3. Developing a rhythmic pattern during the process, which includes reduced respiratory rate.

4. Interrupting the subject’s habitual framework, by refocusing one’s attention on different sensations of the handshake.

A key point while engaging the subject/client, is that the individual’s internal focus is fixated on some selected stimuli involving the level of pressure of the grip. Slowing down the movement and touch during the clasp can initiate this.
Also, during the initial engagement, eye gazes create another source of client fixation. By slowing down the shaking of the subject’s/client’s hand, an arm levitation response is induced or created, thus leaving the hand/arm buoyant and totally immobilized. In some cases, the subject or client may be totally immobilized. Finally, the process entails a rhythmic pattern or integration between the therapist and client.

 The depth depends upon several factors or conditions:

1. Context of the interaction.

2. Skill and rhythmic pattern of the operator.

3. Level of receptivity and responsiveness of the client.

This is a form of an informal, indirect technique, in which the hypnotic suggestion or induction is delivered through the interaction manifested in the handshake.

The authors further recommend discovering nonverbal touch situations in everyday life, whereby one can utilize and help the subject fix and focus attention inwardly.


 Milton H. Erickson was a brilliant therapist and hypnotist who provided different ways, including the handshake technique, to induce and create trance-like therapeutic experiences. In his handshake technique, he utilized the client’s responses and behavior to further enhance hypnotic responses and therapeutic experiences. He used his ability to notice minimal cues or define moments of responses and receptivity, and he learned to access these movements to facilitate the hypnotic handshake technique.

There are a number of applications of the handshake technique, ranging from enhancing rapport to inducing calming responses to relaxation. Upon inducing hypnotic responses, several paths can be taken. Therapeutic messages can be interspersed in the moment. Other ways include bypassing “resistant” responses, or client goal inhibitory responses, creating a window of client receptivity.


Carich, M.S. & Junge (1990).
Pulse-Rate Rapid Hypnotic Injection. The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis Newsletter, 31 (2), October, p.2.

Edgette, J.H. & Sasson-Edgette, J. (1995)
The handbook of Hypnotic Phenomena in Psychotherapy. New York: W.W. Norton, C.C. Erickson, M. Naturalistic techniques of hypnosis. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1958, 1, 3-8.

Erickson, M.
Pantomime techniques in hypnosis and the implications. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1964, 7, 65-70. (a)

Erickson, M.
The interspersal hypnotic technique for symptom correction and pain control. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 1966, 8, 198-209. (b)

Erickson, M. H., Rossi, E. L., & Rossi, S. I. (1976).
Hypnotic Realities: The Induction of Clinical Hypnosis & Forms of Indirect Suggestions. N.Y.: Irvington: New York

Erickson, M. H. & Rossi, E.L. (1981).
Experiencing hypnosis. NY: Irvington.

Haley, J. (Ed.) (1967).
Advanced technique of hypnosis and therapy. NY: Grune & Stratton.

Kroger, W. (1977).
Clinical & Experimental Hypnosis. Philadelphia, PA.: Lippincott.

Louise Smith 24/4/2017 · #9

#8 That sounds great Ella. Yes eye contact is the second most important aspect with kids
For me knowing their name is the most important.
Let me know how your handshaking goes
"I love The Solution Focused Approach! "we" love M. Erickson!" Me too. I use it a lot.

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Ella de Jong 24/4/2017 · #8

Thanks for the sharei @Louise Smith ! Interesting! I think I'm doing this in a very, very tiny way when I shake the hand of all kids in class and always wan to catch their eyes. Sometimes I have to bend my head, go to my knees and lean over, just to see a glimpse of the kids eyes and to make them see I'm smiling at them. I adjust my voice and my handshake to the' kind of' kid I have in front of me: brave, bold, quiet, serene etc. It's a good way to start the day as a substitute! Sometimes I get a hug from a 12 year old when I shake all hands again when the day is done!
PS I love The Solution Focused Approach! "we" love M. Erickson!

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Louise Smith 19/5/2016 · #7

#6 Thank you. It's a therapy technique. But I think it has some application to real life especially first time meetings ?

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Jan 🐝 Barbosa 19/5/2016 · #6

#5 There Are 2 Key Moments When You Meet Someone... How You Look And The First Handshake...

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Louise Smith 18/5/2016 · #5

HI Jan @Jan Barbosa, Thank you for you "relavant" What does this article mean for you? regardz Louise

Juan Imaz 15/5/2016 · #4

#1 i am interested on this because it helps you to face and overpass mental troubles you may have. I think this is very interesting. Thanks @Louise Smith!

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Louise Smith 15/5/2016 · #3

I just finished the first 5 days ! So I have started some Hypnosis Hives on bB. I will post what I learn and articles etc. Hopefully some of the people on my current course and previous courses will read it. Michael Yapko is coming to Madrid maybe next year or the one after. I might come to do the course.

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Javier 🐝 beBee 15/5/2016 · #2

Hahaha @Juan Imaz maybe we need hypnosis knowledge for Amsterdam event !

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