The Milton model is a form of hypnotherapy based on the language patterns for hypnotic communication of Milton Erickson, a noted hypnotherapist. The Milton-Model is the inverse of the Meta Model, using artfully vague language patterns to pace another person’s experience and access unconscious resources.

The Milton-Model helps with maintaining rapport and is often used in hypnotic or trance state sessions. It has been described as “a way of using language to induce and maintain trance in order to contact the hidden resources of our personality”.

The Milton model has three primary aspects: Firstly, to assist in building and maintaining rapport with the client. Secondly, to overload and distract the conscious mind so that unconscious communication can be cultivated. Thirdly, to allow for interpretation in the words offered to the client.

1. Rapport

The first aspect, building rapport, or empathy, is done to achieve better communication and responsiveness. NLP teaches ‘mirroring’ or matching body language, posture, breathing, predicates and voice tonality. Rapport is an aspect of ‘pacing’ or tuning into the client or learners world. Once pacing is established, the practitioner can ‘lead’ by changing their behavior or perception so the other follows. O’Connor & Seymour in “Introducing NLP” describe rapport as a ‘harmonious dance’, an extension of natural skills, but warn against mimicry. Singer gives examples of the pantomime effect of mere mimicry by some practitioners which does not create rapport.

2. Overloading conscious attention

The second aspect of the milton model is that it uses ambiguity in language and non-verbal communication. This might also be combined with vagueness, which arises when the boundaries of meaning are indistinct. The use of ambiguity and vagueness distracts the conscious mind as it tries to work out what is meant which gives the unconscious mind the opportunity to prosper.

3. Indirect communication

The third aspect of the Milton model is that it is purposely vague and metaphoric for the purpose of accessing the unconscious mind. It is used to soften the meta model and make indirect suggestions. A direct suggestion merely states what is wanted, for example, “when you are in front of the audience you will not feel nervous”. In contrast an indirect suggestion is less authoritative and leaves an opportunity for interpretation, for example, “When you are in front of the audience, you might find yourself feeling ever more confident”. This example follows the indirect method leaving both the specific time and level of self-confidence unspecified. It might be made even more indirect by saying, “when you come to a decision to speak in public, you may find it appealing how your feelings have changed.” The choice of speaking in front of the audience, the exact time and the likely responses to the whole process are framed but the imprecise language gives the client the opportunity to fill in the finer details.