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What is hypnosis?

The word hypnosis is derived from the ancient Greek hýpnos, meaning sleep. However, this direct meaning is misleading, as hypnosis or hypnotic trance (the terms 'hypnosis' and 'trance' are often used interchangeably) has little in common with the state of sleep. Rather, hypnosis is a state of heightened concentration and suggestibility that allows a person greater access to the contents of their own unconscious. It is important to note that hypnosis is a natural state that many people have experienced in various forms without being aware of it. Examples include deep concentration while reading a book, the wandering of consciousness during monotonous activities, or the feeling of slowing down while watching a car crash.

Therapeutic hypnosis in particular is characterised by a feeling of deep relaxation, concentration on an inner experience and reduced awareness of the environment. Under the guidance of a therapist, unconscious content can be uncovered and physical processes can be influenced to solve existing health problems or to activate the body's own healing powers.

Hypnosis has an extensive mystical-spiritual background, including shamanic, meditative and religious practices. However, its effectiveness has been scientifically proven and it can be used almost without risk for a wide range of psychological and physical disorders. The scientific nature and efficacy of hypnosis can no longer be denied, as there is now an immense body of clinical, experimental and theoretical work on the subject.

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Which disorders or complaints can be treated with hypnosis?

Hypnosis was at the beginning of all psychotherapy and can therefore be combined with most psychotherapeutic techniques to enhance their effectiveness. Hypnosis can be used to treat a wide range of problems and disorders, to name but a few:

  • Anxiety disorders: Hypnosis can help reduce and control anxiety by stimulating the subconscious mind to overcome negative beliefs and establish new, positive patterns of behaviour.

  • Depression: Hypnosis can help to deal with trauma and emotional problems, and increase self-confidence to promote a more positive outlook on life. The severity of the disorder should always be assessed by a doctor or qualified therapist in order to select an appropriate medical intervention or qualified specialist. In particular, medical advice should be sought immediately if there are suicidal thoughts!

  • Sleep disorders: Hypnosis can help reduce stress and anxiety and establish a better sleep routine.

  • Pain: Hypnosis can help control pain by stimulating the subconscious mind to develop a lower sensitivity to pain.

  • Compulsions and phobias: Hypnosis can help identify and overcome the source of compulsions and phobias by stimulating the subconscious mind to overcome negative beliefs and develop positive behaviour patterns.

  • Addiction problems: Hypnosis can help persuade the subconscious mind to give up harmful behaviours and make healthy choices.

  • Body image problems: Hypnosis can help persuade the subconscious mind to develop a healthy and positive body image.

  • Obesity: Hypnotherapy can be helpful in treating obesity by helping to develop healthy eating habits and a positive body image, as well as positively influencing involuntary body processes.

In addition, under favourable conditions, hypnosis allows the use of a range of physiological, cognitive and emotional potentials that are inaccessible in everyday consciousness. For example, scientific publications report painless abdominal surgery without chemical anaesthesia, remission of tumours, as well as persistent skin diseases, asthma and much more. A well-known example of the extraordinary feats that people can perform under hypnosis is the so-called cataleptic bridge, in which the body is stretched out and so firm that it can hold large weights without any additional support, visible effort or exertion.

There are also a number of studies showing that hypnosis can be effective for certain physical conditions such as migraines, chronic pain, nausea and vomiting during chemotherapy, preparing for childbirth and certain skin conditions such as psoriasis or neurodermatitis.

However, it is important to note that hypnotherapy is not a panacea and should always be carried out by a qualified therapist. When complaints arise, a full diagnosis is important as many problems may not be recognised or may be misdiagnosed. It is the responsibility of each therapist to be aware of their own limitations and to guide and support the patient in seeking help from an appropriately qualified specialist if complaints are unclear.

What are common prejudices about hypnosis and how should they be addressed?

There are a number of myths and prejudices about hypnosis that are firmly entrenched in the public consciousness and often cause people to avoid or reject hypnosis when they could benefit from it. These myths mostly come from the popular culture of television and cinema, and can sometimes be associated with the activities of stage or street hypnotists. Here are some of the most common myths about hypnosis:

  1. Hypnosis means loss of control: this is one of the biggest myths about hypnosis. In fact, the hypnotized person always remains conscious and can come out of the trance at any time. A certain exception may be a very deep hypnotic state, also known as somnambulism. However, for the effectiveness of the majority of therapeutic interventions, a light to medium depth of trance is completely sufficient.

  2. Hypnosis is magic or paranormal: Hypnosis is a scientifically recognized technique based on known psychological and neurological principles. It has nothing to do with magic or the paranormal.

  3. Anyone can be hypnotized: Whether a person can be hypnotized depends on many factors, including their desire for hypnosis and their ability to concentrate and accept suggestions. Not everyone is suitable for hypnosis, but most people can experience hypnosis if they are willing. Even if a person's suggestibility and hypnotizability are not guaranteed to the desired degree at any given time, it is still possible to use hypnotic suggestions and techniques, such as imagination exercises or ideomotor activity.

  4. Hypnosis may cause memory loss: Hypnosis can help people remember information better, but it cannot cause information to be forgotten. At most, it can cause it to be temporarily repressed in the subconscious. During a hypnosis session, the memory of what was said is not usually affected.

  5. Hypnosis is dangerous: Hypnosis is a safe and widely used technique that usually has no unwanted side effects. However, it is important that it is carried out by a qualified hypnotherapist to ensure its safety and effectiveness.

