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  • Mark Brafield

On giving up smoking

As a hypnotherapist I am regularly asked to help clients give up smoking - it is one of the most common enquiries I receive - so I wanted to write a little about my approach and how it has changed with experience.

The most important thing to understand about hypnotherapy in relation to smoking is that it will not do all the work for you. Sadly, I cannot report that you lie down on my couch, I click my fingers, and you dance out the door never thinking about cigarettes again. If only it were that easy !

The reality, as with every aspect of hypnotherapy, is that it will not help you if you don't actually want to give up smoking to begin with. On the other hand, if you really do want to give up - and I mean, really want to give up - it can be a powerful ally.

(And I wonder why you wouldn't want to give it up ? Apart from the small fact that, sooner or later, the 4,865 chemicals in every cigarette are going to kill you, smoking 20 cigarettes a day is currently costing £3,796 a year).

Some people manage to give up smoking purely as a matter of willpower. My uncle was one. He was a doctor, highly qualified in his speciality, who took up smoking in the 1930s when, astoundingly, it was regarded as health - giving. He was smoking 60 a day when he had such a bad coughing fit that he coughed himself unconscious. A man of iron resolve, he simply decided that he was not going to smoke a cigarette ever again. And he didn't.

But not everyone has such a strong will, and this is where hypnotherapy can be so helpful. Research shows that if you want to give up smoking, hypnotherapy can make you 5 times more likely to succeed than if you rely on willpower alone.

From my experience as a hypnotherapist, I have learned that you generally get better results from working gently with conditions rather than trying to cast them out like demons. (A colleague of mine likens this approach to 'shouting at foreigners'). As a hypnotherapist it is open to me to make you vomit with nausea at the mere thought of a cigarette (and one of my clients was disappointed that I did not do so), but is that helpful ? How does it actually help to replace one destructive habit with another ?

I prefer to work with the underlying addiction, showing you exactly how and why your mind tricks you into believing that you want another cigarette, when actually you may not, and then in trance leading you back into that state of complete freedom that you enjoyed before you ever thought about smoking.

And for the same reason, I spread my non - smoking programme over 3 sessions. For some reason that no-one has ever explained to me, hypnotherapists are meant to deal with non - smoking in one fell swoop. In my view, this reduces hypnotherapy to a magic trick, and turns me into an authority figure wagging my finger at you, whereas that is neither accurate nor what I want to be. Further, the weight of scientific evidence shows that after 12 months, 80% clients treated with just one session of hypnotherapy are likely to have relapsed; the figures for clients with 3 or more sessions are much lower.

In my first session, I explain something of the neuroscience behind what we call addiction (which is, in fact, largely a matter of association) and introduce you to the wonderful state of relaxation which we call hypnosis. I leave you with my relaxation CD so that you can return to that state of deep relaxation whenever you want. I neither ask nor expect that you should stop smoking in that first week, but I do ask that if you continue - and it is always your choice - that you smoke 'mindfully', asking yourself what you are doing when you smoke, and why you are continuing (as you now know) to be fooled by the tricks your primitive mind is playing on you.

In our second session we will look more closely at your smoking habits and the cost to your health, (as well as your purse and relationships) of smoking. This isn't comfortable to confront, and it is not meant to be, but the good news is that the body has remarkable powers of healing, and surprisingly quickly, when you give up. By now used to the process of deep relaxation, in our second session together I will lead you into a world where you do not have to resist smoking, it simply does not exist.

And when you leave my consulting room at the end of that second session you are not someone trying to resist smoking through gritted teeth, you are actually non - smoker. But what that means is if you choose to smoke another cigarette, after that, it is not that the process has failed. It is because you have made that choice.

The third session is simply to review the work we have done together and to take you once again back to that deep state of relaxation which, the more you practice it, locates you in that wise, authentic part of your self that knows that, ultimately, only a fool ever smokes.

Don't be that fool. Let me help you to kick the habit once and for all.

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