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Hypnosis for Smoking Cessation


People begin smoking for a variety of different reasons.  For some it may have started early in life because they were identifying with someone they respected.  For others, they may have started smoking to replace something else, or because they enjoyed taking that break with co-workers.  Regardless of the reason, however, smoking becomes a very strong habit, and not one that for many is easy to break.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the research suggests that cigarette smoking can be harder to quit than heroin or cocaine (CDC, 2014).  Some of these hyper-habituative qualities of tobacco products today have been attributed to the various additives, many of which are toxic.  However, it doesn’t stop there.  Recently researchers at the University of Massachusetts, School of Medicine found that advances in the science behind the tobacco products have made the nicotine delivery system more efficient than ever before (Gray, 2014). 

Fortunately, medical science has moved forward with advances as well that have assisted many in their quest to quit smoking.  Unfortunately, the desire to smoke often goes much further in a person’s subconscious make up than just the chemical issues.  Perhaps this is why hypnosis has become so well known as a successful method for kicking the habit as has been documented repeatedly by verifiable, clinical case studies.  As you read further, keep in in mind that the brain works with smoking as a habit.  This is a very important point.  Just how successful is hypnosis over other methods?  For an unbiased answer consider the following:

In the largest study ever conducted on smoking cessation, The Institute of Actuaries statistically analyzed the results of 633 smoking cessation studies which involved 71,806 participants.  The results published by the American Hypnosis Association cited that researchers “found that among all of the techniques used, hypnosis was the most effective” (Viswesvaran & Schmidt, 1992).

This may prompt the smoker who has failed to successfully quit in the past to wonder if those who quit managed to stay smoke free.  Generally, the studies show that they do, but more importantly than the relapse is the reason.  Just as people start smoking for different reasons, those who relapse also do so for different reasons and this can often be avoided with hypnosis as well.  For example, some may decide all they need is a single session to quit smoking.  While that sounds rather fantastic, it is actually been shown effective in clinical studies (Williams & Hall, 1988; Spiegel, Frischholz, Fleiss, & Spiegel, 1993).  A potential downside to the single session approach is that the client then doesn’t get the added benefit over the course of their sessions of being able to have the hypnotherapist help them deal with anxiety related issues that can at times be the catalyst for the ex-smoker to reach for that first cigarette again. 

To put this in verifiable numbers, in a study conducted through the University of Washington, School of Medicine, researchers utilizing hypnotherapy and NLP techniques documented a 90% success rate in smoking cessation at the 6 month follow up period.  Of the study participants who did not remain smoke free, they cited that they resumed smoking in response to intolerable anxiety (Barber, 2001).  This again goes back to the habit or “known” as it’s often referred to in clinical settings.  When one gets flooded and the prefrontal cortex goes offline so to speak, we fall back into what is “known” in the subconscious mind.  The neural pathway that has been habituated.  This is a primary reason that weight loss, like smoking cessation is so complex.  It too is a habit which is why it is also a prime candidate for hypnotherapy.

Anxiety of course is another area for which hypnosis has an impressive and verifiable track record.  It is for this reason in part that in this practice we tailor the smoking cessation plan to the individual.  In most cases, the daily nicotine intake is at a point that the actual cessation session can take place immediately, and your initial session will be your “Quit Date.”  Our office will normally book a double-session for this so that there is plenty of time to do a thorough in-take questionnaire, history, and allow you to get all your questions answered before moving intot he clinical hypnosis part of the session.  While the protocol used for single session smoking cessation has been shown to be 90% effective (Zarren, 2002) every person is different, and we do not advocate a once size fits all, or cookie-cutter approach.  You are an individual and deserved to be addressed as such. 

Even when working with the single session smoking cessation protocol, we like to keep in touch and our office works with you to get you back on the calendar if you find yourself having challenges.  For others we offer a hybrid protocol that has been developed over years of working with smoking cessation.  While the original smoking cessation session is much the same, we schedule 3-7 day follow up to reinforce the new behaviors and take care of any problems that arise as well as a 21-day follow-up as clinical practice has shown us that if someone is going to regress, that seems to be prime time-frame.  Along the way we ask that you check in with our office daily.  For those with more barriers a protocol created by Dr. Harold Crasilneck is utilized in which three shorter sessions are conducted over three consecutive days.  In all cases we ask that clients report in with progress or challenges.  In this manner if stressful situations occur and additional sessions are needed, we can attempt to make accommodations quickly.

As was referenced earlier, treating smoking as a deeply ingrained habit is what allows such I high degree of success, and in the vast majority of cases, your initial visit will be your stop date.  In rare other situations, such as in cases where physical barriers cause complications as in cases where you may be smoking multiple packs a day there may be an added step.  In cases such as these, it may be advisable to bring down the daily amount by utilizing a proven protocol combined with hypnotherapy sessions prior to the cessation session(s).  In either event, be it a single session case, or multiple sessions, a three-week follow-up may be advisable.  This seems to be the crucial point where things can begin to change and reversals in behavior can be seeded if not addressed. 

As we often explain, you didn’t become a chain smoker overnight, and while we may be able to help you stop smoking overnight, the goal is not for you to stop smoking, but to become a permanent ex-smoker.  This is where the reinforcement sessions come into play.  If approached in this manner as a team effort, the College of Hypnotherapy cites impressive results.  An additional plus to the client is that with rising cost of tobacco products, smoking cessation sessions likely pay for themselves.

If you have questions and would like to speak with someone regarding hypnotherapy for smoking cessation, contact us online, or call the office at 469-225-9040.

William Carpenter holds a certification in Hypnosis for Smoking Cessation from the American Hypnosis Association.



Barber, J. (2001). Freedom from smoking: integrating hypnotic methods and rapid smoking to facilitate smoking cessation. International journal of clinical and experimental hypnosis, 49(3), 257-266.

CDC; Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (n.d). Smoking & Tobacco Use; Nicotine.  Retrieved from cdc ‘dot’ gov/tobacco/quit_smoking/how_to_quit/you_can_quit/nicotine.

Crasilneck, H. B. (1990). Hypnotic techniques for smoking control and psychogenic impotence. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 32(3), 147-153.

Gray, S. (2104, January 14).  DPH, UMMS researchers discover increased cigarette nicotine yield; Findings indicate change in design by tobacco companies.  Retrieved from umassmed ‘dot’ edu/news/news-archives/2014/01/dph-umms-researchers-discover-increased-cigarette-nicotine-yield.

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, 1090-1090.

Viswesvaran, C., & Schmidt, F. L. (1992). A meta-analytic comparison of the effectiveness of smoking cessation methods. Journal of Applied Psychology, 77(4), 554.

Williams, J. M., & Hall, D. W. (1988). Use of single session hypnosis for smoking cessation. ...behaviors, 13(2), 205-208.

Zarren, J. I., & Eimer, B. N. (2002). Brief cognitive hypnosis: Facilitating the change of dysfunctional behavior. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.