Boots WebMD Partners in Health
Return To Boots

Smoking cessation health centre

Hypnosis for quitting smoking

There are plenty of ways to help quit smoking, from nicotine patches to prescription medicines. Some people try complementary or alternative approaches to help them give up, including hypnotherapy.

Availability of complementary therapies such as hypnotism are likely to be more limited on the NHS than conventional therapies.

Some hypnotherapy methods try to weaken a person's desire to light up, others try to strengthen willpower or help them focus on a quit smoking programme.

Although there have been studies to assess whether hypnotherapy to help stop smoking is effective, the evidence has not yet been conclusive.

For clinical trials, hypnotherapy has been tested against other therapies, counselling, and no help at all.

A 2010 review of the evidence by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded that although it is possible that hypnotherapy may be as effective as special quit smoking counselling, there is not enough solid evidence to be sure of this.

What is hypnosis?

Hypnosis is defined as an altered state of awareness in which you appear to be asleep or in a trance. Clinical hypnosis may be used to treat certain physical or psychological problems. For instance, it is frequently used to in an effort to help patients control pain. It is also used in a wide range of other conditions such as weight issues, speech disorders, and addiction problems.

There is debate about how hypnosis works. Some people believe that when you are hypnotised, you relax and concentrate more and are more willing to listen to suggestions - such as giving up smoking, for example.

Even though you appear to be in a trance during hypnosis, you are not unconscious. You are still aware of your surroundings, and - despite what many stage performers may claim during an entertaining show - you cannot be made do to anything against your will. In fact, brain tests performed on patients during hypnotism sessions have shown a high level of neurological activity.

Hypnosis for smokers: Direct suggestion

In this method of hypnosis for smoking cessation, a patient is often asked to imagine unpleasant outcomes from smoking. For example, the hypnotherapist might suggest that cigarette smoke smells like car exhaust, or that smoking will leave the patient's mouth feeling extremely parched.

Spiegel's method is one popular smoking cessation hypnosis technique that focuses on three main ideas:

  • Smoking poisons the body
  • You need your body to live
  • You should respect your body and protect it - to the extent you'd like to live

The hypnotherapist teaches the smoker self-hypnosis, and then asks him or her to repeat these affirmations any time the desire to smoke occurs.

Hypnosis for smokers: Multi-component/Cognitive behavioural hypnotherapy

This method is a combination of techniques tailored to smoking cessation. The combination of hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioural therapy ( CBT) called "cognitive-behavioural hypnotherapy" combines a wide range of different, evidence-based, interventions, rather than just hypnotic suggestion alone.

How to find a hypnotherapist

Some mainstream doctors, dentists, psychologists and counsellors offer hypnotherapy services, but it can also be offered by people without formal training or qualifications.

Look for a qualified hypnotherapist with healthcare experience.

Also check for membership of a professional organisation, including the UK Council for Psychotherapy (UKCP) and look for therapists regulated by the Complementary and Natural Healthcare Council (CNHC).

WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on November 02, 2017

Mind, body & soul newsletter

Looking after your
health and wellbeing.
Sign Up Now!

Popular slideshows & tools on BootsWebMD

How to help headache pain
rash on skin
Top eczema triggers to avoid
Causes of fatigue & how to fight it
Tips to support digestive health
woman looking at pregnancy test
Is your body ready for pregnancy?
woman sleeping
Sleep better tonight
Treating your child's cold or fever
bucket with cleaning supplies in it
Cleaning and organising tips
adult man contemplating
When illness makes it hard to eat
woman holding stomach
Understand this common condition
cold sore
What you need to know