Hypnosis is not a silver bullet, of course. Several years ago, Nelson, a 39-year-old banker from New York City, attended a group hypnosis session in Boston with several friends who were also trying to quit smoking, and they were all hypnotized en masse. He says, “ didn’t crave cigarettes for a good four months afterwards. Something in my mind turned it off: didn’t want it, didn’t need it.” Then, after a minor car accident, he ran to the corner bodega to grab a pack. “I smoked to calm myself down,” he recalls. While the hypnosis was effective, Nelson felt like his choice to smoke or not smoke was being dictated not by him but by an outside force in a way that made him uncomfortable. He has no plans to try hypnosis again.
But if there’s everything all health professionals agree on, it’s this: put down the smokes, any way you can, no matter how silly you feel about being hypnotized or obsessively chewing Juicy Fruit or starting talk therapy with a counselor. Don’t feel foolish if you start describing yourself as “smober,” as some NicA members do. It may be corny, but getting sober while continuing to smoke is tantamount to rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic: a nice way to relieve stress in the moment but an activity that’s still going to take you down.
Although there are different techniques, clinical hypnotherapy is generally performed in a calm, therapeutic environment. The therapist will guide you into a relaxed, focused state and ask you to think about experiences and situations in positive ways that can help you change the way you think and behave. Unlike some dramatic portrayals of hypnosis in movies, books, or on stage, you will not be unconscious, asleep, or in any way out of control of yourself. You will hear the therapist’s suggestions, but it is up to you to decide whether or not to act on them.