Hypnosis - Smoking Cessation


I am sitting in an office chair across from Dr Melanie Bryan, a registered clinical psychologist and a middle-aged American lady. Pen and patient record in her hand, Dr Bryan looks poised. Her consultation room has the air of a used, familiar room: a Persian rug, books on wooden shelves, a coffee table between her and me. I chew toffees and answer her questions about my smoking habits. Since I started a 13-year-old punk kid, I have smoked on and off over the years. Alone at home, I turn to cigarettes as I embrace stress, solitude, my books and writing.

“It's a very strong learned behavior for you,” Dr. Bryan says, describing my relationship with smoking. She gives me some practical suggestions on how not to fall back into the habit. After that she details how the hypnosis session I am about to go through will proceed. Legs stretched, I fix my eyes on one spot. I breathe in and out slowly counting the seconds, afloat on a sense of stillness. Dr. Bryan instructs me to roll my eyes up high, as if I am trying to look at me forehead. “Don't Blink or raise your chin,” she says. ”Your eyes should feel a strained or burning sensation. Now close them.”

The world comes down to a point of intense concentration. The rain form outside the windows sounds as close as the hum of the air-conditioner in the room. The breeze causes a tickling sensation on my skin. My eyelids are somewhat heavy, but my mind stays alert, attuned to the therapist's voice. “For your body, smoking is poison,” she commands. The words flash across my mind in capital letters. Dr Bryan asks me to picture random smokers as prisoners of nicotine, in contrast to my own healthy, smoke-free body. The mental images bounce, fragmented and colorful, as the room seems to grow brighter at abrupt moments. My heart jumps when she reaches the core of my self-sabotage: “You don’t want to be stuck with a decision you made when you're 13.”

At the end of the session Dr Bryan counts form five to one. On the count of one, I squeeze my hand and open my eyes.

My experience with hypnosis is unlikely to be the same as anyone else's, since it is an experiential process to which everyone responds differently. You may have read in newspapers and magazines about the use of hypnosis to help people to lose weight, or quit smoking or biting their nails. You may have seen advertisements for short courses in hypnosis: ”In a few months you will pick up the tools to hypnotize others and yourself. You will be able to tackle fear of public speaking and flying, stress management or even insomnia.”

But beyond the hype, hypnosis is actually much closer to our daily lives than we imagine. When you space out during a boring seminar, play you Xbox for hours, or walk down a familiar street without recalling where you need to take a turning, you are already in a trance, an altered state of consciousness. At such moments of split awareness, our subconscious processes are acting independently of conscious direction. As we receive and retain many signals at the subconscious level, some of them turn into fears and reactions of which we are unaware.

Dr 連峻 (Rene Lien), founder and director of the Hong Kong Institute of Clinical hypnosis (HKICH), explained it in everyday terms: “Imagine a man who suddenly vomits when he eats an orange, even though he's always liked the fruit. Such a reaction may trace back to a moment he doesn't recall: When he choked on the juice of a sour orange months ago, or when he saw an old man eating an orange on the street in a disgusting manner.”
During a consultation, a hypnotherapist probes into the client's history and his or her relationship with the issue, so as to identify the cause of the problem. “The use of hypnosis in therapist is like installing a anti-virus program in the computer,” Dr Lien continued. “The therapist reprogrammes the client's subconscious and gives it the anti-virus it needs, to stop it from having certain reactions in the future.”

If my being hypnotized sounds amazingly simple to you, I will admit that it surprised me too. There are many ways to lead someone into a hypnotic state, depending on the subject’s personality and mental state during the consultation. A more traditional method is progressive relaxation: the client is guided to relax different parts of his or her body, and to picture images like taking a stroll in the park. More subtle techniques include using indirect suggestions (“You'll be very relaxed when you're hypnotized”) and leading with a series of “Yes” questions (“Do you feel calmer now you're breathing slowly?”)

The therapist's choice of hypnotic language varies according to the issues at hand. For female clients who lack motivation when trying to lose weight, Dr Lien instills positive messages or images into their subconscious. “Some of these ladies keep a strict diet and hang out at the gym. The just spend most of the time at the gym watching TV or doing hair treatments. In those cases, I'll describe some angels cheering them when they're lifting weights. Or I'll give them gentle commands like ‘Your hair is looking great. You can go on the treadmill now',” Dr Lien remarked.

李麗琴 (Hilda Li), clinical psychotherapist and hypnotherapist observed that hypnotherapy has been gaining its place in Hong Kong, thanks to the work of relevant institutes and associations and to media coverage. A part-time lecturer at HKICH, Li has been active in promoting hypnosis through the institute's activities. She also teaches a growing number of students with a serious interest in the subject. As a therapist, she has practiced hypnotherapy for five years and witnessed significant changes in her client’s attitude.

“In the past most clients would use hypnotherapy as a last resort after other forms of therapy failed. Nowadays many ask for hypnotherapy on their own initiative, because they’ve read about it in the media or heard success stories. Other times I suggest hypnotherapy if I think it's the best treatment for the client. Most take my advice just as a patient takes a doctor's prescription, given that we've established a trusting relationship,” Li said.

