The Non-Smoker's Edge: Quit Smoking with Hypnosis is a series of seven CDs which comprise nine hypnotic sessions prefaced with "pre-hypno" dialogue explaining why the particular hypnotic visualizations are used.
I have to confess right off to being a non-smoker. Personally, I never had the willpower to start smoking by working through the initial revulsion until it felt okay. But I've helped hundreds quit smoking over the years, so was intrigued to listen to The Non-Smoker's Edge.
Here I'll give my review of each part of The Non-Smoker's Edge program.
There is a rather long introduction on the first CD in which author and narrator Randy Gilchrist introduces himself, laying out his interest, training, and experience. He trained with the redoubtable Dr Michael Yapko, which alone makes his material worth listening to, in my book.
He is at great pains to emphasize his credentials, put the listener at ease, and make them feel that they have indeed made the right choice. There are some great pre-hypnotic seeding suggestions in this part. For example, Gilchrist describes what people who have done the program typically report ("Cigarettes just seem irrelevant to them after using the program...").
All this helps to set the scene nicely and give you the feeling of getting to know Gilchrist a little. He even relates how he himself lost weight after a hypnotic session that "didn't seem much at the time". This was another nice suggestion to the effect of: "Even if you don't think it's working, it just might be."
From a professional perspective, there are a few quibbles. For example, in the long preamble he at one point suggests smoking is "the strongest addiction of all". Granted, this might build rapport with a smoker who believes their habit is powerfully physically addictive, but it could certainly overwhelm many and possibly provide an excuse to keep smoking. Plenty of hardened long-term smokers quit with no or few withdrawal symptoms.
Introduction of hypnosis
Clinical hypnosis is described and distinguished from stage hypnosis and again the listener's expectations are managed nicely with the reassurance: "You'll go in and out - don't worry about it..." Gilchrist describes typical experiences of the trance state and how you'll know when you're there - to stem any possible "am I / aren't I" rumination in the listener.
He describes other smoking cessation approaches like the use of Zyban (bupropion) and behavioural modification approaches, then alludes to research that shows hypnosis is more successful for smoking cessation than willpower alone - 70% quit smoking after sessions of hypnosis. He then delivers another beautiful suggestion: "Maybe the other 30% didn't take it seriously enough or were distracted..." In this way he subtly enhances motivation; who wants to think of themselves as distracted or not taking their health seriously?
Gilchrist also suggests the listener take notes, focus on the non-hypnosis parts of the program too, and listen repeatedly to the audio. He outlines the different segments of the program and describes what hypnosis is. He suggests that hypnosis is not a miracle cure but a powerful tool you can use if you work with the program and don't just expect it all to be done for you: "We can work together on this..."
The program itself
Early on, Gilchrist gently leads us into a relaxed state. He uses an extended version of the classic "body scan" hypnotic induction in which we are encouraged to focus on different parts of the body as we relax deeply. He talks about how important it is to have goals and determination and dreamily describes how he had learnt to ride a bicycle when very young and even though, at first, he didn't know whether he could do it, eventually, after a little trial and error he succeeded - with the implication, of course, that you too can, even if it doesn't yet seem possible, succeed in quitting smoking.
The hypnosis itself is nicely delivered with a gentle soothing voice and all the "stock in trade" hypnotic language patterns like illusory choice, embedded commands, and presuppositions ("I wonder what the best thing about being a non-smoker is going to be..."). Gilchrist uses his hypnotic language naturally and skilfully. His voice is reasonably gentle and quite reassuring, and the hypnotic quality of his voice improves in later hypnotic sessions.
He seems to focus quite heavily on smoking being less socially acceptable nowadays, but also describes other benefits the soon-to-be ex-smoker will enjoy, such as tasting their food, smelling better, and generally feeling more alive.
A few quibbles
Later in the program, Gilchrist again uses a classic deepening hypnotic induction, encouraging us to walk down a staircase, becoming more relaxed as we step down.
