Hypnosis experts often help people with goals to improve their health. Quitting smoking is a common health goal. We all know the benefits of being a non-smoker: healthier skin, a longer life-expectancy and significantly reduced risks of a heart attack or lung cancer.
You are likely to have some misgivings about the concept of hypnosis and how it works for smoking cessation. The idea of being seduced into a trance by a stranger is rather daunting. Hypnosis in the media doesn’t help. You think of it as something entertainers like David Blaine might do to embarrass audience members at magic shows.
If you are considering hypnotherapy, we are here to assure you that Derren Brown isn’t going to rock up and trick you into drinking a bottle of vinegar. Professional hypnotherapists don’t aim to make you do things you don’t want to. In fact, evidence suggests that hypnosis does not work unless the subject has existing intentions to achieve something.
So, hypnosis involves amplifying existing desires – like the wish to quit smoking!
Now, what actually happens during a hypnotherapy session?
There are several methods of inducing hypnosis, none of which involve swinging a watch in front of the eyes (this is a Hollywood myth). This rapid movement would be distracting. Hypnosis is all about focus.
Hypnotic induction techniques are meant to quiet the conscious mind and achieve a trance like state. Therapists use combinations of suggestions and words to have this effect on clients. Hypnotic induction can occur within guided sessions or through the use of administered tapes (self-hypnosis).
Entering a hypnotic trance is not the same as being asleep. It is a very deep state of altered awareness. Scans have show that people actually experience more brain activity during hypnosis. This heightened brain activity is meant to allow a person to focus in on their specific goal.
Psychologists have proposed that some individuals frequently enter trance like states. Have you ever been so in the zone with a project that you forgot to get lunch? This intense concentration or ‘flow’ is known as a spontaneous trance, whereas a hypnotic trance is induced and much, much deeper.
Therapists introduce ‘hypnotic suggestions’ to clients once they enter a trance. These are statements encouraging goals for control, confidence and a life free from smoking.
The client is often asked to visualise certain things. These could be positive aspects of a future as a non-smoker. They could also be unpleasant sensations associated with current smoking habits.
Some therapists will follow standardised scripts for these tasks. But hypnosis sessions can vary a lot. Hypnosis does not share the same evidence base as other treatments for smoking addiction. This means that there are not the same established protocols as methods like cognitive-behavioural therapy.