Since founding his clinic almost a decade ago, Dr Lien has seen clients form all walks of life and age groups. “I've had several clients who are seven or eight years old and who received therapy under their parents' supervision,” he said. “One had a problem with concentration and demanded


to see a hypnotherapist. When I asked him why he chose hypnotherapy, he said he'd seen it in movies and he believed it would work. There're also clients in their 70s who have no doubts that hypnotherapy will help them. It's all about having an open mind.”

One of Hilda Li's clients, W S Lo, is a marketing professional in his 20s, who had tried unsuccessfully to kick his 10-year smoking habit through using gum, patches and willpower. Hypnotherapy became an option for Lo earlier this year, when a close friend of his successfully quit smoking after visiting Dr. Lien's clinic. Before his own visit, however, Lo had doubts in his mind. “It was something new after all. I had about 30 per cent confidence that it would work on me,” Lo said.

The three-hour session with Hilda Li was a pleasant experience, Lo recalled. “For the first half, we discussed for quitting. Li noted some contradictions in my perception of smoking, like how I saw it as both an energy boost and relaxation aid. After that Li guided me to relax different parts of my body, starting from the toes and the feet, and gradually moving up. I didn’t have any problem getting into the hypnotic state.”

Lo remained aware of his surroundings while under hypnosis, through he felt his logical mid drift off to a vague inter-space between reality and sleep. “It was like dozing off, just very slightly. Whenever I started to fall deeper into that state, Li would pull me out of it with a command. During hypnosis, she amplified my desire and reasons to quit, so that they would overshadow the triggers to my smoking habit. There were also mental pictures like a scene of my friends chain-smoking, and one of myself resisting the urge, so that my subconscious was reprogrammed to fight it.”

Coming out hypnosis, Lo felt refreshed and somewhat stiff in his joints, as if he had woken up from a nap. After a brief discussion of the session, Hilda Li gave him a list of suggestions on how to fight withdrawal symptoms. While the craving for nicotine lurked for a few days, Lo prevailed. In retrospect, he is still amazed by this one-off cure. Before his friend's first-hand experience with hypnosis, Lo admitted he had some bias towards the subject, thanks to TV soaps and movies.

“I used to think infernal Affairs when I heard hypnosis. It had such a dangerous sound, like it's a tool to mind control, to coax you into telling what you shouldn't tell,” he said with a laugh. “After my own success with hypnotherapy, I've been encouraging my friends to quit smoking with the same method. There've been people asking me about it, too.”

For the majority if Hong Kong public, however, hypnosis still wears a mysterious veil. Li pointed out that there are many misconceptions about the subject and some people show ‘an almost allergic reaction’ at the mention of hypnosis.

“Most can't pinpoint what they're afraid of about hypnosis, except that they may be coaxed into revealing their secrets and bank account details. Others wonder if they'll be brainwashed and end up doing things they don't want to do, or they won't wake up. The truth is people are fully awake under hypnosis. They can get out of the trance any time, and they have full control over their consciousness. The therapist can't control a client's mind, but only reprogrammes the issues at the subconscious that the client has discussed.”

In Li's view, the development of hypnotherapy in Hong Kong is far behind that of Western countries, where it is more commonly understood and accepted. “Some confuse it with stage hypnosis, which is a dramatic performance and a totally different kind of hypnosis. Others still think of a swinging pendulum, or get the wrong ideas from movies in which hypnosis is used as a means of manipulation. There're people who worry they may be hypnotized when they don't want to be, and those who believe that they're too strong-willed to be hypnotized. Both of these beliefs are mistaken.

Dr. Bryan, who practiced in New York City before moving to Hong Kong in 1991, noted an underlying resistance against counseling and other forms of therapy among Hong Kong people. “They associate it with weakness when someone says he or she is seeing a therapist, whereas people in US and Australia are more open about seeking help. In Hong Kong, hypnotherapy is relatively new. It's spoken about as a cure to quit smoking and other simpler issues, rather than a way to help deeper emotional difficulties.”

Akira Chan, a Chinese medicine practitioner who has studied hypnotherapy for about a year, contended that cultural differences do come into play. “I work in a clinic near Taikoo Plaza where many executives are expatriates or Hong Kongers who have studied overseas or have a more cosmopolitan outlook. They're more familiar with hypnosis and they're receptive to the idea. Most locals are quite skeptical, but they listen to what I have to say because I'm a doctor.”

My interviewee’s opinions are no doubt grounded in their contact with a wide range of clients. In my own social circle, though, ignorance seems to have little to do with one's origin. One afternoon in the office, I mentioned I had gone through hypnosis. One coworker, a 27-year-old guy from the US, chuckled: “Did you act like chicken? I'd pay to see that.” The others, born and raised in Hong Kong, did not react. One girl asked me for the therapist's numbers. “My father needs to quit smoking,” she said, snatching the piece of paper with Dr. Lien's contacts form my hand.

