Frank Oden was a heavy smoker for 30 years. When hypnosis helped him kicked this three decade long habit, Frank’s entire life changed. In 2005, after three years of training, Frank opened a private hypnotherapy practice. In the last 6 years, he has used hypnosis, combined with his own smoking cessation technique, to help over 2000 people stop smoking (myself included).
Here is a bit of his story.
How does someone who smoked for 30 years talk about smoking five days a week, eight hours a day and not smoke?
If I didn’t talk abo
ut smoking, in all probability I would never think about it. Every time I talk to a client it becomes more and more clear to me that I do not want to smoke. The fact that I talk about it all day does not make me want to do it anymore than a police officer who is investigating crimes wants to commit them.
What are the biggest misconceptions about hypnosis?
The biggest, especially with my application of hypnosis, is that hypnosis makes people stop smoking. I am a good hypnotherapist, but I cannot use hypnosis to make my 8 year old clean his room. However, when he decides it is time to clean his room, because he is ready to get on with whatever else, I can help him get in the right frame of mind to do it effectively — where it is not a punishment and he can actually have fun doing it.
Hypnosis can be a very effective tool for helping a person stop smoking, get healthy or lose weight. However, there is only one thing that makes you s
top smoking and that is to stop smoking. That can be easy or that can be difficult. It all comes down to attitude. Hypnosis can help you build the right attitude. You are your own most powerful hypnotist. Your own self talk is your most powerful hypnosis. My job is to help you control your self talk, your reality, your language, your perception and your experience.
How is your approach different from hypnotherapists who help people stop smoking?
I think of myself as a tobacco cessation expert. I do not do hypnosis for anything else. Everything I have learned about hypnosis I have rolled into my approach to get people to stop smoking. I look at the differences between people who struggle with not smoking and people who don’t struggle with not smoking and I believe it is attitude. Hypnosis is about changing a person’s attitude and there its principles are very helpful in this process.
Do you believe hypnosis is the best anti-smoking solution available? Better than the patch or gum?
I wouldn’t compare them. The patch is a nicotine replacement. It is not necessary from a physical perspective and it is counterproductive from a behavioral standpoint. You do not extinguish [behavioral] triggers by continuing to reinforce them via some other means.
With other type of drug solutions like Chantix or anti-depressants, I have not heard or read anything from a reputable source explaining exactly why they help a person to stop smoking. Chantix and anti-depressants are presented under the fact that ‘it might help you stop smoking’. There is no pill or device that is going to make someone stop smoking and that goes for hypnosis as well.
I do not say to people ‘hypnosis will make you stop smoking.’ I say, ‘There is an easy way to stop smoking cigarettes and hypnosis is a tool we can use in a couple of different ways to help you get that attitude.’ The thing that works [to stop smoking] is attitude and your state of mind. If you have the right state of mind you will stop smoking. If you have the wrong state of mind it is going to be very difficult.
So, what is the wrong state of mind?
Usually the one that people walk into the office with which is, ‘I am a smoker and I want to stop smoking’ or ‘I am going to want to smoke [after hypnosis], but I am not allowed to or I will have to stop myself from doing what I want to do.’
That feels like punishment or deprivation and that is not the right state of mind. If you describe yourself as a smoker that is trying to quit — that sounds like a challenge. If you describe yourself as a non-smoker – well, then that is a no brainer.
What is the biggest myth about smoking?
That it is difficult to stop. It is a heavily advertised misconception. There is only one source of nicotine and that is the tobacco industry. Where does Nicorette get nicotine? The tobacco industry is the nicotine industry. They are very invested in convincing you that quitting smoking is difficult. It is also a personally reinforced misconception.
When you and I talked did we never talk about cancer or other diseases caused by smoking cigarettes, why was that?
Those are negative motivators. Advertisers know they can sell you things by creating fear. They can make you scared that you are getting fat, so you will pull out your credit card to buy the newest thing, but those things usually end up under the bed. We can’t stay afraid long enough to get the value out of them. Negative motivators are temporary. It is like the carrot and the stick. If you whack a mule with a stick he will move a few steps up the road and stop. But, if you put a carrot in front of his face he will keep walking all day to get it.
