Hypnosis for Smoking – Stop & Quit for Good – Harpenden, Hertfordshire
The most common question I get asked about using hypnosis for stopping smoking – smoking cessation – is ‘does it work?’ And that’s a very fair question.
Now, if you go googling this you will find mixed reviews; NHS choices says only that ‘hypnosis can be efficacious’ – meaning it can be effective. Why so lukewarm? Has there been any scientific research?
Well yes; and the short answer is that evidence shows hypnosis is far and away the most effective technique of all for stopping smoking and quitting for good – as summarised in the New Scientist in 2010 (Lynn, Green, Accardi, & Cleere). Especially when it is carried out with an element of counselling. That is the therapy part of the word hypnotherapy, and why I talk about hypnotherapy for stopping smoking and not just hypnosis to quit.
But it does take some sifting through to understand the science.
The research evidence
When ‘scientific’ studies are carried out, they try to standardize the method used so that everyone is treated exactly the same. The way they did this is using standard scripts or even pre-recorded tapes. Now, no decent hypnotherapist will do this in practice (although some less scrupulous or less well-trained operators may do).
A good hypnotherapist certified at practitioner level will very definitely tailor the work to the individual. Certainly I spend an hour learning about what leads my client to smoke, and what are the motivations to stop and to become and remain non smoker. Even so, these ‘substandard’ techniques still report a success rate of one in three (Viswesvaran & Schmidt, 1992; reviewed 633 research studies) success rate.
A high quality controlled study in 2006 found that intensive (8-session) hypnotherapy resulted in 40% of patients being free from cigarettes after six months (Elkins, Marcus, Bates, Rajab, & Cook, 2006). Not a single person in the control group had managed to stop smoking on their own for this length of time.
It looks like Lynn et al in the New Scientist have it about right, as it stands. They conclude that hypnosis is “the best way of giving up smoking,” particularly when used in a personalised way, in conjunction with motivational interviewing and behavioural counselling; which is, in my view good hypnotherapy.
What about claims of 94% success rates ‘guaranteed’ ?
Some hypnotherapists like to claim success rates as high as 94%, and often refer to research published in 1968 by Von Dedenroth in the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis. But this research was largely based on ‘anecdotal’ data, and is not reliable. However there is an important point in all this. When people choose to see a hypnotherapist, and maybe pay good money, or are given tasks to do before they are treated, then all these factors tend to both select and create a more motivated client. So therapists in private practice will very often have higher success rates than you will find in a ‘one size fits all’ standardised trail amongst people who include the very motivated and the not really so motivated.
Even so, I think you’d be best advised to be a little sceptical of near-certainty success rates and ‘guarantees’. For sure, some therapists will use a business offer where they offer your money back as a kind of guarantee; but that’s nothing to do with a guarantee of success. It’s really just a marketing gimmick.
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Other Techniques Reviewed
You may be interested to know how effective other techniques are compared with hypnotherapy.
Behavioural counselling is superior to treatment with medication – Hartmann-Boyce, Stead, Cahill, & Lancaster, 2013. ‘Motivational Interviewing’ is effective in enhancing smokers’ ability to quit successfully – Heckman, Egleston, & Hofman, 2010.
However, counseling is substantially more effective when hypnosis is used (Lynn, Green, Accardi, & Cleere, 2010)
An analysis of alternative smoking cessation aids published in the American Journal of Medicine found that acupuncture is an effective treatment for smoking — more effective than medication or nicotine replacement — but not as effective as hypnotherapy (Tahiri, Mottillo, Joseph, Pilote, & Eisenberg, 2012)
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
Nicotine replacement is the most popular method to try and quit smoking, because products such as nicotine gums and patches are readily available over-the-counter, and people believe that they are addicted to nicotine in cigarettes. A 2008 analysis found that in total, only 7 to 9 percent of people succeed in stopping smoking using patches and nasal spray (Shiffman et al, 2002). This is slightly worse than with other medications (see below).
A meta-analysis published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal compared seven popular medications used for smoking cessation including buproprion (Wellbutrin) and varenicline (Champix), as well as nicotine replacement products such as the nicotine patch, gum, or nasal spray (Eisenberg et al, 2008). The overall effectiveness is not very good, with less than 10% of patients remaining abstinent from cigarettes by 6 months.
- Eisenberg, M.J., Filian, K.B., Yavin, D., Belisle, P., Mottillo, S., Joseph, L., Gervais, A., O’Loughlin, J., Paradis, G., Rinfret, S., & Pilote, L. (2008). Pharmacotherapies for smoking cessation: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Canadian Medical Association Journal, 179 (2), 135-144.
- Elkins, G., Marcus, J., Bates, M., Rajab, J., & Cook, T. (2007). Intensive hypnotherapy for smoking cessation: A prospective study. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 54, 303-315.
- Hartmann-Boyce, J., Stead, L.F., Cahill, K., & Lancaster, T. (2013). Efficacy of interventions to combat tobacco addiction: Cochrane update of 2012 reviews. Addiction, 108(10), 1711-1721.
- Heckman, C.J., Egleston, B.L., & Hofman, M.T. (2010). Efficacy of motivational interviewing for smoking cessation: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Tobacco Control, 19, 410-416.
- Lynn, S., Green. J., Accardi, M., & Cleere, C. (2010). Hypnosis and Smoking Cessation: The State of the Science. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 52(3), 177-181.
- Shiffman, S., Hellebusch, S.J., Gorsline, J., Gorodetzky, C.W., Chiang, Y.K., Schleusener, D.S., & Di Marino, M.E. (2002). Real-world efficacy of prescription and over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy. Addiction, 97(5), 505-516.
- Spiegel, D., Frischholz, E.J., Fleiss, J.L. & Spiegel, H. (1993) Predictors of Smoking Abstinence Following a Single-Session Restructuring Intervention with Self-Hypnosis. American Journal of Psychiatry, 150(7), 1090-1097.
- Tahiri, M., Mottillo, S., Joseph, L., Pilote, L., & Eisenberg, M.J. (2012). Alternative smoking cessation aids: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. American Journal of Medicine, 125(6), 576-84.
- Viswesvaran, C., & Schmidt, F. (1992). A meta-analytic comparison of the effectiveness of smoking cessation methods. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77, 554-561.
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