The are no fixed rules as to how to prepare a client for a session to quit smoking. You need to work with each client as an individual and find out what instinctively feels like the right route forward for them.

These are some suggestions that I give to clients who are going to be working with me to quit smoking:

Identify what needs smoking used to meet. It could be relaxation, social interaction or comfort. When you know what needs smoking used to meet for them, ensure you discuss other ways to meet those same needs in the future. For example, relaxation could be replaced with meditation. They could gain social interaction by taking a walk to the cafeteria at work instead of going outside with the smokers. They could gain comfort by reaching out to a friend or loved one. If you do not identify the needs that smoking used to meet and find new healthy ways of meeting the same needs, then there will be a vacuum of need that wants to be filled. The easiest way for the client to refill that vacuum will be to resort to their old behaviour. Having the contingency plans for how they will meet those needs instead will minimize their craving on the emotional level.

Clean up. One of the biggest downsides of smoking is that it stinks! So get the client to get rid of ash trays, old lighters and to pop that jacket that they go outside to smoke in the wash. Get the car valeted and get some fresh air into any other places that they used to smoke. It will help them to avoid the reminders for a while once they are still adjusting to the change they have made.

Remember it’s just one day. Stopping smoking for the rest of ones life can seem like a daunting decision. I can barely plan next week let alone commit to something for the rest of my days on the earth. I can understand why some people might feel overwhelmed at the idea of making a decision that has to last them for forever. Here’s the way around this. Instead of thinking of this as a forever decision, break it down into manageable chunks. For some clients that might be “I’m not going to smoke for all of this month.” Then at the end of that month they reset the commitment to another month. For other clients it might work better to chunk the commitment smaller still into weeks or days.

Remind them that they’ve done it before. There was always a time in the past when they didn’t smoke and even if they can’t remember it, they still did it. If they could do it before then they can do it again. No one came out of the womb with a cigarette and everyone has to go to sleep at night so they can go for extended periods of time without smoking. They just need to remember that it is already possible as in some ways they are already coping without it.

By Gemma Bailey