Alan Answers – Can Hypnosis Really Help You Quit Smoking?

Someone shared this Huffington Post article (Read Full Article Here) on hypnotism and and the link to quit smoking with me, and I want to share some thoughts on what author Nina Emkin had to say.

But if there’s everything all health professionals agree on, it’s this: put down the smokes, any way you can, no matter how silly you feel about being hypnotized or obsessively chewing Juicy Fruit or starting talk therapy with a counselor.

Considering how long it has been a source of therapy and healing, hypnosis is a largely misunderstood field. Often, the implication is that hypnosis is silly or “New-agey.” I think humor has a place in healing, but not silliness. The reality is that there are stories from the ancient Greeks that speak to using the same ideas found in hypnosis for healing. Hypnosis has been around longer than the AMA, the scientific method, and all prescription drugs.

But what, exactly, are these hypnotherapists doing? While there as many different hypnosis techniques…  ….He also performed breathing exercises when he was tempted. A little silly, sure, but infinitely better for him than a pack of Parliaments.

She asks what the hypnotists are doing, but rarely do we ask what the drugs doctors prescribe are doing.

Becoming a hypnotherapist isn’t like becoming a doctor where there’s a set curriculum and a series of nationally recognized qualification tests; rather there are variety of ways to become “certified,” ranging from traditional schools to online courses. One of the most respected certification-givers is the American Council of Hypnotist Examiners… “There are a lot of people that call themselves certified that are not well-trained or competent,” he says. “While they can’t do any harm, they won’t do any good. Do your homework.”

Yes, it’s true that hypnotherapists are not licensed, but a license doesn’t guarantee that anyone knows what they are doing. There are plenty of doctors that don’t do some patients very much good. Having a set curriculum, etc., doesn’t mean that “treatments” are set. A doctor friend of mine told me a story about a convention he attended – there were fights about how to treat certain conditions! Doctors, supposedly trained uniformly and scientifically, often don’t agree on how to treat illnesses.

Several years ago, Nelson, a 39-year-old banker from New York City, attended a group hypnosis session in Boston with several friends who were also trying to quit smoking, and they were all hypnotized en masse. He says, “ didn’t crave cigarettes for a good four months afterwards. Something in my mind turned it off: didn’t want it, didn’t need it.” Then, after a minor car accident, he ran to the corner bodega to grab a pack. “I smoked to calm myself down,” he recalls. 

This story about Nelson smoking again after a car accident illustrates a great point – anxiety is a big part of smoking. Many relapses happen when there is a major stress, like a divorce or an accident.

While the hypnosis was effective, Nelson felt like his choice to smoke or not smoke was being dictated not by him but by an outside force in a way that made him uncomfortable. He has no plans to try hypnosis again.

Nelson’s point about feeling unhappy being told what to do is important. That is how my approach differs. I don’t tell clients what to do. I don’t tell them how they should feel. During the session I set up the circumstances to change their emotional climate, so that more options become available, and change is easier to make.