Rapport (from French “relationship, connection”) refers to a current trusting relationship based on mutual empathic attention, i.e. “good contact” between two people. i.e. “good contact” between two people The psychoanalyst Daniel Stern also speaks here of attunement, i.e. the fine-tuning of emotional communication.

Rapport is of fundamental importance in the early parent-child relationship, where it forms the basis for secure attachment. In this specific context of developmental psychology, we often do not speak of “rapport”, but of contingency, because the child learns causal relationships between its own behavior and the reaction of the interaction partners through “good contact”. However, the terms are closely related;

The term “rapport” is used in particular to refer to the relationship between psychotherapist and client; hypnotist and hypnotized person. The use of the term in psychology goes back to Franz Anton Mesmer (1734-1815), who perhaps first used it in such a context. Pierre Janet (1859-1947) introduced it as a specific term for the relationship between hypnotist and hypnotized person, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) then extended its use to the therapist-client relationship;

When people come into contact with each other, their verbal and non-verbal communication usually adapts to each other unconsciously. The more positively the contact is evaluated by the individual, the stronger their adaptation (relatedness) to the other person.

  • On the verbal level, this manifests itself in the use of similar words and phrases, the same speaking speed and pitch and in adapted speech volume and rhythm;
  • Non-verbally, this is reflected in the adaptation and synchronization of gestures and facial expressions; For example, the leg and arm posture is mirrored, the same movement sequences are performed and the breathing frequency and rhythm are adjusted; In accelerated playback, the communication resembles a dance. The behavioral scientist Desmond Morris describes this with his term posture echo.

When there is rapport, people tend to evaluate each other positively, trust each other more and take what is said less critically.

Humans are born with the ability to establish rapport. Neuropsychology has found correspondingly specialized brain structures, the so-called mirror neurons;

Use with hypnosis

In hypnosis, a strong rapport is necessary to achieve the trance state and also to be able to use suggestions effectively. When rapport is achieved, attention is focused and receptivity is increased; The process can be consciously designed through pacing and leading;

  • In pacing (Walking along), the hypnotist uses current circumstances and behaviors as well as presumed emotional perceptions of the listener, which he describes verbally through certain speech patterns. These language patterns allow for possible interpretations of the content, which enable the listener to find their own world of experience in the words. The aim is for the listener to (inwardly) agree with what is being said; By agreeing, the listener builds trust in the speaker. Non-verbally, complementary body language can be supportive; The hypnotist goes along and signals to the listener that he recognizes him and his needs;
  • When leading (leading), the hypnotist takes the leading role and can influence the listener’s breathing, for example by slowing down their own breathing.

Pacing and leading can form a circular process until the rapport is established;

Loss of rapport is when the rapport is ended by breaking through the established verbal and non-verbal communication; This can be, for example, physically turning away from the other person.

In hypnosis, suggestions that do not correspond to current experiences, needs and possibilities, such as contradictory moral concepts, contradictory physical sensations, can end the rapport or its establishment (pacing, leading). For example, (hypnotically assisted) trauma therapy can entail an increased risk of such a loss of rapport. This is not the only reason why such treatment should only be reserved for appropriately trained therapists;

The consequences of a loss of rapport can be a flattening of the trance, partial or complete withdrawal from the trance, possibly accompanied by confusion and disturbance; If necessary, a rapport in hypnosis can also be broken off without the trance being ended and the patient waking up; In this case, it is then more difficult to re-establish the rapport in order to end the hypnosis cleanly; An interrupted rapport without exiting the trance will often pass into normal sleep after a while, but previously given suggestions may remain, which would then have to be reversed by renewed hypnosis;

Establishing rapport is of great importance and simplifies the entire process; It should start as soon as the contact is made on the website and coincides with the first actual contact. Everything the hypnotist says, does or feels is transferred to the client in the form of a suggestion;

Being natural and authentic is key to a good rapport.


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