  6. One might be unable to "wake up" from hypnosis: This misconception or fear is also quite widespread, but is completely unsubstantiated. If a hypnotized person does not wish to leave the hypnotic state for some reason, he or she will simply fall asleep after some time and subsequently wake up feeling relaxed and refreshed.

As with any healing method, there are certain contraindications to hypnotherapy. Depending on the nature and severity of the disorder, either outpatient or inpatient treatment may be indicated. Naturopathic practices can only offer outpatient treatment, so all patients requiring inpatient treatment must be referred to appropriate medical facilities.

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Are there any contraindications for hypnotherapy?

There are some conditions for which hypnotherapy may not be appropriate or should be avoided temporarily. These include:

  1. Mental disorders: People with serious mental disorders, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and moderate to severe depression, cannot benefit from hypnotherapy in the outpatient setting of an alternative practitioner or a naturopath, as these patients require qualified medical psychiatric help and psychotropic medication. Alternative practitioners and psychological psychotherapists are not permitted to prescribe or administer prescription drugs.

  2. Epilepsy: People with epilepsy should be cautious during hypnosis because of the increased risk of seizures or, depending on the severity of the impairment, should avoid hypnosis altogether.

  3. Drug or alcohol dependence: Drug or alcohol addicts should be treated by addiction specialists before starting hypnosis therapy, possibly as an inpatient, to avoid life-threatening conditions due to withdrawal or to minimise the risk of relapse.

  4. Dissociative disorders: People with dissociative disorders, including multiple personality disorder, should be cautious as hypnosis may exacerbate these symptoms. In general, mental disorders caused primarily by traumatic experiences should be treated by qualified trauma therapists.


It is important to note that this is not an exhaustive list of all contraindications to hypnotherapy, and it is important to consult a qualified therapist or doctor for a thorough medical assessment.

What is a typical hypnotherapy session like?

A typical hypnotherapy session usually lasts between 60 and 90 minutes and can be divided into several parts. First, there is an interview in which the problem to be treated is outlined. It is agreed with the patient what exactly needs to be worked on. Then a rough plan of the desired goals for the subsequent hypnosis can be drawn up. Naturally, the details depend on the specific problem and the patient.


Hypnosis itself is divided into three phases: induction, trance and reorientation or emergence. In the induction phase, the hypnotic trance is induced by the hypnotist. This can be achieved by various techniques. Basically, the induction consists of verbal suggestions to achieve deep relaxation and calm in the patient's body and mind. Most people find these feelings very pleasant and calming.


The trance itself can vary, depending on the problem or content being worked on. Most clients can see different images in front of their inner eye and experience a kind of inner journey where they get in touch with different contents of their unconscious. As a starting point, the client is asked to imagine a wonderful place that conveys strength, peace and security. Even if no inner images are discernible, the trance can evoke a variety of feelings. In this phase, the problem is treated by working together with the therapist. It is a time for positive and uplifting suggestions that should continue to work after the trance.

The reorientation phase is usually initiated when the agreed goals for the session have been achieved, or when the patient expresses the wish to end the trance. This occurs in several stages and is accompanied by suggestions of returning strength, power and vitality. A typical therapeutic hypnosis session lasts between 40 minutes and an hour. This is very individual and depends on the patient's personal concerns.

Most patients feel refreshed, relieved and seem to possess an inner glow. After a short period of waking up, the aim is to discuss the experiences of the trance and make sense of them. Further appointments may be made at this point in the session. Usually, depending on the patient's concerns, lasting positive changes can be achieved in 1 to 6 sessions. It is important to keep in mind that the healing process and unconscious changes continue after the session. Certain content or revelations can also occur in dreams or spontaneously in everyday life after hypnosis.

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In summary on hypnosis

Hypnosis is a state of heightened concentration and suggestibility that enables a person to have increased access to the contents of their own unconscious. It is a natural state that most people experience in everyday life, albeit unconsciously. Therapeutic hypnosis is characterized by a feeling of deep relaxation, concentration on the inner experience and a reduced awareness of the environment. Hypnosis can be used for a wide range of conditions, including diffuse anxiety or phobias, depression, sleep disorders, chronic or acute pain, addiction, body image issues and obesity. Although hypnosis has a long mystical and spiritual history, its effectiveness has been scientifically proven and it can be used almost without risk for a wide range of psychological and physical conditions.

However, the benefits of hypnosis are not limited to the treatment of existing psychological or somatic disorders. Rather, hypnosis is an extremely useful tool for self-exploration, personality development, activating or rediscovering new or forgotten resources, e.g. when trying to play the piano again after a long time, regaining control of a language spoken in childhood, or preparing for an important exam. It can help with decision-making by allowing the possible consequences of certain decisions to play out in the mind's eye while in a hypnotic state. Hypnosis' ability to access the unconscious makes it a versatile tool for identifying and locating a deep-seated problem or inner conflict, which underlines its diagnostic nature. Its uses are almost limitless and can be tailored to the needs and circumstances of the individual.

However, it is important to stress that hypnosis is not a panacea and in some cases a combination with other therapeutic approaches may be indicated. The success of hypnosis depends on many factors, such as the individual's receptivity to hypnotic suggestions, trust in the therapist and the nature of the problem or disorder being treated. In addition, hypnosis should always be used by a qualified and experienced hypnotherapist to ensure appropriate treatment and safety.

Overall, hypnosis offers a promising and effective alternative or complement to conventional therapeutic approaches for a wide range of disorders and diseases. Science has shown that hypnosis is a natural state and its effectiveness is well established in clinical practice.

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Want to learn more about hypnosis, psychotherapy and related topics?

Then visit the blog pages of the Romanov Practice.

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