Hypno-psychotherapy has shown to be an effective intervention for smoking cessation for many different reasons. When a person has a strong desire to quit smoking, hypno-psychotherapy can give a client the self-belief that is needed to successfully remove their unwanted habit or compulsion to smoke. It is particularly effective as it can take an integrative approach if needed.
The intervention uses the power of hypnosis to plant direct suggestions into the unconscious mind, this then helps the client to break old associations with the habit of smoking, and visualize new ones where no cigarettes are being used. Most people smoke at certain times of the day, and it can be this behavioural habit and routine which proves harder to break than the nicotine itself. There can be a very strong feeling of relaxation and pleasure associated with smoking, and this association needs to be removed if the desire to smoke is to be effectively removed.
There have been many studies which confirm the effectiveness of the use of a hypnotherapeutic intervention, however it should be noted that these have only been conducted on small groups, and a much larger study would provide a more accurate representation. Hammond (1990) explains that the use of hypnosis with a single session is no more or less effective than other interventions. However when this is increased to four or five sessions or more, its effectiveness seems to increase dramatically with some studies reporting a 60-67% success rate.
Elkins et al (2006) supports the efficacy of a more intensive intervention of hypno-psychotherapy, in their study patients were given 8 sessions of therapy and tested using a carbon-monoxide concentration test of expired air. The patients were given individualized hypnotic suggestions, brief counselling at each visit and encouraged to practice self-hypnosis. Elkins et al (2006) explains that the proportion of smoking cessation is usually greater than that “achieved through pharmacological or non-hypnotic behavioural interventions”.
It is important that the client has an adequate desire to stop smoking, and to ascertain which type of smoker they are. As many therapists believe that there are 2 types of smokers, compulsive smokers who have an underlying psychological compulsion, and gain oral satisfaction through smoking. And people who have an established habit of smoking which they cannot seem to break. The later can be helped to break the habit in as little as one or two sessions. However compulsive smokers will require a deeper level of therapy to reduce their need and desire, over a longer period of time.
Compulsive smokers will require more personalised treatment promoting calmness and relaxation, as well as ego strengthening on multiple sessions to boost confidence in their own ability, until the client has reduced the amount of cigarettes they smoke to the point that they are ready to quit completely. Holroyd (1980) reviewed the effectiveness of the hypnotherapeutic intervention, and found much greater success if the therapist used individualized hypnotic suggestions, and maintained a strong therapeutic relationship over a number of sessions, as opposed to those using a standard script.
By discovering if the client has lifestyle factors or other problems that may be affecting their smoking habit, the therapist can offer to work through these before attempting the smoking cessation itself. This would lead to a much more effective result and reduce the risk of relapse, the use of Ego-strengthening suggestions to help with feelings of low self-esteem is also very important with regards to this. Bond and Dryden (2004) explain the importance of addressing a secondary problem if it exists, and also going back in time and focusing on the “activating events and the beliefs that precede an addictive episode” (P.176). Discussing how a client feels about their behaviour is also very important.
The reason why hypno-psychotherapy is particularly effective is that it utilizes; Dissociation from cravings, Post-hypnotic suggestions, to reinforce new beliefs long after the session, and Positive imagery of the future benefits of smoking cessation. Yapko (2003) discusses the importance of using age progression in order to help the client “project into the future how he or she looks and feels” (P.303) after the change in behaviour has occurred. Yapko (2003) states that:
“…Orienting the client to positive future possibilities is a necessary part of any psychotherapy.” (P.303).
In conclusion, although some may benefit from a short intervention, many will need the integrative and personalised approach that hypno-psychotherapy can take. It is adaptable to the client, enabling the combination of hypnosis with talking therapy and behaviour modification. Psychological boosts such as self-hypnosis also help, but the power of ego strengthening with direct and post hypnotic suggestions, can really strengthen a client’s belief in their own ability to stop smoking.
Bond, F. and Dryden, W. (2004) Handbook of brief cognitive behaviour therapy. Chichester: John Wiley & Sons.
Elkins, G., Marcus, J., Bates, J., Hasan Rajab, M. and Cook, T. (2006) Intensive hypnotherapy for smoking cessation: A prospective study 1. Intl. Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 54(3), P.303-315.
Hammond, D. (1990) Handbook of hypnotic suggestions and metaphors. New York: WW Norton & Company.
Holroyd, J. (1980) Hypnosis treatment for smoking: An evaluative review. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 28, 341–357.
Spiegel, D., Frischholz, E., Fleiss, J. and Spiegel, H. (1993) Predictors of smoking abstinence following a single-session restructuring intervention with self-hypnosis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 150(7), 1090-1090.
Yapko, M. (2003) Trancework: An Introduction to the Practice of Clinical Hypnosis, Third Edition, New York: Brunner-Routledge.