Hypnosis Coaching | History of Tasking

Over the next few posts we are going to dive deep into the area of tasking. It’s always interesting to find the origins of where something came from, so let’s take a quick look at the history of tasking.

The theory of tasking is believed  to originate from one of the best hypnotherapists in history Dr. Milton Erickson. Erickson used to have his clients climb the mountain behind his house before they came to see him. Many people used to think that they had to do it so that they appreciated their health as Milton Erickson had Polio as a child and used a walking stick, moving to a wheel chair later in life. But it actually wasn’t for this reason that he tested his clients in this way. He wanted to see if they would follow his instructions.

It is imperative that the hypnotherapist knows they have a client that is willing to follow instructions in order to get the best possible outcome, for both client and therapist. Tasking is one way of testing out your client’s willingness to do the hard yards to improve the circumstances for which they’re coming to see you. I learned tasking from my instructors, who made tasking a very important part of the session; to the point that you almost did not want to ask for help on a problem because you knew that once you asked for help it would be very closely followed by a task that you just knew was going to be an ordeal. Inevitably the tasking they set would make you work really hard, so you needed to really want to make the change or solve the problem!

Tasking should not be confused with multi-tasking, tasking is supposed to be an ordeal, although multi-tasking can be an ordeal too. Ordeal may be a strong word but the tasking you set should test or challenge your client. They’ve come to you seeking a result to overcoming a tough problem; something that they’ve not been able to do alone. Think about losing weight or quitting cigarettes, or overcoming a phobia that is limiting their quality of life. These are tough personal challenges that often have years of frustration/shame/guilt/low self esteem attached. To overcome these challenges isn’t always easy and so tasking is a way of testing your client to see how serious they are about dealing with the issue.

Tasking in most coaching concepts would look something like having the client “act as if”, set a goal, then write out the action points the client needs to do to achieve the goal. Many coaching books refer to tasking as a process that enables the client to see the baby steps needed to achieve the overall goal. The tasking you set needs to help your client go through the process of actualizing their goal.

The concept of tasking and coaching tasking is not really well documented. This is part of the problem that many therapists face. They don’t really understand the role of tasking or how to implement it. Fact is having someone do something that is an ordeal, and related to an optimal outcome, before you see them, makes perfect sense. But what about tasking after that? Or what do you do if the client does not do it?

Practitioners need clients that get results for a sustainable business, so having the client do something that they are unlikely or unwilling to do does not make good business sense, or does it? It will certainty make sure the clients you do work with are very committed to getting a result.

Carl Jung said “that which is unconscious, made conscious ceases to exist” and that’s what your tasking’s ultimate goal is all about.

The concept of tasking has been around for some time. However the way to effectively use tasking to have an engaged, complaint client is less well known. We’ll cover more of that in the following post. In the meantime I hope you now have a better understanding of why and how tasking came to be so you can begin to use it to better effect, if you aren’t already.
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  • Murray Parr

    July 27, 2016

    Awesome, so that gives me an idea of what tasking actually is,makes good sense.
    I’m sure that you have some good ideas on how to use the tasking model for the many and varied reasons why people come to you in the first place, be it to quit smoking or lose weight etc

  • Matthew

    August 29, 2016

    Hi Brad

    This information is great. As we are aware that compliance proceeds suggestion it really drives home the importance of clients following through with their task. Also a good point about letting go of the fear about tasking clients as I know I would prefer client with great results giving a lot of referrals that clients that don’t put in the work and have secondary gain about not achieving what they set out to do.

  • Caroline Foat

    June 20, 2017

    Valued important information sharing. Provide additional tools both for therapist and client. A level of understanding/recognition of what is taking place before/during sessions.

  • Pip

    August 3, 2017

    What a great description, Brad! From my perspective of what you wrote, tasking sounds similar to working towards a qualification, or training for a big sports event.

  • Ann McLean

    November 30, 2017

    Thanks Brad. This all makes perfect sense.

  • Gina Palmer

    February 13, 2018

    Isn’t tasking a wonderful process? The fact of the matter is from my own experience is that when I do tasking I achieve my goal. The approach to me is something very important because I learn new things that I may not have learned before and it’s much more useful. Thanks Brad, great explanation and very helpful. Gina

  • Fiona Bruce

    August 13, 2019

    Very interesting, thank you Brad. So someways akin to the psychological process of successive approximations toward a goal?? I look forward to reading / hearing more about this 😊

  • Jade Martin

    August 26, 2019

    Thanks Brad, I find tasking really intriguing. I’m looking forward to using it as I move forward and discovering / exploring how different tasks and levels of accountability resonate with different people/behavioural types. As someone who thrives on lists, getting jobs done, and ultimately achieving satisfaction and approval from others, one of my biggest challenges when giving tasks is remembering not everyone shares my behavioural traits and to allow space for them to respond to the tasks in a way that fits their model of the world.

  • Carol Stanley

    February 18, 2020

    Hi Brad, yes I can see how tasking seperates the client who truly wants a change, to those who just think it would be nice to not have the particular issue, thanks for your insights
    Carol Stanley

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