Although the hypnosis is pretty good, Gilchrist seems to get a little confused sometimes as to whether he's using association or disassociation in the hypnotic state. For example, at one point he seems to makes the classic mistake in saying: "See yourself going down the staircase, relaxing more with each step..." Later he describes a special super-relaxing place, but then incongruously asks the listener to "see yourself in it". It generally works better to associate to relaxing experiences and use disassociation when treating the addictive pattern or a traumatic event. We want to distance someone from their addictive habit and "bring them in close" for the relaxing bit. This seemed a rather basic confusion; we need to be precise when using association vs. disassociation.
There was occasionally some "iffy" language, such as the suggestion that "unusual things may be happening to you as you walk down the steps". These "unusual things" could be potentially misconstrued (by the unconscious mind) as something unpleasant. He also states that "all your feelings of guilt have gone" and mentions guilt quite a bit, presuming without knowing that this is an issue for the soon-to-be non-smoker.
I think this is certainly one of the weaker sections, with a lot of "see yourself". However, I like the way he suggests we the listener see ourselves back in time just before we tried the first ever cigarette: "Seeing yourself just before your first cigarette; what advice will you give your earlier self?"
There was a lot of "give yourself permission", which is perhaps a little hackneyed as a self-help mantra... but now I really am being pernickety.
He sensibly talks about how important smoking associations are (smoking with a drink, when bored, after rising in the morning, when stressed) and suggests that these old associations can fade away. Actually, he could have suggested here that it is in fact the association or "pattern matching" that makes smoking feel like such a physical pull.
He suggests "smoking no longer fits who you are now" and directs us to "see yourself in a mirror giving yourself permission to do new behaviours during those old times..." But there is no actual rehearsal of not smoking in response to those old triggers and I feel this was a perfect chance to do that. Forging new, healthier patterns in response to the old triggers is explored later in the program, but not as fully as I expected.
Here all the talk is of when "you used to smoke in the past" - which is great in principle but may feel a little artificial if the listener still knows they are smoking at this point in the program.
Your favourite place
Another classic hypnotic induction has us refocus our minds into a time and place we remember as being very relaxing. He takes a little time building this up and overlaps some sensory experience (although this section could have used a little more of that), but then incongruously uses disassociation whilst trying to get you to feel associated to re-experiencing a relaxing time.
He talks about the smoking trigger points again and has us visualize seeing ourselves in fast forward, moving through a typical day being "smoke free".
In CD 4, Gilchrist focuses on preventing relapse and emphasizes that smoking is something to which we'll never want to go back. The next CD deals with the issue of unwanted weight gain, although I would have liked more emphasis here on how much better fitted the non-smoker is to being slimmer with all that extra energy, blood and oxygen, and more stable blood sugars. I think that could have been really accentuated in this section with a greater extended rehearsal of the new healthier behaviours. Also considered in CD 5 are new ways to handle old feelings that may have been triggering smoking in the past; this at last satisfied my wish for old smoking associations to be addressed more fully.
After that, CD 6 examines social pressures to smoke and we are gently steered to feel more confidence socially without the need for a cigarette. This penultimate CD also hypnotically ramps up smoking-free concentration and focus as, of course, many smokers use smoking as a way of "getting their brains in gear" (at the same time as limiting the supply of blood and oxygen to them – sorry, I couldn't resist).
Aversion is used in the last CD. This goes much further than merely visualizing the "poisons of the body" from all that smoking leaving, with the body being cleansed by a "pink liquid going around the body" (cleansing it). Although I think there are much subtler - and therefore more likely to be accepted, not rebelled against (think scary but failed governmental attempts to frighten smokers out of their habit) - ways of using aversion, I won't give the game away here, as some people will respond to these more heavy-handed aversion tactics.
The overwhelming majority of this program is skilfully delivered and flows logically. It feels like it really looks after you (not withstanding my quibbles).
I'm sure it helps many smokers quit the evil weed.
Randy Gilchrist's The Non-Smoker's Edge can be found at HypnosisNetwork.com.