Alexander Vesely to debut film documenting Milton Erickson’s life

Although Milton Erickson M.D., the “grandfather of modern hypnosis,” passed away in 1980, a new documentary explores his life’s story and the impact the psychiatrist had on his field of study.

“Wizard of the Desert,” directed by Alexander Vesely, will make its debut at the Harkins Shea 14 on Feb. 8. The film will extensively look at Erickson’s life and the struggles he faced.

Erickson, known to some as the Mozart of psychotherapy, was diagnosed with polio at the age of 17 and became paralyzed. Despite the fact that there was little hope he would survive, Erickson overcame the adversity and recovered, though he used a wheelchair the rest of his life because of post-polio effects.

 

 

In 1948, Erickson moved to Phoenix from Michigan and began working at the Arizona State Hospital. In 1949, Dr. Erickson and his family moved to Cypress Street and started a practice in his home. After 11 years, Dr. Erickson relocated with his wife once more, this time to 1201 E. Hayward Ave., which is currently the home of the Erickson Museum.

In 1957, Erickson founded the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, with the help of his colleagues. The ASCH, which is currently the largest U.S. organization for health and mental health care professionals using clinical hypnosis, was founded in order to promote greater acceptance of hypnosis as a clinical tool. Membership consists mostly of psychiatrists, clinical social workers, therapists, counselors, medical doctors, dentists and chiropractors.

Erickson also founded the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis and acted as the publications editor for a decade. In his time with the magazine, Erickson wrote nearly 150 articles and coauthored five books on hypnosis. Erickson continued practicing hypnosis and seeing patients until he passed away in 1980. He had a year’s worth of seminar books at the time of his passing.

In 1979, Jeffrey Zieg founded the Milton H. Erickson foundation, a nonprofit organization that helps keep Erickson’s memory alive while promoting the study of medical hypnosis by offering training to graduate students, along with health and medical health professionals through various workshops, seminars and conferences. Erickson mentored Zieg before his passing and served on the Board of the Erickson Foundation until his passing. The Milton H. Erickson Foundation produced the film to help perpetuate Erickson’s memory.

Vesely, an Austrian filmmaker who has had various projects all over the world for more than two decades, directed the award-winning “Viktor & I,” a documentary about his grandfather Viktor Frankl, an Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist. The film received the Diamond Award from the California Film Awards and profiles not only his grandfather’s well-known work, but also his unfortunate and horrific experiences in the Holocaust. Frankl lost his entire family in death camps and wrote “Man’s Search For Meaning” in 1946. The book chronicles his time in Auschwitz and how he found meaning at all times in life, even the most disheartening ones.

The film will make its premiere on Feb. 8.

Reach the reporter at seweinst@asu.edu or follow him on Twitter @S_Weinstein95