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Hypnosis and Smoking Cessation

Michael D. Weil, Psy.D.


Hypnosis can be very helpful in helping individuals kick the habit. However, the smoker seeking to be a non-smoker must understand how hypnosis works and its success rates.

The typical smoker has physical urges to smoke approximately 40% of the time they reach for a cigarette. “Having a smoke” satisfies the physical urge until the next one arises. But what about the remaining 60% of the time? What leads the smoker to pick up a cigarette? Habit. In simple terms, a habit is an association of one behavior with another. Here are some examples: you get in the car and reach for a cigarette; you pick up the phone and reach for a cigarette; you sit down to do the bills and reach for a cigarette; or, you get mad about something and reach for a cigarette. Smoking becomes associated with a particular activity…so when you engage in that activity, it must include having a cigarette.

Hypnosis works by helping smokers to manage their physical cravings for a cigarette. It also works by breaking the association between activities and cigarettes…by breaking the habit of smoking. Finally, hypnosis works by teaching individuals how to rapidly reduce or eliminate stress, a strong ‘trigger’ for smoking.

When smokers try to quit by going “cold turkey” with no other aids, they are successful about 10% of the time. By comparison, hypnosis is successful about 40% of the time. This success rate may go up if the smoker is willing to use hypnosis in conjunction with other tools such as smoking cessation classes, or telephone-based or online support programs. We have all heard about the person who smoked for 25 years, had one hypnosis session and stopped for good. Sometimes this is what happens. Most of the time it does not. If you’re getting the message that hypnosis is not a miracle cure, you’re right. It is not. But, remember, you can quadruple your chances of quitting, compared to going it alone. 

Contact Dr. Weil if you would like more information, or to set up an appointment.