Hypnotherapy is a short-term treatment that works with a person’s conscious and subconscious mind to find solutions to behavioral and emotional problems. It has been shown to be effective in treating issues such as nicotine addiction, eating disorders, traumatic memories, and phobias. A typical program of hypnosis treatment can include weekly 60-90 minute sessions over the course of several weeks.
What Is Hypnosis to Quit Smoking?
A good hypnosis program aims to reinforce a person’s motivation to quit smoking. It anticipates mental blocks and wavering that may occur until the new habit of being smoke-free is established. A typical course of hypnosis treatment for quitting smoking includes a fact-finding consultation, one or more hypnosis sessions, and some kind of follow-up and support.
Central Concepts of Hypnotherapy
Hypnotherapy involves the clinical use of hypnosis to elicit desired changes. Through positive suggestions and imagery, the hypnotherapist guides the person into a state of physical and mental relaxation known as a ‘hypnotic trance.’ In this state, the person is better able to identify subconscious motivations for their behavior and is more open to suggestions for healthy alternatives.
Hypnosis works best when there is mutual cooperation between the person and the therapist. Willingness to follow the therapist’s benign instructions to relax physically and mentally leads to a more positive and effective session. Motivation to change is one of the key ingredients to a successful therapeutic outcome.
How Can Hypnotherapy Help Someone Quit Smoking?
When a person sees a hypnotherapist for smoking or nicotine addiction, they have often already tried to quit multiple times with other methods.1 Although nicotine gum, lozenges, patches, counseling and other options can be effective in a person’s effort to quit, hypnosis has also been found to be helpful to some people. In one study, as many as 48% of the participants reported abstinence from smoking after one year.2
Hypnosis treatment also aims at addressing the subconscious motivations for smoking. These are often solutions for boredom, stress, loneliness, or the desire to fit in. While in the trance state the therapist repeats suggestions that offer alternative behaviors to smoking when those needs or situations come up.
Example of Hypnosis to Stop Smoking
In the consultation session, a person may be asked to talk about their nicotine habits. How often do you smoke? When, where, and why do you smoke? Have you tried to quit before? Why do you want to quit now? These are just a few of the questions a hypnotherapist may ask to clarify the person’s goals and personalize their therapeutic plan.
Then comes the actual hypnosis session. The number of sessions will vary with different therapists. Some suggest multiple sessions while others will say that a single session is sufficient. In either case, the session begins with an induction into a hypnotic trance followed by creative visualization and repeated positive suggestions that the person is no longer dependent on nicotine.
Most therapists offer some kind of follow-up support. This can be in the form of additional sessions or hypnosis recordings that can be listened to for some prescribed period of time after the initial in-person session.
Is Hypnotherapy Effective for Quitting Smoking?
Although there is some evidence to suggest that hypnosis is an effective treatment for quitting smoking, there is debate as to whether or not the data is definitive. That being said, there have been numerous studies that show that hypnotherapy-both by itself and in combination with other modalities-can be an effective treatment for nicotine addiction.
Studies that show the effectiveness of hypnotherapy alone or combined with other treatments include:
- A 2014 randomized controlled trial of 164 patients with serious cardio-pulmonary illness compared the efficacy of hypnotherapy alone, hypnotherapy with nicotine replacement therapy, and conventional nicotine replacement therapy alone. The study found that hypnotherapy patients were more likely than nicotine replacement therapy patients to be nonsmokers at 12 weeks and 26 weeks after hospitalization.3
- A 2012 meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials concluded that acupuncture and hypnotherapy may help smokers quit. However, they suggest that more evidence is needed to determine if such therapies are as effective as pharmacotherapies.4
- A 2005 study showed that 40% of the control group reported abstinence from nicotine 24 weeks after they attended 8 hypnosis sessions over the course of 2 months.5
A 2010 Cochrane review evaluated the findings of 14 separate studies on the effectiveness of hypnosis and concluded that hypnotherapy was as effective as other behavioral interventions such as counseling.6
How to Find a Hypnotherapist to Help You Stop Smoking
Finding a hypnotherapist is becoming easier as hypnosis gains popularity as an evidence based treatment. Here a few considerations for choosing your therapist.
- Check credentials: Requirements vary from state to state, country to country. Some states in the U.S. allow people to describe themselves as hypnotherapists while others only allow the title “hypnotist” or “clinical hypnotist”. Either way, check the credentials of any prospective therapist and make sure they are qualified to practice in your state or region.
