1. Randy, you have worked with people to overcome their bad habits, especially smoking. Can you tell me why people continue to smoke even though they know that this is slowly eroding their health?

There are two main reasons as I understand it. First, smoking is a stubborn habit that naturally connects with many everyday activities, times of day, social interactions, and emotional states that continually "trigger" the urge to smoke—often at an unconscious level. In this way, smoking becomes like a reliable, old friend that offers relaxation, comfort, and focus with every interaction (puff). It's like the old song goes—"breaking up is hard to do."

Second, smoking acts as an addiction as well. Because the body and mind become used to the "rush" from regular nicotine fixes, quitting can immediately trigger strong and uncomfortable physical and psychological withdrawal cravings to pressure a return to smoking. This discomfort can last for several weeks or even months. Typical withdrawal symptoms include irritability, restlessness, sadness, nervousness, coughing, a slight sore throat, constipation, insomnia, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, a decreased heart rate, and/or an increased appetite. With all of this, it's no wonder most people have a hard time quitting on their own!

2. If there were three things that a cigarette smoker could right now to help them drop the habit, what would they be?

Besides getting my program? Let me see. First, smokers should immediately have a physical examination with their primary care physician to learn the extent to which smoking has already begun to affect their health. An examination should also include recommendations to do to start reversing any present damage. This one is essential.

Second, ask several supportive, understanding family members and friends to give the emotional encouragement and listening ears you'll need during your change process. Make sure these supportive people aren't smoker's themselves. It can be hard to quit with someone always lighting up in front of you!

Third, get healthier! Strategically improve your diet, exercise, and sleeping patterns. Study it. Plan it. Do it. Because quitting smoking can involve temporary lapses in energy, lowered concentration, and increased moodiness, you will need to take better care of yourself to replace your "nicotine highs" with "natural highs" and better self-control. Healthier living is what makes this possible. Remember, there are no feelings that nicotine gives you that the brain can't also generate through healthier means. You just need to plan more, be creative, and commit to the process.

3. In your practice, you use hypnosis as one tool to help people quit smoking, is this effective? If so, why would something like hypnosis work for something like this?

I have found hypnosis to be highly effective in helping my clients stop smoking. In fact, traditionally, clinical hypnosis has shown to be the most popular and helpful with two main issues: smoking cessation and weight loss. Because many smokers fear that they will gain weight if they quit, a good hypnosis program for smoking cessation should include a component on weight loss as well. This is like "killing two birds with one stone".

I think hypnosis works so well with smoking cessation because habits and addictions in general tend to be very psychological in nature. Among other things, hypnosis helps to change and improve the way a person thinks about his or her "problem". It also helps people gain greater access to the tools and resources they'll need during the change process. In fact, many of my clients acknowledge at the beginning that their habit/addiction is "mostly psychological" and that they just need to "change the way they think about it."

4. Is there any research supporting that the hypnosis you use is effective for smoking cessation? If so, please go into some detail and tell us where to find this information.

Yes. In fact, a great deal of research shows hypnosis to be highly effective with smoking cessation in general. The main studies I usually refer to come from the main reference book from The American Society of Clinical Hypnosis, Handbook of Hypnotic Suggestions and Metaphors by D. Corydon Hammond. This book cites multiple studies showing about a 2/3 (60-67%) success rate with smoking cessation when a 4-5+ session hypnosis format is used (versus a 25% success rate when only 1 hypnosis session is used). In short, more hypnosis sessions = much higher results. This complimentary, multi-session hypnosis format is what I base my "Non-Smoker's Edge" program on (although my program actually contains 9 hypnosis sessions).

This 2/3 success rate for the multiple hypnosis session approach is far higher than all other research-based approaches to quitting smoking. Nicotine replacement methods, the anti-depressant medication Zyban, and behavior modification techniques have all consistently yielded success rates of just 25%.
There are many current and past research articles supporting the use of hypnosis with smoking cessation.

Some great websites reviewing these articles from professional journals can be found at:
http://www.hypnosis-research.org/hypnosis/index.html
http://ijceh.educ.wsu.edu/
http://www.apa.org/psycinfo/

For more reader-friendly reviews, I recommend searching the smoking and hypnosis-related articles on the Psychology Today archive database. Their website is www.psychologytoday.com.

5. In our site, we go to great lengths to make sure that the therapists we work with have backgrounds that people can trust. Can you tell us why you are qualified to help with smoking cessation and why it might be important that someone do his or her due diligence before selecting a hypnotherapist?

This is an important, essential question to ask, so I will go into detail. I have been helping people successfully stop smoking in my therapy office since 1996. I quickly learned and incorporated hypnotic techniques with my therapy clients from the beginning, and have greatly sharpened my hypnosis skills with smokers through 5 consecutive, ongoing years of advanced hypnosis training with world-renown hypnosis expert, Dr. Michael Yapko.

Dr. Yapko has trained graduate-level therapists in clinical hypnosis for 30+ years and is the author of the world's top clinical hypnosis textbook, "Trancework".
Furthermore, I am also a fully qualified psychotherapist with twice the usual training. I possess a masters degree and license in marriage and family therapy, a doctoral degree and license in clinical psychology, and have been doing psychotherapy since 1996. Since "hypnotherapy" is a type of therapy, a truly qualified "hypnotherapist" should also be a highly trained, licensed, and experienced therapist for the best results. If not, move on and keep searching!

In fact, when deciding upon a professional for hypnosis products (or live office sessions), the first question to always ask is, "is this person a licensed, graduate-level psychotherapist?" Such official, graduate-level licenses include the clinical psychologist, marriage and family therapist, or clinical social work licenses. If a hypnotist don't possess one of these (or a comparable) therapy license, I wouldn't recommend them. An unlicensed, non-therapist claiming to be "certified in hypnosis" is a red flag to be wary of. You never know what you will get.

Since hypnosis and hypnotherapy is not a profession unto itself and is simply a specialty area of therapy, there are no official or universal governing boards or standards for who becomes "hypnosis certified". In fact, a person can literally drop out of high school, have no hypnosis training whatsoever, and send away for a hypnosis certification from a bogus hypnosis board that prints worthless certifications for a fee. Beware!

6. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself, what are the things you like to do outside of being a psychologist?

Outside of my therapy office, I am also very busy. Most of my life today revolves around spending time with my lovely wife of 8 years, my 2 wonderful little boys, and my parents who live very close by. The most important thing in my life is the time I spend with my family, so I guess they are my main hobby.

I recently moved my practice from San Diego up to Roseville for a great private practice opportunity (by Sacramento, California). I am becoming accustomed to the "country life" up here, but I do miss the perfect weather and beaches of San Diego. Who wouldn't? My hobbies and interests include fixing up our new house, going hiking, playing tennis and basketball, boogie boarding in the ocean, traveling, and taking precious naps when my youngsters both happen to be sleeping (a rarity).