Michael Yapko

Michael Yapko

Michael Yapko is a contemporary psychologist specializing in depression, trauma, and hypnosis

Professional Life

Michael Yapko attended the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor and received a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1976. He completed his master’s degree in 1978 and his PhD in psychology in 1980 at the United States International University in San Diego.

Yapko maintained a private practice from 1979–2007 and taught at National University and United States International University in the 1980s. He has been the director of The Milton H. Erickson Institute of San Diego since 1984 and a provider of clinical trainings in hypnosis and brief therapy methods since 1985. Yapko has authored several books, including Suggestions of Abuse: True and False Memories of Childhood Trauma, and Depression is Contagious: How the Most Common Mood Disorder is Spreading Around the World and How to Stop It.

Yapko has been recognized for his work with the Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Contributions to the Field of Psychotherapy, the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis’ Arthur Shapiro Award, and Milton H. Erickson Award for Scientific Excellence in Writing from the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. He is married to Diane Yapko, who plays a key role in maintaining his business and website. Diane Yapko is a speech-language pathologist who specializes in working with children on the autism spectrum. 

Contribution to Psychology

Michael Yapko’s work has focused on brief therapy techniques, the prevention and treatment of depression, and training and advocacy for hypnosis. Rather than focusing on one single cause for depression, Yapko claims that biological, individual, personality, and sociological factors can all trigger or worsen depression. He believes that antidepressants are frequently overused and emphasizes that psychotherapy can be highly effective at treating depression. Yapko has compared hypnosis with guided mindfulness meditation in that they both help clients learn to focus on the breath, rather than on habitual thoughts, and to accept things as they are. Yapko frequently incorporates hypnosis into his practice.

Yapko has also expressed concern for the techniques used by some hypnotherapists that can result in false memories of trauma for clients. During the 1980s and 1990s, there were numerous cases of people “remembering” traumatic abuse under hypnosis. Yapko argues that many of these cases may have occurred because a therapist used inappropriate suggestive techniques, thus implanting memories that never occurred. He conducted a survey of 1,000 professional psychotherapists and found that 19% reported having worked with clients whose traumatic memories were likely to have been suggested by another therapist. 

Selected Works by Michael Yapko

  • Hypnotic and Strategic Interventions: Principles and Practice (1986)
  • Brief Therapy Approaches to Treating Anxiety and Depression (1989)
  • Free Yourself From Depression (1992)
  • Hand Me Down Blues: How to Stop Depression From Spreading in Families (1999)
  • Suggestions of Abuse: True and False Memories of Childhood Sexual Trauma (1994)
  • Depression is Contagious: How the Most Common Mood Disorder is Spreading Around the World and How to Stop It (2009)


  1. Waterhouse, R. (1994, June 1). Therapists accused of misleading patients. The Independent. Retrieved from http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/therapists-accused-of-misleading-patients-1419585.html
  2. Yapko, M. (2011, Sep). Suggesting mindfulness. Psychotherapy Networker, 35 Retrieved from http://search.proquest.com/docview/992866632?accountid=1229

Last Update: 07-08-2015

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