- Schedule a free consultation: Many hypnotherapists offer initial consultations for free. These are great opportunities to shop around and educate yourself before making a final decision.
- Ask questions: For example, what is their experience with your particular issue? What kind of success have they had with your issue? Do they offer additional support before and after your sessions? What do they consider to be an ideal client?
In the end, trust your feelings as well as your head. If you got the impression that the therapist has your best interests in mind and you felt a sense of rapport, then that person is probably going to be a good fit.
Pros and Cons of Hypnotherapy for Quitting Smoking
As with any therapeutic treatment there are pros and cons to weigh before any decision is made. Some things to consider when looking at hypnotherapy for quitting smoking include safety, efficacy, cost, length of treatment, quality of services, and whether or not it will work for a specific individual’s personality or physiology.
Pros of hypnosis to quit smoking include:
- It’s safe: The common fears that hypnosis is somehow dangerous are myths.The person in trance is always aware of their experience and is not in any danger of doing something against their will. A 2016 review of 5 major meta-analyses concluded that hypnotherapy is a safe and effective treatment for a variety of presenting issues.7
- It’s all-natural: Hypnotherapy for quitting smoking does not rely on pharmacotherapies to treat addiction to nicotine. Therefore, there are no adverse side effects such as coughing, nausea, increased heart rate, or sleeplessness.
- It’s inexpensive: Compared to other treatments such as counseling and CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), hypnosis is relatively inexpensive. A single session can range from $100 to $300 depending on the city and state the therapist operates. Alternatively, smoking clinics can cost $500 or more.
- It’s quick: Because hypnotherapy is a solution-based treatment the course of therapy is usually short. Many people successfully quit smoking after one or two treatments.
Cons of hypnosis to quit smoking include:
- It may not work for everyone: Although some hypnotists would disagree, some people find that they just can’t be hypnotized.8 This could be because of a lack of rapport between the person and the therapist, or for other reasons. Whatever the case, a professional hypnotherapist will do some sort of hypnosis test session to determine if the treatment is a good fit.
- Quality of service varies: Not all hypnotherapists are created equal. Some may have more or less experience with helping people to quit smoking. Some may not offer additional support materials such as audio recordings that can be helpful in reinforcing positive suggestions. Make sure to research several hypnotherapists before making a decision.
- Shortage of evidence: As mentioned in the section on hypnosis research above, some academics claim that there is not enough evidence and data to prove with certainty that hypnosis helps people quit smoking. Therefore, this might not be the best course for those who feel more comfortable with treatments backed by strong scientific data.
- Insurance: Many insurance companies do not cover hypnosis treatment which can result in out of pocket costs. Check with your insurance company before committing to hypnotherapy as a treatment for nicotine addiction.
At-Home Hypnosis to Stop Smoking
The main reason people seek help quitting smoking is because nicotine is a highly addictive substance9 and it’s hard to give it up by oneself. However, if a person doesn’t want to hire a hypnotherapist for whatever reason, there are several hypnosis techniques one can do safely at home.
One of the main techniques employed in hypnosis is creative visualization. Using this method, one gets into a state of relaxation then imagines oneself engaging in all their daily activities without smoking. The person imagines this with as much detail as possible, focusing on all the positive feelings they will experience as a non-smoker. When those future situations actually come about, the person will often remember the previous visualizations and feelings and choose to abstain from cigarettes.
Learn Self Hypnosis
The mechanics of a self-hypnosis session are not that difficult to learn. Books and other resources have scripts for self-hypnosis routines that can be memorized or recorded. Once one has learned how to elicit a trance state for themselves, they can repeat positive suggestions silently or out loud.
These may include positive, affirming statements such as “I am now a non-smoker”, or “I enjoy taking care of my body and my health.” Whatever suggestions are used, they are most effective when they are clear, without ambiguity, and easy to understand.
There are many hypnosis recordings specifically for quitting smoking on the marketplace. These can be effective for increasing motivation and strengthening resolve.
Any of these methods can be part of a successful strategy to quit smoking. However, the most important factor is usually the willingness and resolve of the person who wants to quit.
For Further Reading
For more information about hypnotherapy for quitting smoking and hypnosis in general see these resources: