Some people have reported that hypnosis helped them quit smoking. However, more research is necessary to determine how effective it may be.
Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the United States.
Stopping smoking is typically challenging because nicotine, a substance in cigarettes and tobacco products, has the potential for addiction. When a person stops smoking, they may experience withdrawal symptoms, which can persist for months.
Some people have reported that hypnosis helped them overcome nicotine dependence and stop smoking. However, research has not provided reliable evidence that hypnosis can help a person quit smoking.
This article investigates hypnosis to quit smoking, its effectiveness, methods of hypnosis, and how to try it.
Some people use hypnosis as a tool to facilitate therapy. A hypnotherapist may induce a trance-like state in which a person is awake and conscious but detached from their immediate environment. In this state, a person may be able to better focus on inner experiences, memories, thoughts, and feelings.
There are different methods of hypnosis, but therapists typically use a technique that psychiatrist Herbert Spiegel developed in the 1970s to help with smoking cessation.
During this type of hypnosis, a therapist may attempt to modify a person’s perception of smoking while they are in a state of deep concentration.
The therapist instructs the person under hypnosis that their body deserves protection from smoke, that smoking is poison, and that life as a nonsmoker is advantageous. The therapist may also train the person in techniques of self-hypnosis.
Research on hypnosis as a tool for smoking cessation has produced varying results.
The studies in the review did not find significant differences in smoking cessation at 6 months or longer. The review found that the studies that suggested hypnosis could help with smoking cessation were poorly designed and were on a small scale.
During hypnosis, a person may imagine things in response to suggestions. Neuroimaging
Some researchers believe hypnosis may be effective because it engages communication through images and symbols and allows suggestions to reach the unconscious mind.
According to research, hypnosis alone is not likely to help a person stop smoking. However, it may still be a beneficial tool for people trying to quit.
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A therapist may use hypnosis as a therapy tool in hypnotherapy, or a person can learn self-hypnosis.
There are various types of hypnosis. A person can discuss what they hope to achieve and the different methods of hypnosis with a therapist and decide on the best way forward together.
During hypnosis, a therapist may:
- Lead a person into a state of deep relaxation.
- Use the methods they have discussed with the person, such as trying to change their perception of something through suggestion.
- Gradually lead the person out of the hypnotic state.
According to the National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom, many people feel relaxed and refreshed after hypnosis. The NHS also states that people remain in complete control during hypnosis and do not have to follow the therapist’s suggestions. A person can bring themselves out of the hypnotic state if they are uncomfortable.
In self-hypnosis, a person induces a state of deep relaxation and focus without guidance. There is no standard method of self-hypnosis. A therapist may help train a person in how to self-hypnotize.
In general, self-hypnosis involves:
- setting a specific goal to focus on
- entering a state of deep relaxation using techniques such as deep breathing
- imagining a peaceful, pleasant scene
- focusing on and visualizing the goal
- gradually leaving the hypnotic state, using techniques such as slowly counting down
Due to a lack of reliable clinical evidence, it is difficult to determine the success rates of hypnosis on smoking cessation.
Some studies have found that none of the people who underwent hypnosis stopped smoking, while others found some success.
More rigorous, high quality, unbiased research is necessary to determine the effectiveness of hypnosis to aid smoking cessation.
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If a person wants to find a therapist to try hypnotherapy for smoking cessation, they can search an online database such as:
- American Hypnosis Association
- National Board for Certified Clinical Hypnotherapists
- American Society of Clinical Hypnosis
Before beginning hypnosis therapy, a person may want to research the therapist and find out whether they are qualified, can provide helpful resources, and have succeeded with smoking cessation through hypnosis.
To ensure a therapist is reliable, a person can also:
- ask their doctor for a referral
- contact a mental health professional directly to discuss hypnosis options
- check with their health insurer to find in-network or preferred practitioners
- contact professional mental health and hypnotherapy associations
Learn about some other ways to give up smoking.
Some people have reported success with hypnosis as a means to quit smoking. However, research does not provide reliable evidence that hypnosis alone is effective for smoking cessation.
Hypnosis may be more beneficial with a qualified therapist in combination with other smoking cessation strategies. It may also help a person cope with some nicotine withdrawal symptoms, such as anxiety.