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Hypnosis Compared to Standard Counseling for Smoking Cessation

The addiction to smoking is not easy to overcome. Researchers strive to use the study methods that will best facilitate answers as to what the most productive treatment will be. This study was conducted to compare two methods, with each being a combination of two components.  One group used standard counseling plus a two-month supply of nicotine patches. The second group used quit smoking hypnosis and a two-month supply of nicotine patches. Preparations began by compiling a group of 521 smokers who were considered as possible subjects. They all expressed the desire to quit smoking. Of the original group, 154 were found ineligible, reducing the group to 367. These subjects were randomized into one of two groups. The standard counseling and NP group numbered 141 and the hypnosis and NP group contained 145. Before the study was underway, 81 of the eligible participants declined inclusion. Later, 12 dropped out of the standard counseling group and 4 dropped out of the hypnosis group. A group of 129 remained in the counseling group and 141 remained in the hypnosis group. Those in the standard counseling plus NP group had two separate hour-long sessions of standard counseling for tobacco addiction followed by three separate 20-minute phone calls in which they were counseled further on quitting. These took place 3 weeks after in-person counseling, 4 weeks after and 6 weeks after.

The hypnosis and NP group had the same amount of time with the only difference being hypnosis was administered during the original two one-hour sessions. After the two hours of hypnotherapy, each participant was asked to rate the perception of depth during both sessions of hypnosis on a scale of 1 to 40+ with 40+ being the highest. Expectancy of helpfulness was rated by the subjects on a scale of 1 to 3 with three being very helpful and 1 not helpful. Other measures of helpfulness included reminding themselves of why they wanted to quit, use of oral substitutes and rewarding their non-smoking habit.

Standardized tests were administered such as the modified version of the Minnesota Nicotine Withdrawal Scale (Hughes & Hatsukami, 1986) and the Beck Depression Inventory (BDI; Beck, Steer, & Brown, 1996). Measurements of success were done at the time of each 20-minute telephone follow up session. Additional data was collected at 6 months and 12 months after the beginning of the study. Those who claimed to be abstinent were administered a saliva test or a close family member was asked to confirm that they no longer smoked.

Following this study to compare hypnosis and standard counseling for effectiveness when used with NP, researchers saw a minimally significant higher success rate in the hypnosis group. At the 6-month phone counseling session, 29% of the hypnosis group reported abstinence compared to 23% of the behavioral counseling group. At 6 months, 26% of those in the hypnosis group reported abstinence compared to 18% of the behavioral counseling group. At the 12-month follow-up phone contact, 24% of the hypnotherapy group reported abstinence compared to 14% of the behavioral counseling group. The final reports (at 12 months) given by all participants were confirmed either by a biochemical (saliva test) process or by confirmation given by a close family member.

The general conclusion yielded by this research study is that hypnosis combined with NP is an effective treatment option for overcoming tobacco addiction. The subjects treated with hypnosis and NP exceeded the success rate of those treated with standard counseling and NP. Future research will be a valid endeavor. Studies separating hypnosis from use of NP will provide more predictive results on the use of hypnosis alone as compared to NP alone. There is reason to believe that hypnosis, as a treatment option for cessation of smoking will prove to be beneficial. Replication of these results will be required to confirm these findings.


Beck, A. T., Steer, R. A., & Brown, G. K. (1996). Beck Depression Inventory Manual. San Antonio, TX: Psychological Corporation. Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, Inc.

Hughes, J. R., & Hatsukami, D. (1986). Signs and symptoms of tobacco withdrawal. Archives of General Psychiatry, 43, 289–294.


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