How successful is hypnotherapy at helping smokers?
I understand that you are making a big commitment when you are signing up for hypnotherapy to help you quit smoking and I'm often asked why I don't quote success rates. Although it sounds like a cop-out or a deliberate evasion, it's actually because it is not ethical or legal for me to do so.
Advertising of any service or product designed to help smokers to quit is strictly regulated. In many ways, that's as it should be; it prevents quack remedies from being marketed irresponsibly and protects those wishing to stop by ensuring they get reliable information about the methods most likely to help them. As part of this, the Advertising Standards Agency (A.S.A.) says advertisers must hold 'robust' and 'rigorous' proof to back up any claims made about success rates.
According to the A.S.A., claims should not be made based on the number of people who do not come to follow up sessions. They also say that contacting clients to ask if they have stopped is 'not robust enough to prove definitive success rates' (Dune Hypnotherapy Group, 5 November 2003). This rules out the ways most therapists traditionally estimated the success rates they quoted. The report then goes on to say 'Blood tests are likely to be the only way of ascertaining whether people have given up smoking.'
In some ways, you might be relieved to hear I can't follow up on your therapy with blood tests. Unfortunately, this also means I can't quote a success rate.
A few therapists are unaware of this regulation or choose to ignore it. If you see anyone quoting success rates, ask lots of questions.
- What evidence do they have to back up their claims?
- Can you see that evidence before booking an appointment?
- How do they calculate their successes?
- How was information collected, over what period of time, how many people were involved?
- How long did clients have to stop smoking before being counted as a success?
If you can't get proper answers, move on.
Does hypnotherapy help smokers to quit?
Although I'm unable to publish personal success rates, there is some information in the public domain which gives you an idea of how well hypnotherapy works and compares it to other methods of quitting. And when I say 'some information' is available, I mean 'some'. There isn't a huge amount of research on hypnotherapy as a quit smoking method.
It’s not clear why this is so – possibly because hypnotherapists are not a mass-produced product making someone millions, so the funding for research simply isn’t there. Or perhaps that’s just my cynical side coming through. In any case, there are far more studies done on medications and nicotine replacement products than on hypnotherapy.
Etter and Stapleton (2006), for example, compared a dozen long-term studies of Nicotine Replacement (NRT) products which included around 5000 smokers. They found that over time the relapse rate (the number of people who went back to smoking) very similar for those using NRT and those who received a placebo. NRT began well, performing 10.7% above placebo, but in the long term (because of the relapses) this declined to 7.2%.
Another reason may be the difficulty of actually designing a relevant study. Nuland and Field (2008) showed that personalised hypnotherapy sessions work better than a standardised approach. The problem with doing this in a wider study is that if researchers change the content of sessions for each person, they are creating variables, and they're no longer comparing like with like.
Anyhow, you will find some studies on Google Scholar. I’ve picked a few interesting results out here to give you a start, but feel free to go look for more.
- Li, Chen et al (2019) reported that ‘smokers reported decreased craving after hypnosis’
- Shakil (2019) looked at smokers who had hypnosis sessions and reported that ‘All three clients in the study reported a full recovery after a year with 95 - 100% satisfaction level with the practice of self-hypnosis and auto-suggestions post-treatment.’ (Obviously, with only three clients, he also recommended that further, larger studies should be carried out).
- Viswesvaran et al (1992) looked at 633 different studies of smoking cessation and concluded that self-care methods do not appear to be as effective as formal intervention methods and that hypnosis had a quit rate of 36%. This was significantly higher than the rate of NRT interventions (16% with nicotine gum, 18% with medication).
Although these results are very positive, hypnosis wasn't right for everyone who took part. As it says elsewhere on this site, hypnotherapy is not mind-control or a magic wand. Choice is always part of the decision to quit smoking and (whatever method you use) you have to actively make that choice in order to be successful.
However, if you really want to stop smoking, hypnotherapy could be just the help you need. Contact me now to make your appointment.