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Patient Stories

The Power of Suggestion: Quitting Smoking
By Healthy Life 2008 Spring/Summer

Over the years, Salem resident Barbara Mahoney, 72, tried everything to quit her 52-year, pack-a-day cigarette smoking addiction. She managed to quit a few times, once for over a ear, but some crisis would come up and she’d pick up a cigarette to calm her nerves. It’s not that she lacked motivation or didn’t understand or suffer the health effects from smoking, but she couldn’t break the physical and mental addiction.


“I was older when I had my son and I knew that smoking added even more risk to the pregnancy, but I couldn’t stop,” she explained. More recently, she’s endured bronchitis, asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. “I saw the misery that my ex-husband went through with his struggle and eventual death from smoking-induced emphysema. But again, though I wanted to, I just couldn’t quit smoking.” She tried nicotine gum, lozenges, patches and even hypnosis hoping for an effective treatment.

Two and a half years ago, during a visit to her primary care physician, she saw a flyer about NSMC’s hypnotherapy program as aid for smoking cessation. “I figured since it was one-on-one and from the hospital, it might be more effective than what I had tried before,” she said. After completing an in-depth interview about her medical and family history, her likes and dislikes including favorite colors and music, she met with certified hypnotist Karen Pischke, R.N., B.S.N. (978.741.4151). “The more we can learn about what appeals to a patient, the more we can individualize the hypnosis,” explained Pischke.


As they started the hypnosis session, Mahoney asked Pischke if she wanted to take her cigarettes and lighter. “Instead, Karen brought over a wastebasket and had me throw away the cigarettes myself. That was the first step for me to own the decision and be conscious of the act of becoming a non-smoker.” With soft lights and music playing in the background, Mahoney reclined in a chair as Pischke began speaking to her in a calm, soothing voice. “Karen brought me into a very relaxed state, but not so much that I fell asleep, and then talked to me about helping me achieve my goal to quit. She said, ‘Barbara, I know you want to be a non-smoker,’” explained Mahoney. Pischke taped the session so that Mahoney could listen to the session at home to reinforce the process and help her relax. “I really don’t know how or why it works, but I haven’t smoked since. I haven’t had the urge to smoke at all, even when I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year. And if that didn’t trigger it, I don’t know what would,” said Mahoney.


“I don’t think my son thought I’d really quit this time. He was holding his breath as I passed six months. And now it’s been over two and a half years,” she said laughing. She’s breathing better, has been weaned off of her breathing medication and is feeling great. “My lung capacity has improved and I’m walking longer distances without losing my breath at all. I’ve also saved more than $150 a month that I used to spend on cigarettes.


NSMC Study Proves that Hypnosis Works


Hypnosis is on its way to becoming more widely accepted as an effective treatment for smoking cessation based on research conducted at North Shore Medical Center. The preliminary results of the study, led by Faysal Hasan, M.D., medical director of NSMC’s smoking cessation program, showed that patients who participated in one hypnotherapy session were more likely to be non-smokers at six months compared with patients using nicotine replacement therapy alone or patients who quit “cold turkey.” “This study suggests that hypnotherapy can be very useful and that combining it with other treatments is optimal for success,” said Dr. Hasan. Karen Pischke, R.N., B.S.N., who hypnotized patients for the study, hopes the results will satisfy skeptics. To enroll in NSMC’s Quit and Quit for Good smoking cessation program or to schedule a hypnotherapy session, call 978-741-4151.