Another friend, a Chinese American who lived in New York City before moving here, said my coworker's ‘chicken’ comment was only common in the US. “I never heard about the use of hypnosis in therapy back in the States. It's only in Hong Kong that I've learnt about it,” he said.

Akira Chan and his wife, who is a human resources professional, are both pursuing studies at HKICH. At present, HKICH is the only institute in Hong Kong that offers internationally accredited Clinical Hypnotherapy Diploma courses. As a doctor, Chan recognizes that up to 40 per cent of minor health problems and symptoms are stress-induced. Hoping to enhance the efficiency of his work, Chan signed up for course and he has applied the knowledge to his consultation.

“Some hypnotic language and techniques are useful in explaining cases and recommending treatments to patients. My wife and I used it on each other when we're stressed. I've also helped friends with their sleeping problems,” Chan said. “For myself, I do self-hypnosis before I give a presentation or a public speech. It makes a real difference to my mental
“Some confuse it with stage hypnosis, which is a dramatic performance and a totally different kind of hypnosis.” Hilda Li, hypnotherapist

state. It keeps my mind sharp and I give a better performance.”

Among her studies form various profession, Li sees an even spread of medical professionals, counselors and social workers, and executives form commercial fields such as human resources, public relations and marketing. ”Hypnosis is definitely applicable to business. Think of the body language of an insurance agent, or a salesperson's use of suggestions and questions to lure you into a purchase. The ambient music in shops is another trick. With the right use, hypnotic techniques can improve one's persuasion skills and interpersonal relationships,” Li remarked.

Before pursuing hypnotherapy, Dr. Lien advises researching the therapist's background, including their academic qualifications and professional memberships. Some hypnotherapy associations have stringent requirements on their members' qualifications, such as over 300 hours of clinical practice and specific certification. Others have much lower requirements. Also, graduates of short-term hypnosis courses have an overview of the subject, but they lack the expertise required to be a professional hypnotherapist.

Dr Bryan is wary of the up-and –coming hypnotherapy scene. As a clinical psychologist of more that 20 years standing, she thinks only credentialed and experienced health care professionals should practice hypnotherapy. “The standards of hypnotherapists in Hong Kong are hugely variable. Many don't have the clinical experience to handle clients. Hypnosis is only only tool in therapy, and a therapist should be trained to access and deal with a wide range of emotions. In some cases, hypnosis isn't the right treatment at all, but the therapists use it on the clients just the same. That's downright harmful.

Would you ever undergo hypnosis? Why or why not?
1. “Yes, I have hypnosis during hypnosis training last year. As I spent so much money on the lessons, then why shouldn't I have a personal experience? Besides, if I do not try it, I will never know exactly what hypnosis is about. Form what I experienced, it is a means to help your mind and body relax. Of course it may help in certain mental or physical therapies. But it is totally different form what we see in the movies, which seems to be quite magical.” Stella Lee, Marketing Assistant

2. “Yes I would, because I am a strong believer in free will and don't believe I could be ‘forced’ to do something I would never willingly do (like kiss a snake). While I doubt the power of hypnosis, beliefs are meant to be challenged, so I would be up the challenge so long as friends and family are watching in case I can't remember what happens while I am being hypnotized.” Sabrina Maguire, Lawyer

3. “Sure, I would go for a trial. It would be one of the most adventurous things in my life because I would be letting the hypnotist read my mind! Hidden fear and secrets all revealed. Perhaps it can trace back to why I'm so afraid of hens (and chicken feathers)! Shall we make an appointment now?” Helen Yuen, Advertising Manager

4. “No – or at least probably not. I put hypnosis in the same category as a colonic: I know some people swear by it, but I'm still wary (though I admit my opinion is very uninformed). Perhaps it's because I'm afraid of the unknown. Under hypnosis, what if I act like Linda Blair in The Excorist or I start quoting George Bush or do something else really embarrassing? If the Dalai Lama, Madonna, Bill Gates, Zhang Yimou, consumer reports or someone/-thing else I admire were to endorse hypnosis, I might consider.” Barbara Koh, Writer/Journalist

5. “I know hypnosis CAN work. My brother once got hypnotized at a dinner show, and his pre-hypnotic suggestion was that he would lose weight – he was a chubby boy. The deal was that audience members could volunteer to be part of the show, and be put under hypnosis. In exchange for your services, the hypnotist would let you have a free post-hypnotic suggestion. Around six people volunteered, and most of them asked for help to quit smoking. Well, he went under and was part of this hypnotic performance, but there was a snag. When the hypnotist went to wake up all the volunteers, my brother didn't wake up. The hypnotist had to call him personally and give a few extra claps for him to come out of hypnosis. Sure enough my brother lost weight, and remained a more slender version of himself for around three or four years. So, like any other practice, it remains important to find qualified hypnotist, but yes, I'd go under.” M Chen, Web Entrepreneur

資料來源   摘自  MUSE 2008年10月 21期更多健康資料 http://www.rene-a.net


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