What is the Milton Model?

The founders of Neuro-linguistic programming (NLP) John Grinder and Richard Bandler met with Dr Milton Erickson, who was widely recognized as the inventor of modern hypnosis, to see why and how he was so successful.

After analyzing Erickson’s methods and approach, they came up with the Milton Model. It was a concept opposite to their original Meta model, but just as useful for personal change and communication.

In a passage from the book, Introducing NLP: Psychological Skills for Understanding and Influencing People, it explains:

The Milton Model is a way of using language to induce and maintain trance in order to contact hidden resources of our personality. It follows the way the mind works naturally. Trance is a state where you are highly motivated to learn from your unconscious mind in an inner directed way. It is not a passive state, nor are you under another’s influence. There is co-operation between client and therapist, the client’s responses letting the therapist know what to do next.

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How Does the Milton Model Work?

In essence, the hypnotic language patterns of the Milton Model pushes the subject to focus on a higher platform of vision and a deeper mind state. The process is to:

  • Pace and leadMirror and match the subject’s behavior (body language, word choices, voice tone etc.), speaking in a soft tone and slow pace to match their breathing, make a reference to what the subject is likely to see, feel, hear and think (e.g. “as you’re wondering” or “as you hear my voice”), then lead the subject into concentrating on their inner self (e.g. notice how easy it is to shut your eyes anytime you want to feel more relaxed).
  • Distract the subject’s conscious state of mind
  • Communicate directly with their unconscious mind to enter the resources beneath

Examples of actual meanings behind language

1. Mind Read: Claiming to know what the subject feels or thinks without stating how you know.

I know that you believe…

2. Lost Performative: Stating value judgments without mentioning the person doing the judging.

Resting is good.”

milton model

3. Cause & Effect: Implying that one thing leads to or causes something to occur. These include phrases such as: “If…”, “as you…”, “then…”, “because…

If you listen to what I say, then you will learn a lot.

4. Complex Equivalence: Attributes meaning to something that may or may not have a ’cause’ capability.

Being here means that you will change easily.

5. Presupposition: Assumption

Are you going to change your behavior today or tomorrow?” Assuming the subject will change their behavior, not knowing when.

6. Universal Quantifier: Universal generalizations without references or allusions.

Everyone”, “No one”, “All”, “Every

7. Modal Operator: Implying words that direct to the possibility, necessity or reflects strong beliefs in one’s life.

You should always help others.” or “You must solve this problem.”

8. Nominalization: Words which are created as nouns and are scripted for processes.

People can come to new understandings.”

The word ‘understandings’ is used as a noun and is shorthand to explain the on-going experience of ‘understanding’ or ‘to make sense of something’.

9. Unspecified Verb: Implying an action not mentioning how the action has or will take place.

She created the problem.

10. Tag Question: An added question at the end of a statement or question that’s made to reduce resistance. It’s used to affirm to the subject that he has or will actually do the action. It has the structure of a question and usually the tone of a statement.

Your view of life is changing, isn’t it.

11. Lack of Referential Index: An expression without any particular reference to any part of the speaker’s or listener’s experience.

People can change.

12. Comparative Deletion (Unspecified Comparison): Comparing something without specifying who or what it’s being compared to.

You’ll like it more.” or “This is the better one.

13. Pace Current Experience: Implying behaviorally specific information to describe a present experience.

You’re browsing this website.”

14. Double Bind: Offering a choice within a bigger context of having no choice.

Do you want to start today or tomorrow?

15. Embedded Commands: A command that makes up part of a larger sentence that’s highlights by the use of italics, a subtle change in voice tone or body language. The reader or listener’s unconscious mind will pick it up.

I wouldn’t suggest to you that changing is simple.” or “Do you think you should tell this to your friends?”

16. Conversational Postulate: Multi-level question that only a yes or no answer, but invites you to perform an activity in one way or another. They usually contain an embedded command.

Can you close the window?” or “Can you decide to change?

17. Extended Quote: A context for delivering information that could be in the form of a command.

A few years ago, I met a wise man who’s advice I took to heart. One day, he told me “change is exciting and gives you options in life”.

18. Selectional Restriction Violation: Applying intelligence or animation to inanimate objects.

As you make these changes, your sofa can support you.” or “Your diary tells fascinating stories.

19. Ambiguity: Lack of specifics

a. Phonological: “his” and “he’s” – Sounds the same, but has a different meaning.

b. Syntactic: It has more than one possible meaning. “shooting stars” or “power shows

c. Scope: Context doesn’t present the scope to which a verb or modifier employs. “Speaking to you as a changed person.” – It’s unknown who the changed person is.

d. Punctuation: Unexpected and doesn’t follow the rules (improper pauses, rambling sentences, incomplete sentences etc.), all of which eventually forces the listener to ‘mind read’.

Pass me your watch how fast you fall into a trance.

20. Utilization: Utilizing everything within the listener’s experience (both internal and external) to support the speaker’s intention.

Listener: “I don’t understand.

Response: “That’s correct, you don’t understand…yet, because you haven’t taken that one deep breath that’s going to let the information to fall comfortably and easily into place.

Or you’re working with a client and someone opens the door. You could say to your client:

You may have heard the door open, let this be an opportunity to welcome new ideas into your life.

As you can see, there are many ways in which the mind can be manipulated to give a response that you want. The objective of the Milton Model is to uncover information from the unconscious mind through a certain language process.


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