Do You Smoke? Want to Quit?

On a Hypnotherapy/NLP forum I frequent, we’ve recently been having a discussion regarding Smoking Cessation.  Some Hypnotists have expressed that they were becoming discouraged with their efforts to help clients quit smoking cigarettes.  Let’s face it – if you’re a Hypnotist committed to helping someone break free from a habit that, for all intents and purposes, is a slow form of suicide, it can get pretty discouraging when it appears your work is, literally, “going up in smoke”.  Some of my discussion around this has been incorporated in the paragraphs below, and will be of interest to both Hypnotists and their clients.

In the discussion we talked about client commitment to the process.  Without the client being committed to the process for their own reasons, it is fruitless to move forward.  So some Hypnotists just give up at that point, and either let the potential client go to someone else for help, or the clients gives up completely on quitting.

Neither is a good choice.  Why?  Because potential smoking cessation clients who call to get help generally DO want to quit, and most are trying desperately to figure out how to do that, but have bought into the whole “It’s so hard” deal that they really do need your help, as a Hypnotist, to get to the next stage – deciding once and for all to take the plunge.

In terms of NLP modalities, most people either move toward something or away from something.  People tend to move away from something that might appear too painful, difficult, etc. to undertake.  I think the biggest challenge is getting the client to move toward something, rather than to move away from something. People that smoke are actually really good at moving toward something;  after all they’ve been moving toward cigarettes the whole time they’ve been hooked on them. To many smokers, giving up cigarettes is like giving up an old friend, or giving up something they have falsely thought gave them more control over stress. Once they are educated about how smoking actually adds stress, they generally have very few, if any, excuses to continue.

So I believe it’s a matter of diverting the attention away from the sensation that says “Gotta have a cigarette!” and move it toward something more healthy. The client must decide to follow through – they have a monetary investment (because they must pay for the two sessions up-front to make the commitment), so most will do that. If they don’t follow through (with the homework and methodology), and still feel they are ready to quit, it may cost them a bit more for the extra session or two – when they finally realize they either have to ‘go it alone’ or have the help hypnosis can provide. Most choose the latter.

Much of my first session for smoking cessation clients is focused on getting them to recognize the feelings associated with when they feel they need a cigarette, and to move the attention from that urge to something else. Like any habit, the more a person chooses the alternative (healthy) response, the more imbedded it becomes in the sub-conscious mind. I actually find NLP works better than direct suggestion for this part, because we can anchor in the desired response.

For heavy smokers, between the first and second sessions, I tend to have them cut back by five cigarettes per day, until at the fifth or seventh day (depending on pack size normally smoked), they arrive at their session not having smoked that day. Naturally, they are given motivation and help to do this with the hypnotic suggestions I provide in the initial session. I explain on the first session (I do a two session protocol, generally) that on the day they arrive at the office NOT having smoked, is the day they start a NEW habit in their lives. Up until that point, they have been practicing recognition of the urges, and gradually replacing cigarettes with doing the new habit. It is that NEW habit that we are motivating with hypnosis to keep, and in keeping the new habit, they are learning to have control over every area of their lives that had previously been dominated by the old habit. I embed the positive experience by having a small celebration, which anchors in the new habit.

This is how I quit smoking on my own (using self-hypnosis) nearly 10 years ago. I know it works.

PS: I smoked heavily for thirty years, and tried more times than I can think of to quit, with minimal success and then back on the butts again. I was finally given the choice by my employer to quit or be fired (he was a heart surgeon), and I finally recognized that I was tired of hacking up a lung every morning, and decided the job meant more to me than continuing to smoke. But I still had to break all of the numerous habits that held me chained to the cigarettes – and that’s what keeps most people stuck – the habits that go along with the smoking habit.