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Stephen G. Gilligan, Ph.D., (1954 – ) is an American author, one of the original group of students who studied with Richard Bandler and John Grinder at the foundation of NLP,and one of the first students and developers of the work of Milton H. Erickson, the founder of modern hypnotherapy. Gilligan is most well-known for his work in the area of hypnosis. He has been a leading teacher of Ericksonian hypnosis and psychotherapy over the past 20 years.

Where Erickson emphasised hypnosis as a communication, Gilligan took this as a starting point to pioneer a field he called self-relations, which takes Erickson's viewpoint that all symptoms are communication, and considers the common "human condition" as attempting to awake, without skill or guidance. His work therefore focusses on the awakening of soul, using sponsorship, drawing parallels from other traditions where this is seen as essential to the awakening of the human spirit.

Stephen Gilligan lives in Encinitas California, is married, and is a devoted student of Aikido. He is the author of several books in this field, as well as many papers on hypnosis, hypnotherapy and the works of Erickson.


After receiving his doctorate in Psychology from Stanford University, Gilligan has become a leading teacher and practitioner in the field of Ericksonian hypnotherapy. Motivated by his experiences as a therapist, a teacher, and by his own quest, he developed a new practice of radical awakening incorporating Ericksonian psychotherapy, Aikido, Buddhism, meditation, and the performance arts.

His work, known as Self-relations Psychotherapy, reconnects mindbody processes and encourages and supports radical change. The cornerstone of Self-Relations Psychotherapy is the understandings and processes of Sponsorship.

The enthusiastic acceptance of Sponsorship and Self-Sponsorship as approaches to therapy and personal change, along with his profoundly soul-touching presentation style, has led to speaking tours, workshops, and numerous Sponsorship groups throughout North America and Europe.

An abuse survivor himself, Gilligan has consistently emphasized and demonstrated the generative nature of mental process in each person's life. His most recent book, "The Courage to Love: A Self-Relations Approach to Psychotherapy" (1997), examines the relation of Erickson's legacy to aikido, Buddhism and nonviolence. It emphasizes love as a skill and a courage that may be cultivated and used to transform the many faces of violence and negative thinking that surround unhappiness and suffering. His book "Therapeutic Trances: The Cooperation Principle in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy", is considered one of the classics in the field.


  • Therapeutic Trances: The Cooperation Principle in Ericksonian Hypnotherapy -- (Stephen G. Gilligan, 1987)
  • Brief Therapy (Ed. with Jeffrey K. Zeig)
  • Therapeutic Conversations (Ed. with R. Price, 1993)
  • The Courage to Love: Principles and Practices of Self-Relations Psychotherapy (Stephen G. Gilligan, 1997)
  • The Legacy of Milton H. Erickson: Selected Papers of Stephen Gilligan (Stephen G. Gilligan, 2002)


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