Smoking cessation is the most common issue we work with, and in the popular imagination, hypnotherapy is often linked to smoking cessation. So how does it work?

1. You were born a non-smoker

In eight years, we’ve only had two clients dispute this idea, and both of them had mothers who smoked in the womb. For everybody else, you were born free of cigarettes. It didn’t matter how stressed you were, how upset you were or how happy you were, you just wouldn’t even think of having a cigarette. Using hypnosis, we’re able to bring back the feelings of health, youth and freedom, and remind you of your birthright — to live smoke-free.

2. Your first cigarette was (probably) a terrible experience

For almost everybody, your first cigarette tasted disgusting, made you cough and gave you nausea. This is a non-smoker’s reaction to cigarettes. During hypnosis, we bring these feelings back to the forefront of your mind, so that you begin associating cigarettes with disgust, like any non-smoker would.

3. Life as a non-smoker has to be better than as a smoker

We believe that, in order to make a powerful change, your new life as a non-smoker has to be better than your old life in every conceivable way. We’re not just talking about health. Health is a given. Every other factor — your relationship to friends who smoke, your ability to deal with stress, even your ability to get a break from work — has to be addressed. During hypnosis, we build up your future as a non-smoker and make it more appealing, motivating and enticing than life as a smoker.

4. Every stimulus that triggers you to smoke has to be dealt with

Whether it’s waking up in the morning, drinking alcohol or being around other smokers, there are certain triggers that make you want to smoke. In hypnosis, we zero in on these triggers and, depending on what they are, find ways to counteract them. For example, if stress triggers you to smoke, changing your environment, taking a break and breathing deeply for five minutes (without smoking!) can help you clear your mind and relax your body.

5. There is (probably) a part of you holding you back from quitting

As long as that part of you exists, it has to be dealt with. We use a technique called parts therapy to speak to the part of you that still wants to smoke, find out its needs, and find a way to fulfill those needs as you live as a non-smoker. For examples, if the cravings are simply too strong, we might suggest a slow withdrawal process or give you tools to help you manage cravings.

6. Some people are more motivated by pain than pleasure

In principle, we would rather motivate people using the carrot rather than the stick. But for a certain percentage of the population, the prospect of pain motivates people to change much more than the prospect of a better life. I once taught a class and, off-handedly, described a picture of a smoker at the age of 50, lying in a hospital bed and hooked up to a respirator with tubes up their nose. One of my students quit smoking right then and there, and she hasn’t smoked since. It’s not the first thing we’d do, but for especially difficult cases or for people who we know are strongly motivated away from pain, it’s an option.

That, in summary, is how a smoking program works with us.