A case study involving the use of Hypnotherapy for Smoking and Hayfever
By Andrew Brown
Mark originally approached me for hypnotherapy to help him give up smoking. Being a friend of Mark’s I knew a little about his background and although I was not sure that he had the best of ‘reasons’ for giving up, I still felt that I could gain some success with him. This case presented itself as a pretty straightforward one, the only problem that I could envisage was that we knew each other quite well, but with the correct preparation there was no reason why a rapid induction should not succeed.
The therapy was conducted over two sessions, the second of which was only to back up the suggestions given in the first and to chart the patients progress. It will be shown clearly the importance of treating any addiction (including smoking) purely as a psychological crutch and therefore the cause and triggers of the crutch must be found. I want to present this case because it backs up my belief that the addiction to smoking cannot be eliminated by suggestion alone. Everybody has a reason for smoking, and it’s not simply “BECAUSE THEY ENJOY IT”.
Mark is a 22-year-old bar worker, which he perceives as a fairly stress-free job, who lives with his girlfriend “Lisa”. Already knowing a little about his background, I knew that Lisa had a reputation as being very loud and overpowering, which caused a lot of arguments, and it was obvious to me who was the dominant force in this relationship. Without wishing to jump to any conclusions (the first rule of any type of analysis) I thought this maybe one of the reasons behind his need for a crutch (in this case smoking). Whenever taking on a smoking therapy I find it vitally important to find out their reasons for quitting. The usual answer is “to save money” I believe that one of the biggest factors in the unreliability of hypnotherapy to cure a smoking addiction is the smoker’s reason for giving up. The therapist who only takes on smokers who ‘have to’ give up for medical reasons will always have a much higher success rate than those therapists who take on any smoker. This is simply down to the level of desire that the smoker has to quit. In Mark’s case the reason was money, this was a bad start but I felt that if the therapy were conducted thoroughly then there would be no reason why it would be unsuccessful.
My aims as the Therapist
My aims during the therapy were to initially get to the root of the problem. Smoking, as with any addiction is mainly a crutch to protect the smoker from deep-seated emotions and anxieties. It is vitally important that the therapist gets to the root cause of the need for the crutch before it can be eliminated (this will be explored in more detail later on). Once I have discovered the cause and triggers of the crutch, using in-depth hypnoanalysis, I then use direct suggestions to eliminate the crutch for good. I will aim to complete this course in two sessions, the first session using the hypnoanalysis and direct suggestions and the second session being just strengthening suggestions to back up the first session.
Ultimately my aim is for Mark to become a non-smoker after his very first session and not only for him to remain a non-smoker, but to feel good about it from the start.
After initial preparation, I proceeded with a rapid induction technique, that had been taught to me whilst doing an advanced training course with “The Serene Clinics UK” but any established technique that you are confident of and well versed in is fine.
Treatment: session 1
The induction that I used produced the perfect working state (that of somnambulism) within 1 minute. Once I was happy that Mark had obtained the state I then proceeded straight to the in-depth hypnoanalysis using the pinpoint method. It worked beautifully; Mark took me straight to the reason why he lit up his first cigarette. He smoked his first cigarette when he was 19 years old and was worried that Lisa, his girlfriend, was pregnant. Using pinpoint analysis I was able to give Mark the experience of that first cigarette all over again and found ‘HE HATED IT’; non-the-less he became addicted to them anyway. This is a sign of just how strong the need for a crutch can be. However this was just the root cause of the smoking and it is still important to find consequent triggers, which can also be found using the pinpoint method. He then led me to various triggers including fear, anxieties and peer pressure all of which has played a part in turning a 19-year-old non smoker into a 22-year-old addict.
After completing the hypnoanalysis, using self-realisation techniques throughout, it was now time to give direct suggestions, not only to prevent Mark needing a cigarette again but to make him feel really good about himself and the fact that he doesn’t need to smoke anymore.
During our short chat before the second session, discussing his success in the previous week it was clear to me that the first session was very successful. Mark had not only given up smoking but he found it very easy. He hadn’t had a single craving for a cigarette and he found that unlike previous attempts to give up smoking he hadn’t turned his need for gratification to food (which will be talked about in conclusions and recommendations)
It was during this chat that he revealed his hayfever problem and he was overjoyed to hear that I could also give him relief from these symptoms using hypnotherapy. Hayfever, as with any allergy, always has a start point (cause and triggers). So we decided that I would deal with his hayfever during this session.