Could hypnosis help with eating habits or getting better self esteem or better thinking patterns?
Yes, because hypnosis is all about attitude. There are ways to change the way you think and feel. If you change the way you speak to yourself, you change your perceptions and if you change your perception you can change your experience.
How would you describe the smoker’s mind?
The smoker narrative is what I mean about smokers mind. You don’t see it when you are in it. If you have ever quit a really crappy job or gotten out of a really bad relationship you can see the lies and excuses you told yourself to stay in it, you can see how you were trapped in your narrative. Suddenly those ideas and those stories you told yourself are ridiculous. Take the story smokers tell themselves to non-smokers and try to get them to smoke. They can’t because non-smokers know that all of those stories are lies. .
If I know smoking is bad, every time I light up I have a self esteem problem, unless I can have some kind of story I can tell which makes me feel better. Stories like, ‘I know it’s bad, but I am going to quit soon.’ ‘I don’t smoke as much as I used to.’ ‘I know it is bad, but it is my only vice.’ ‘But I really like it.’ ‘I can’t quit, I tried.’
It is all about protecting your self esteem, because you are doing an indefensible behavior. You build up a bunch of lies and excuses, so you do not have to feel bad about yourself every time you light up. Once you quit, something that was causing a big loss in self esteem, now causes a big surge in self esteem.
What is your process for hypnosis?
There are two very different ways to use hypnosis. The normal kind is the trance hypnosis and this is what most people think of when they think of hypnosis. The other way which I think is equally and sometimes more powerful is the waking hypnosis process.
What does the waking hypnosis consist of?
You may recall we talked for a few hours before you closed your eyes. This [the waking hypnosis] is where the transition really happens the most effectively. The waking hypnosis is the Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) piece which is the science of using language in particular and effective ways to help change the way a person thinks and feels.
Often people just kind of sit through the conversation piece and wait for the ‘pocket watch’, but I discourage them from doing this because the waking hypnosis is a very important and powerful part of the hypnosis.
It is happening more and more in the office that when it comes to the trance part of the hypnosis people tell me they are ready to go and don’t feel like they need it. The trance hypnosis is not necessary, but it is a great tool.
A lot of what we know about hypnosis comes from the most famous hypnotherapist, Milton Erickson. He very seldom said, ‘Close your eyes and take a deep breath.’ People would come to his office. He would talk to them. He would tell them stories and he would find that when they left, they would leave the offices feeling completely differently, although they never did what we call the trance hypnosis.
What do you talk about during waking hypnosis?
Waking hypnosis is a process and not a script. There are three topics I want to cover, but again it depends on the individual. Waking hypnosis is an exploration, a diagnostic process, to figure out what is holding people up from quitting smoking. In stepping through this process you find out what people are holding onto and you get to the point where they can see it [smoking] different.
What are the three topics you discuss during waking hypnosis?
The first thing is physical withdrawal. If they tried quitting before and felt they were going through physical withdrawal – they actually weren’t. They have been taught by the pharmaceutical industry and the tobacco industry that there is physical withdrawal.
The withdrawal of any drug effect is the opposite of the drug effect. If you are taking a stimulant and you stop taking it, the effect is feeling a little under stimulated, run down or not focused. These symptoms are not what smokers experience. What they think of as a physical withdrawal symptom is actually a behavioral problem. What they are experiencing is a combination of cognitive and learned behavior and excuse making.
Then we talk about behavior. When behavior is reinforced by a drug effect – it is a powerful reinforcer of learned behavior. If you don’t change the behavior you can’t eliminate the urges.
Then we have to talk about the cognitive part and how the behavior was formed – this is the story telling part of addiction. The simple excuses you use to smoke start to sound like really important reasons to smoke. A person mostly feels addicted to their own narrative. They feel addicted to their explanations like, ‘I smoke because I have to or because I like to or because this is who I am.’ I walk people through what causes these narratives and where they come from. I break them down one by one. Sometimes this [the stories they tell themselves] are the biggest thing people are holding on to. All of the stories people create are to defend an indefensible behavior. There is no valid reason to smoke, but you can’t start by saying that.
