When most people think of hypnosis, they think of a magician, dangling a pendulum in front of someone while saying, “You’re getting sleepy …” but that is not all hypnosis is about. In fact, many people who want to stop smoking turn to hypnotherapy to achieve their goal.
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Hypnosis involves using relaxation techniques to bring a person into an altered state of consciousness known as a trance. While in a trance, the person becomes more apt to accept suggestions, ideas, and images provided by the hypnotist. The trance state also can help people better understand their bodies and their emotional and psychological responses.
Research does not support hypnotherapy as a proven means to help people stop smoking. A scientific review of existing studies found no evidence to suggest that hypnotherapy worked better than other smoking cessation aids or no treatment at all.
However, some individuals have reported success in quitting smoking with the help of hypnotherapy. For hypnosis to be successful as a way to stop smoking, the person has to have faith in the therapist and be OK with being in a passive and susceptible state of mind.
History of Hypnotherapy as Treatment
Hypnotherapy has been used in psychological treatment since the 1950s when psychiatrist Milton H. Erickson showed the potential of hypnosis as an aid to traditional therapy. The American Medical Association and the American Psychological Association recognized hypnotherapy as a valid medical procedure in 1958.
The first use of hypnotherapy to help people stop smoking was described by Dr. Herbert Spiegel in a 1970 journal article. His hypnotic strategy has become known as the “Spiegel technique” and involves concentration on three main ideas:
• Smoking is poisonous to your body.
• You need your body if you want to live.
• If you want to live, you need to respect and protect your body.
Today, hypnotherapists will suggest that smokers associate cigarettes with unpleasant tastes, odors or sensations—for instance, that cigarette smoke smells like bus fumes, that the smoke has a nasty taste, or that smoking will cause you to suffer from dry mouth. They might