During the second session my aim was to gain the workable state (true somnambulism) which was obtained even quicker (30 seconds) due to the cue which he was given post hypnotically, during the first session. I then proceeded with hypnoanalysis to find the cause of the hayfever, which turned out to be a very common reason, (trouble at home causing great anxiety during childhood). After checking that all the triggers were related I then proceeded with the direct suggestions to eliminate all symptoms. After that I simply took him through what was covered in session 1 and strengthened the suggestions with more direct suggestions. At the same time double-checking that there was nothing missed during that first session.
Both Mark and I felt that his progress over the two sessions was such that he had no need for additional therapy. He was now happy and confident that he was a non-smoker and felt all the benefits that come with it, he felt fitter, stronger and healthier. He was also confident that his hayfever would not return, such is the effectiveness of the technique used. One of the biggest benefits of utilising the workable state is that after the therapy the patient feels absolutely wonderful, brimming with energy and above all confidence in the therapy itself, this goes a long way to aiding it’s success. If the patient feels that the therapy hasn’t or won’t work then it WILL NOT work. (This is an area that needs further research)
I have seen Mark on regular occasions since and I am as proud as he is that he is still a non-smoker. And he was very pleased to tell me that he has just had his first summer in ten years without any hayfever.
Conclusions and Recommendations
I have focused this particular case study on the problems encountered by almost all therapists when working with smoking cessation. Giving up smoking is probably the most common reason that a person consults a hypnotherapist, unfortunately this is perhaps also the most unreliable of all the therapies that are offered.
The most common form of smoking cessation consists of a long-winded relaxation induction followed by a series of suggestions, that in most cases the patient is too lethargic to take on board. Then the patient is brought back to full consciousness with a few feel-good suggestions.
At this point the patient feels pretty good and probably doesn’t feel the need for a cigarette, this is more due to the fact that the patient is relaxed and doesn’t feel the need for his/ her crutch. Then one of two scenarios will usually take place.
The patient will go home and maybe doesn’t feel the need for a cigarette for a couple of days. At this point the patient is quite happy that the therapy has worked. This is until the first element of stress creeps back into his/ her life. Once that relaxation has worn off they reach for the cigarettes.
The patient will go home feeling great that they have kicked the habit. This scenario is probably more likely for someone who hated the smoking but just found it hard to give up. Now they feel great that they’ve given up but as soon as the stress creeps back in they seek an alternative crutch, often FOOD.
The most common side effect of giving up smoking is overeating. This is purely because the smoker has replaced one crutch with another. The smoker will now either put on lots of weight and seek therapy for this reason, or they will go straight back to the cigarettes to stop them eating as much. Both scenarios can bring us straight back to square one.
One of the most worrying things is the perception that children have of smoking today (especially girls), that if they smoke it will keep them slim. This is unfortunately compounded by the fact that supermodels and TV stars quite openly smoke and also quite openly admit that they do it for this very reason. How can anyone possibly believe that these young people are smoking because they like the taste, or because they enjoy it? It is common knowledge that the biggest reason for anyone to start smoking is peer pressure, which is in itself a form of great anxiety and even trauma for someone so young. These are anxieties and traumas that need to be dealt with during any smoking cessation therapy. It is also clear when we look at the scenario of the patient who turns to food for comfort, that all the therapy has succeeded in doing, is taking the patients crutch (smoking) and the patient has immediately replaced it with another crutch (eating)
With all these things considered it is easy to see that therapy for smokers needs a straightforward common sense approach. Hypnotherapy is a magnificent tool, which will aid anybody in giving up smoking, but at the moment is just too unreliable for most people to trust, including the medical profession. For some reason, somewhere along the line, smoking has been separated from other therapies and instead of looking at it in a common sense way as purely a crutch, masking other anxieties, it has been led astray with people using all sorts of weird and wonderful visualisations and relying solely on suggestions to help the patient give up.
My main recommendation is that all therapists should look at the therapy that they offer for smoking and ask themselves if they are tackling the real problem. Everybody smokes for a reason, and they only way of ensuring a successful therapy is if we confront the cause not the effect.
The world is constantly searching for a quick fix to help smokers give up and I believe we have a good answer in hypnotherapy but we have a lot of work to do. The scope for research in this field is of massive proportions, if only we, as a profession, could approach ALL of our therapies in a straightforward, common sense way. I believe that we should all work together in ensuring that hypnotherapy gets the recognition that it deserves as the ultimate therapy. But the only way we can achieve this is if we share our failures as well as our successes and combine our efforts to ensure that every therapy is approached in the same common sense way.
Andy Brown clinical hypnotherapist/clinical Sophrologist