How do you deal with the triggers that make people want to smoke?
I walk people through what their triggers are, how they were formed and what is the process of extinguishing them. A lot of people feel like they have to give up their life – they are afraid [if they quit smoking] they can’t have coffee, they have to give up their smoking friends, that they can never have another drink, they think they have to give up their lives and all things associated with smoking. That is the biggest behavioral misconception — that you have to avoid your trigger. That does not work.
You do not build confidence by avoiding things. You build confidence by addressing them. You build confidence by standing with your friends who are smoking and not smoking. When you expose a trigger you need to break the connection between the trigger and the behavior.
How would you describe the trance hypnosis phase of this process?
The way I do trance hypnosis is different than what a lot of people do. What you learn in hypnotherapy training is, ‘Here is the script. Speak in a quiet, slow, pace.’ I speak very rapidly. I use a lot of nested stories and things do not always connect. I use a story, within a story, within a story. One thing seems unfinished when something else starts. I get feedback from people that they really enjoyed having language put together the way I do. Although, they can’t say why.
What is it about the nested stories and loops that help change people to stop smoking?
It is not the technique that gets people to stop smoking. It is the technique which gets people into the dissociative state of mind, holds their attention and allows them to receive information in different ways. When you are receiving information in ways that you literally cannot memorize — it gets information to you differently.
It just seems impossible to believe, but I do believe it because it worked for me. How do you, in a period of a few hours, by talking to someone, get them to cure an addiction?
Practice. I would like to tell you that I have a book that tells you exactly how it all works. A bit of it is instinctive to me. It largely is. 2000 people accounts for about 10000 hours of learning by trial and error of what does and does not work. The method and process I do is something I have created myself over the years of doing it.
Do you do your sessions over the phone?
I don’t feel like I could do a tobacco cessation over the phone successfully, because so much of it comes down to knowing the person and so much of that is body language.
What would you say is the most personally rewarding success story that you have?
I guess my most personally rewarding success story would have to be my own. Using the same methods that I teach, I went from being a 30 year heavy smoker to being a marathon runner.
Do you have any idea the success rate after people see you?
I wish I did. I am still trying to learn how to not be frustrated by that question. I don’t know what kind of work it would take to provide scientifically credible evidence. To be a true test you have to submit blood tests and have credible controls and measure in place. You will see a lot of people advertise success rates, but these people are not typically accredited by the Better Business Bureau. I can only say that all of my clients know they can call me back if they need more help and about 2% of people call back for additional help. I would not say that is 98% success rate, because I don’t know. I would say that about 50% of my clients come from referrals from other clients. I consider that a good success factor.
How would someone that is not in the Denver, Colorado area find a good smoking cessation therapist?
I don’t know anyone that does exactly what I do in the way I do it. They could go to the National Guild of Hypnotists website for referrals, but I don’t know how to give any representation about what that person does.
What should a person expect after their session with you?
That they will feel great about being a non-smoker.
On your website, you wrote about how not smoking gave you a whole new outlook on life. For me, I think not smoking is good, but I think the effect of not smoking has had on my life is what I really enjoy. I feel like everything is better — my house is cleaner. I eat healthier foods. I make healthier decisions. I feel like stop smoking is what started that. How do you explain this?
For me, I thought being a non-smoker was impossible. I thought my whole identity was tied to it. I didn’t really want to smoke, but I couldn’t think of doing it any other way and then — I changed that. I proved to myself I was wrong. I was wrong that it was impossible. Then I thought, maybe there are other things I thought were impossible and I was actually wrong. I was telling myself I couldn’t do something that I could. Becoming a non-smoker changed my outlook. I used to think I was not an athlete. I used to think I was not athletic at all. I have now run a half dozen marathons. I thought it was impossible to run one marathon. That would have never showed up in my life before I quit smoking. Impossible is what you tell yourself.
Learn more about Frank Oden and Denver, Colorado based HypnoSmoke at: www.hypnosmoke.com.
View the Stop Smoking Recovery Table.