Is Allen Carr’s Easyway To Stop Smoking Really Easy?
In a previous blog about Allen Carr I critiqued his ‘Easyway To Stop Smoking’ book and looked at the claimed success rate of his stop-smoking seminars.
Today I’ll tell you more about these seminars.
Some time ago I had the opportunity of observing an Allen Carr ‘Easyway To Stop Smoking’ group session in London. There were, as I recall, eight participants who were all seated in comfortable reclining chairs. They also had filled in questionnaires about their smoking histories. The person running the session, the therapist, entered the room and greeted everyone in a friendly and reassuring way. He then started talking—rapidly. And he kept this up without hesitation for something like four hours. He had learnt the script by heart.
Near the end of the session the therapist picked up and glanced through the sheets on which the participants had written their smoking histories. He made brief comments on some of them such as, ‘Yes, I see, no problem there.’
The session ended with what was called psychotherapy, and this is where the reclining chairs came in. It was really a form of guided imagery. You were instructed to imagine yourself lying on a beach on a sunny day and visualise a boy and a girl throwing a large multi-coloured ball back and forth. The object seemed to be help the attendees achieve a relaxed state of mind to remember the content of the lecture and face a smoke-free future.
As the attendees were leaving the room they were invited to throw onto a growing heap on the floor anything they didn’t need. So they discarded their half-finished cigarette packs and lighters.
Don’t stop smoking until the end!
What was remarkable about the Allen Carr Easyway To Stop Smoking session was that everyone smoked throughout—it was in the days before smoking in enclosed public spaces was made illegal. You were allowed and even encouraged to smoke, and it seems the reason for this curious feature was that you wouldn’t be distracted by an unsatisfied need to smoke and would therefore be able to concentrate better on the content of the lecture.
Then you smoked a symbolic final cigarette, after which another would never touch your lips in the rest of your life.
These days it’s slightly different. The sessions are called seminars and are run by facilitators. There are five smoking breaks and this may explain why the events now last six hours. And they accommodate up to twenty-five people. Obviously the seminars are really lectures, and there can be little, if any, individual attention.
Is merely listening to a lecture with regular smoking breaks an effective way not only to stop smoking but to stay stopped?
The Symonds Method compared
All smokers have the same problem: addiction to the poison nicotine. But all smokers are unique individuals. That is why stop-smoking counselling, for best results, needs to be tailored to the situation and needs of each person. This can’t be done by being talked at for several hours. The Symonds Method does not use lectures or seminars. It’s interactive and takes place on a one-to-one basis, though couples can also be accommodated.
With the Symonds Method there are, by design, no smoking breaks. This is because it’s important for clients to become aware of and to talk about what they feel—if anything—when they haven’t smoked for a while. You can’t do this if you’re smoking up to the last minute. No so-called psychotherapy or guided imagery is included. What smokers are helped to do is to understand why they’ve been in such a predicament for so long—and how simple it is to escape from it if you go about it in the right way.
More information about the Symonds Method can be found here.
Text © Gabriel Symonds
Some of Allen Carr’s statements have really bothered me, like nobody likes to smoke, all smokers want to quit and nicotine is not addictive. The two first are at best over-generalizations and the last one outright false. On the other hand, he claims to have helped an incredible number of persons quit, and smoking is really bad for one’s health. So if it works, maybe it can justify a couple of lies? This is really an ethical dilemma, is it right to lie to people to save their lives? Or is it right to lie to people to get them away from a life-threatening habit?