Last year there was a breakhrough in honesty about quit-smoking hypnosis. In the American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, hypnotherapist Dr Edwin Yager described how he realised he’d been fooling himself: hypnosis was much less effective than he’d thought. Studying a colleague’s stop-smoking clients, he found that two months after quitting, success was a mere 22%, a fraction of what he’d expected.
Yes, immediately after the hypnosis session success was far higher: 68% of smokers had quit. But these people rapidly relapsed. Their success vanished from their hands like snow in the desert.
He writes: “I believe I have erroneously allowed myself to be convinced of exaggerated success; that I have accepted the immediate reports as final results. I was wrong … .”
Yager has let the cat out of the bag about an open secret in the hypnosis world. Quit smoking success rates:
- mean very little
- vary with the type of hypnotic quit-smoking programme between 4% and 80% plus
- and are often wildly – and persuasively – exaggerated
I’m going to use a series of posts to examine this whole issue. To start with, let’s look at relapse rates.
Yager is absolutely right. Short-term, hypnosis is highly effective, indeed dramatically so. But success tails off steeply over a couple of months. According to a University of Iowa metastudy of 72,000 smokers, within a year as much as 70% of smokers who quit with hypnosis will have relapsed.
That’s an average. Some hypnotic quit-smoking programmes do far better. They tend to be ones which are:
- not just a single one-hour session, but several sessions
- highly tailored to the individual, and
- include cognitive-behavioural elements as well as hypnosis
But many hypnosis websites makes claims of 85% and 95% success for quit smoking. (It’s always those exact figures, 85% or 95%!) These are the success rates a week or two after the session. They are not the rates six or 12 months later. Typically, these will be far lower.
One of Britain’s leading single-session smoking cessation practitioners, the founder of a leading hypnosis training college and an excellent therapist for whom I have a high regard, claims in public no less than a 90% success rate. Yet in a private email he told me that the 90% applied at 2 months, but not at 6 months and “especially not at a year – it’s much more likely to be 40% by then.”
Here’s a splendid example of the phenomenon. I won’t give the name of website this comes from because it is typical of many, and I can make my point without making anyone sad.
This figure shows no sign whatever of being a well-substantiated 12-month followup figure. It seems safe to assume it is a figure from a week or two after the session. And look how shy this 95% figure is, look how it avoids a testing comparison. Because here is another version of the Tang and Law table:
And oh look! the average long-term success rate for hypnosis in 10 studies was a mere 24% No wonder the 95% claim doesn’t want a comparison.
So take the mega success claims in quit-smoking ads with a pinch of salt.
Hypnosis is an excellent method of quitting smoking. But the success varies with the hypnosis method between 4% and more than 80%. The methods with the high failure rates are the standardised one-size-fits-all one-hour sessions. Multi session, individualised, cognitive behavioural hypnosis is what works best long-term. Are you are willing to pay a bit more and put in a bit of effort yourself, to have the very best shot at quitting forever? Then have a look at my multi-session cognitive behavioural hypnosis quit-smoking programme: www.themagicofyou.co.uk/bristol/hypnotherapy/quit-smoking.php It really works.