The broken-hearted and hardcore smokers on trying hypnosis to overcome addictionDr Reema Shah doesn’t exactly arrive at her Khar and Dadar clinics spinning a pocket watch, ready to nudge patients into a zombie state. She busts quite a few myths surround-ing hypnotherapy, even while helping Mum-baikars wrangle out of the grip of addictions that range from smoking to drug abuse.“Hypnotherapy is essentially a therapeutic tool,” she explains. “It works on the prin-ciple of reprogramming the mind to accept healthy, positive suggestions and weed out negative messages.”The practice that dates back to ancient Greece and Egypt, and gets its name from the Greek term (hypnos) for `sleep’ is said to alter a person’s mental state, heightening his level of focus and awareness. Through it, we are able to access deeper layers of our memory bank or what we call the subconscious. “Eve-ry action is impacted by stored subconscious experiences, and conscious perceptions. At most times, we aren’t aware of subconscious associations,” explains consultant hypno-therapist at Masina Hospital, Kirti Bakshi. “For instance, smoking is associated with pleasure or stress-relief. Through hypnother-apy, we help smokers figure the root cause of stress.”Unlearn the negatives To access the sub-conscious mind, the hypno-therapist helps your conscious mind relax. In this deeply relaxed state, a communication channel is opened with the subconscious mind. It’s here that positive messages are pro-grammed into the patient’s mind using ver-bal affirmations and suggestions. “These new messages form the foundation of new behav-ioural patterns,” explains Shah. Fresh neural pathways are created in the brain, and these are then strengthened by post-hypnothera-py structures (eg. posthypnotic recordings which the patient can hear during leisure).“To put it simply, hypnotherapy helps in unlearning addictive patterns and re-learn healthy alternative behaviours.”An addiction is born out of dependency. By examining the genesis of this dependency and helping the patient understand it, the therapist works at restructuring aspects of his life that revolve around the addiction, of-fering healthy, sustainable alternatives.3-pronged approach A few years ago, Shah worked with a 24-year-old smoker who held a high-pressure job. He had smoked his first cigarette at 16 on a whim.“At 24, when he came to me, he had experi-enced his first health scare. He was finding it tough to breathe. So, his motivation to quit was quite high. The motivation always has to come from within, otherwise hypnotherapy doesn’t work,” shares Shah, who opted for a three-pronged approach.The first, involved hypnotherapy to un-learn the smoking behaviour. The second was based on cognitive behaviour therapy to identify, address and change peripheral behaviours that were encouraging the addic-tion. The third step involved sticking to post-hypnosis structures to support himself after therapy concluded. “Therapy analysis,” says Shah, made him realise he used smoking as a time-filler and a way of bonding with peers and friends.“In therapy, we worked on his social skills and motivated him to take up exercising con-necting with friends over the phone to fill out empty hours.”Bakshi, who has handled several cases of drug addiction, says, smoking is usually the first link, and could easily lead to drug abuse. “When compared to alcohol addiction, smok-ing is slightly easier to give up. But because of its social acceptability, motivation levels to stay off need to be high. Alcohol and drugs, on the other hand, are seen as potentially damaging, so the addiction is taken more se-riously,” she says.