Many people associate hypnosis with dubious magicians who lure people onto the stage and cause them to do something embarrassing in the name of entertainment. However, hypnosis can also be used in psychotherapy and medicine.

“In a medical context, hypnosis actually works just like it does on the stage,” says Professor Dirk Revenstorf of the Milton Erickson Society for Clinical Hypnosis.

However, in therapy, it is not aimed at achieving obedience. “The patient’s free will is not compromised,” Prof Revenstorf says.

Phobias, sleep disorders and burnout, for example, can be treated with the help of hypnosis.

Prof Revenstorf cites the example of one patient who was afraid of flying. He encouraged her to focus on a memory where she had been in a situation that was dangerous, but in which she did not feel afraid.

In a trance, the woman returned to a memory where, as a child, she had gone down a bumpy road on the handlebars of her father’s bicycle and had still felt totally safe. In the trance, she managed to transfer that feeling of being safe to the situation inside a plane.

“During hypnosis, the patient attains a childlike, naive state in which they open themselves up to things that usually happen to them irrationally,” Prof Revenstorf explains. This makes hypnosis a very effective tool in the realm of psychotherapy.

However, it requires a particularly trusting relationship between therapist and patient, he notes. The patient should only trust doctors and psychotherapists who have trained as hypnotherapists and are properly certified as such. – dpa