Phoenix Institute for Ericksonian Therapy

By:  Roxanna Erickson Klein RN, PhD


Phoenix, long recognized as a hub of Ericksonian teaching, training and interest is now home to an Institute as well!   Perhaps, the Foundation being located in Phoenix obscured the very real need for an independent Institute.  Many of the requirements for study and training have been well-managed by the Foundation.  But, there was still a call  for year-round “hands-on” types of interaction with the community at large as well as a definite requirement for a clinical “arm.”  So, recently, a group of extraordinary Ericksonians, long  involved as teachers, authors and clinicians, have joined forces to create an Institute dedicated to this and to providing a vast array of clinical services. 

          Spearheaded by Stephen Lankton, MSW, DAHB, Joyce Mills PhD, LMFT, RPT-S, and others, this Institute is now up and running.   As a team, as co-founders and co-directors, and trainers, they are all committed to keeping Ericksonian ideology in the forefront as well as to bringing it forward as the world and the world of psychotherapy evolve.            

           Lankton is well known for his tireless contributions to Ericksonian approaches.  Among his many honors is the 1994 Lifetime Achievement Award given by the Foundation.  He was one of Dr. Erickson’s most apt and energetic students in the 1970’s and has since continued with an avid interest and ambitious explorations.  For over a decade, he served as a primary editor for Erickson Monographs series.  While maintaining a busy clinical practice, and international training schedule, he also authored and co-authored 17 books, all of which were well-received and many of which have become classical references in the field.  His books created a model and framework for understanding and implementing effective Ericksonian psychotherapy strategies.  Additionally, he has excelled in multi-faceted teaching with emphasis on the health of individuals, and families, and even into the realm of organizational and institutional effectiveness.  He rounds out his busy international teaching by serving locally as adjunct faculty at Arizona State University’s Dept. of Behavioral Science and Sociology.  To add to his talents, he also brings a wealth of knowledge in the computer field having initially set up the Foundation web site.  He has long been the facilitator for interactive web site called “Behavior OnLine” and most recently created the informative and user-friendly site for the Institute.  In addition he is the moderator for the Foundation’s official “List Server.”

Joyce Mills is also well known in Ericksonian work. She is the founder of Ericksonian Play Therapy, an indirective model of play therapy, which along with transcultural and indigenous teachings, is one of the primary roots of her work.  Her excellence with trauma survivors and with children is an area of work where she has earned recognition. Author and co-author of seven books, Mills was the recipient of the 1997 Play Therapy International Award for “Outstanding career contribution to the field of child psychology and play therapy.” Mills is also Founder and Executive Director of the “StoryPlay Center; Creative Solutions for Positive Change,” she has developed ways to encourage and build upon the positive possibilities that are present even in the most dire of situations.  Mills has shown her imaginative capabilities and their formidable impact on healing that takes place through non-traditional means.  She has been on the Board of Directors of the Turtle Island Project for close to two decades.  This Phoenix-based non-profit organization works with Native-American spiritual and educational leaders; Mills co-leads retreats for women.   The energy she generates brings opportunities for experiences and a sense of power that is often elusive and even unattainable with more traditional approaches.

This team has produced a plethora of publications on a multitude of topics.  What also makes this organization unique is the group’s ability to work as a integrated team.  Each of them is already established in their individual efforts, teaching and disseminating knowledge, as authors and as innovative practitioners.  This provides an even deeper framework for the furtherance of Ericksonian principles.

In addition to an impressive list of notables on their international advisory board, the Institute’s work party is joined by local clinicians serving as Training Affiliates.  Dan Short PhD, and Marilia Baker MSW, LMFT add to the scope and diversity of the Institute.  Both of these therapists is a respected clinician and has shown sustained dedication to the advancement of Ericksonian methodology.  They help provide greater depth and breadth to the Institute’s clinical and teaching offerings through work in local and international venues. Other Training Affiliates are expected to join the staff soon.

Baker’s first book has already been published in Portuguese and Spanish; the story of Erickson’s widow, Elizabeth, is currently being expanded for the English edition.  Short is completing his first book, a unique analysis of Erickson’s work simultaneously being prepared for publication in seven languages with prominent co-authors.  Both Baker and Short have been substantial and on-going contributors and editors for the Erickson Newsletter.  Each also has an established clinical practices in the Phoenix area.

I would encourage everyone  to go to their website,   In this short article, I have only touched upon their incredible resources.  There is regular schedule of workshops, intensives, and focused training offered locally and in other cities.  There is also a listing of books, articles and multi-media resources that are available. 

Perhaps a truly distinctive characteristic of the Phoenix Institute of Ericksonian Therapy is its spirit of dedication and harmony.   I have personally known all the founders and the faculty and I count them among the warmest and most personable in my fellowship of friends.  The talents that come together here promise to provide wide-reaching and extensive efforts that benefit the local community and even larger venues. 

Thank you for answering the long awaited call for superb clinical skills and focused expertise in training opportunities and psychotherapeutic work.  I —and the Erickson family— are all so very gratified to see the formation of this robust and expansive resource that will complement in such a worthy way, the important work done by the Erickson Foundation.