The Power of Suggestion: How Hypnotherapy Can Help You Quit Smoking For Good

by Stacy Thomas | June 2, 2020

You’re a grown up, you know that smoking can kill you. You know this, because it’s not new news – the warnings have been on cigarette packs for decades, and the studies have been rolling out for longer. There is no more smoking in restaurants or bars, no smoking in parks or near doorways, or in any public places, really. Being a smoker these days can make you feel like a pariah, so why are you still smoking?

What’s Under the Surface – The Beliefs Driving our Behaviors

The truth is there’s a lot going on behind this pernicious addiction. More than cravings and physical triggers, below the surface there is a whole core belief system that is compelling you to smoke. These beliefs make you think that a cup of coffee isn’t a cup of coffee without a ciggy on the side.

Many smokers attempt to quit by going cold turkey. They try cutting down, or using Nicotine Replacement Therapies (NRTs), but these methods often don’t work, because they only address part of the problem – the physical addiction to the nicotine in cigarettes. NRT methods don’t take into account the myriad of reasons that reside in the subconscious mind – the belief system that keeps a smoker in an endless loop of trying to quit and failing.  Before you can begin to understand why hypnotherapy is so effective for quitting smoking, it’s important to take a closer look at how the brain works, and therefore how you work. There are two levels of consciousness in everyone’s minds: the conscious and the subconscious. 


The Conscious Mind

The conscious mind, also referred to as the analytical mind, is where we do all of our day-to-day observing and problem solving. The conscious mind is where we live when we’re paying attention, and interacting with the immediate world around us.  In our conscious mind we can visualize things, and think about complex concepts. It is in the conscious mind that we make all of our decisions, from small decisions – like what shoes to wear, to large decisions – like whether or not to have children. Everything we are perceiving in the present moment is in the conscious mind. Our conscious minds do the nitty gritty work of getting us through our daily lives. As Freud said in his famous analogy, the conscious mind is only the tip of the iceberg

The Subconscious Mind

It may think it’s all powerful, but the conscious mind is only taking orders. While it may seem like our consciousness is busy making daily decisions, it’s actually drawing from a vast well of memories, impressions, emotions and belief systems that we’ve carried with us our entire lives. Our subconscious makes decisions like whether or not we need to have a cigarette after each meal. Decisions like the decision to smoke when we’re stressed out, because maybe that will make us feel better. Decisions like, whether or not to become smokers at all. 

Our core beliefs are formed in early-childhood, according to a wide variety of influences: like our environments, how we have been treated and talked to as children, how those around us have treated each other, and how the world has reacted to our needs. The irony of our core beliefs is that they are formed without our awareness, before we are old enough to do anything about them, and yet they go on to influence every part of our lives. From our partner choices, to our jobs, to our style of dress, our core beliefs drive our behaviours whether they make sense or not.

Which is exactly why so many of us find it next to impossible to quit smoking. 

The Conscious/Subconscious Paradox

We want to quit. We know smoking is bad for us. We experience all of the negative health effects, and the hits to our finances as the prices of cigarettes go up and up, but we don’t stop. We try to quit, over and over, but the conscious mind isn’t really in the driver’s seat. It’s the subconscious mind, and our belief that we are a smoker that keeps us going back to the store again, and again, to buy just-one-more-pack. Hypnotherapy can short-circuit this seemingly endless cycle of trying and failing. 

So, How Does Hypnotherapy Work? 

Taking Control of our Core Beliefs

“We live our beliefs,” explains Vancouver area hypnotherapist Jackie Maclean. “Hypnosis is a tool. It’s a tool to help you get into the right state of mind.” On its own the conscious mind is in the driver’s seat, it’s doing all of our reacting and decision making in the moment. It’s often acting on autopilot according to the information it gets from the outside world, as well as the core beliefs that come from our subconscious. 

Hypnotherapy puts the conscious mind in the back seat. When the consciousness is relaxed, the subconscious mind is open and ready for suggestion, which is when the hypnotherapist really gets down to work.

“In the subconscious mind we hold all of our beliefs, our behaviors, our habits,” says Maclean.  “I give your subconscious mind the command that you don’t need to smoke anymore, because your subconscious mind is like a servant and takes commands. Once the conscious mind accepts the suggestion, it has no alternative but to act upon it, and acting upon it means making the change.”

The Power of Suggestion

While in a hypnotic state, the unconscious mind is in command. The analytical mind, which normally would be criticizing, judging and assessing all incoming information, is quiet. The unconscious mind is now open to suggestion, without interference from the “peanut gallery”. 

It can now be suggested, without pushback, that the client doesn’t need to smoke cigarettes. The client is told that they’re not, in fact, dependent on smoking to be a whole, calm person, or to cope with daily problems. The goal is to counteract situational and physical triggers so that they’re no longer an issue. The client is now free to react to old triggers in new ways. In other words, the new beliefs are the new norm, and the client begins to act on them. “Most of my clients quit smoking after a single session,” Maclean says. “The subsequent sessions are all about reinforcement and repetition.” 

This process can be applied to other addictions and negative habits, such as alcohol, nail biting, or drugs. Any unhealthy habit that stems from a core belief can be addressed through hypnotherapy.  You’ve known all the reasons to quit smoking for a long time. You’ve been feeling the habit taking its toll on your health for just as long, but you haven’t been able to quit, because you’ve been running your life on outdated core beliefs. With the help of hypnotherapy, you can rewire your subconscious brain for healthier beliefs about yourself – a self that is free from toxic habits, for life.

For more information, check out the our roster of skilled hypnotherapists, and reach out to find out if it could work for you.

Stacy Thomas


Stacy Thomas was born and raised among the orchards of the Okanagan Valley. She studied journalism in Vancouver, B.C., and has worked as a reporter in places such as Germany, Ukraine, Northern B.C. and rural Alberta. Passionate about nature, she now lives in Squamish with her partner Nicki and her rescue dog Harley. She is currently a student of creative writing at the University of British Columbia, where she draws comics and writes poetry.