Hypnosis is the second most effective way of making someone stop smoking.
I get more e-mails enquiring whether I can help someone stop smoking, than for any other single problem. Mostly they ask “how long will it take and what will it cost?”
I must have written over 200 individual replies to such enquiries (many to new therapists who were just trying to check out the competition) and don’t think I’ve ever said what the person wanted to hear. The problem is that the simple answers are misleading and the honest ones are long and boring. So I decided to say what I have to say, here, once. If people really want to stop smoking, they might just have enough motivation to read it.
Many smokers have been led to believe that quitting is just a question of lying on some hypnotherapist’s couch for an hour, and handing over a fat cheque. Anyone that naïve is probably best advised to go to a dedicated smoking cessation clinic and write their cheque (for as much as £250). You have a 6% chance of quitting. You also have a 6% chance of quitting if you just decide to stop and do nothing else. The knowledge that you’ve parted with a lot of money may, however, be just the additional incentive you need to stay stopped for a while.
Over the years I have seen several patients who, in their time, did industrial quantities of sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ rock ‘n’ roll, and gave everything up (including cocaine, morphine and alcohol) when they, for example, got pregnant. Everything, that is, except the fags which they just couldn’t quit. I don’t know any therapist who claims to treat alcohol or cocaine addictions successfully in a single session, and I’m not convinced nicotine is a whole lot easier. Indeed, there is evidence to suggest it is at least as difficult.
It is also a fact that smoking is very often a coping strategy for some other underlying neuroses. Removing the coping strategy without dealing with the underlying issues is just plain bad therapy, and not in the patient’s best interests.
Whilst smoking might just possibly be no more than a bad habit for some people, it can equally be a whole lot more complicated than that. When someone writes in and says “I’m a smoker” they aren’t telling me why they smoke or how their life would be without smoking.
I charge the same fees for treating smokers as I charge for everything else from thumb sucking to endogenous depression and all points in between. How long it takes and how long it costs for a smoker to become, and remain, a non-smoker depends on the same variables as how long it takes for anyone else to change anything else.
I’m a hypnotist. I’m a good hypnotist, but whatever hypnotist I am I’m the same hypnotist for every patient I see. Some stop smoking in the first session and I see them once or twice more to make sure they stay stopped. (Incidentally, neurologically this reinforcement is absolutely essential.) Some cut from 60 a week to 8 in the first week, and may take a few more sessions to get them stopped completely and stopped for good (which you can read about here). One 74 year old with emphysema who couldn’t remember ever not smoking stopped after the sixth session, but only because he died.
The question isn’t how long will it take me? It’s how long will it take you? I can’t answer that question, and nor can any other practitioner. I can tell you it will be a minimum of two session however good a hypnotee you are, and that even if it takes twenty sessions and costs thousands of pounds, it’s better than you managed on your own.
I insist that smokers get rid of their supplies before coming to me, and that they arrive clean. I expect them to shower and put on clean clothes before visiting. This may sound brutal, but it helps. There’s something of an incongruity in walking out of here feeling head to toe a non-smoker, and yet stinking like yesterday’s ash tray. People who turn up and blush whilst admitting they had a last puff in the car on the way over, can be reappointed to a later date and charged a cancellation fee.
I treat smokers on a lung cancer ward in an NHS Trust Hospital. I take not-smoking very seriously; I think everyone should.