How I learned to take my client beyond EMDR and Ego State Therapy with Generative Trance

by Carol Rogers-Tanner MSE

(Note: The Minnesota Society of Hypnosis (MSCH) was honored to bring Stephen Gilligan to our annual training where we learned about one of his very effective therapeutic approaches, Generative Trance.)

I had worked with my client Jennifer for several years beginning with the lingering death of a child from a chronic illness. Jennifer was a single mother who had grown up in a dysfunctional family. Her own mother had been an addict and her father ruled by intimidation and threats. Jennifer had learned to cope by reading the moods and sensing the wishes or needs of those around her. As an adult she had come to hate herself for being dominated by her fears rather than really saying what she wanted to say. Often she didn’t actually know what she really wanted or even liked.

We had done much work with EMDR and Ego State Therapy. She had made some good progress including coming to believe more fully that she had done her best and that the traumas she experienced were not her fault. She had developed more acceptance of the part of herself which had learned to tune out her own needs and cater to others.  She had gradually made some progress with starting to speak up, risking offending those she cared about. She was beginning to try out some new activities, including expressing herself through art and poetry. I was often proud of her for the positive efforts she made but she frequently reported feeling that her old fears could very quickly kick her back to square one, especially in her new relationship.

After attending the MSCH Intermediate/Advanced training with Stephen Gilligan this past June, I proposed that Jennifer and I try using his Generative Trance approach. I had used hypnosis with Jennifer many times and she had often commented that she thought it was very helpful for her. I followed Stephen Gilligan’s treatment protocol quite closely. She cooperated with all the steps, although on one day it was harder for her to do so, given a recent interaction which she experienced as a setback. We worked with that, of course, and the session was ultimately helpful.

Over the course of a few sessions of Generative Trance work, she was able to feel more deeply compassion for and acceptance of herself, to a degree that had previously eluded her and us. She recognized in a more complete way that her frightened self had good reason to be frightened and that she had found a way of surviving the abusive manipulations of her father as best she could. She recognized that this part of herself that she had loathed really deserved her respect and care. She became more hopeful that she could be true to herself in what she says and does. She started taking greater risks, including being much more assertive in her primary relationship. She is trying more new things. She still has times when those old fears are triggered, when that feeling deep in her gut takes hold, but she is able to recognize it, to let it go much more quickly, and forge ahead. Instead of thinking that it would be OK if she just died, maybe better, certainly easier, she now says, “I really want to live.”

Gilligan demo. with male volunteer
Stephen Gilligan demonstrates with a conference attendee.

I do want to acknowledge that work that Jennifer was doing on her own also undoubtedly helped, including continuing to read and to talk with wise friends. Exercising and pursuing her spiritual practices were also among her many positive steps.

Thank you, Stephen Gilligan, for your development of Generative Trance and your very effective teaching approach. I think that all of us who attended the workshop appreciated the powerful demonstrations. The opportunities we had to practice the skills we were learning helped me to know that I could start using them with clients right away. I continue to use Generative Trance with a number of clients and am grateful for having another way to help clients heal.

Author’s note: To protect the identity of clients I alter some of the details of their lives while keeping true to the heart of their experiences.

Carol Rogers-Tanner, MSE, LP, LMFT
Member of the MCSH Board
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