Why is it so difficult for many smokers to quit their expensive, annoying and unhealthy vice? On the one hand, nicotine dependence plays a role, but on the other hand, smoking behavior also plays a role. If we look at smoking as a learned behavior that has built up over several years, we understand that many people find it difficult to quit smoking overnight and thus give up part of their daily routines.
However, we are by no means helplessly at the mercy of these habits and tiresome routines. Behavioral therapy can help to bring about a sustainable change in behavior towards a self-determined smoke-free life . In this way , ingrained behavior patterns and habits can be unlearned.
What is behavioral therapy?
Behavioral therapy is a psychotherapeutic method that aims to change behavioral patterns that lead to unwanted habits and addictions such as cigarette addiction. It is assumed that behaviors can be learned and thus changed. Behavioral therapy aims to teach those affected self-help skills to avoid relapses and new problems.
How behavioral therapy can help you quit smoking
Behavioral therapy plays an important role in quitting smoking. It is about analyzing, understanding and ultimately changing smoking behavior and related habits and triggers . Through targeted training, new behaviors are developed that are intended to replace old and unhealthy behavior patterns. An example of a substitute action might be taking a short walk at lunchtime with a healthy snack in hand instead of reaching for a cigarette as usual.
The aim is to reduce nicotine consumption in the long term and eventually give it up completely. Behavioral therapy can help to increase the motivation to stop smoking, to develop strategies for dealing with withdrawal symptoms, so-called carvings, and to avoid relapses.
Methods of behavioral therapy in smoking cessation
A commonly used and effective method is cognitive behavioral therapy , which aims to identify, understand and then change the thoughts and beliefs that lead to smoking. This therapy aims to promote helpful thoughts and reduce those that are conducive to smoking.
For example, many smokers are under the misconception that smoking reduces stress and provides relaxation during difficult events. That the short smoking breaks at work improve the quality of life. That they lose their quality of life and sense of freedom if they quit smoking. Cognitive-behavioural therapy uncovers these hindering and fallacious thoughts and helps strategize to generate new behaviors designed to replace the old and harmful ones.
Relaxation methods , the aim of which is a state that is perceived as pleasant, are also used to help people stop smoking. A widespread misconception is that smoking provides relaxation through small breaks from everyday life. Just the thought of having to do without this everyday escape triggers fear and the associated stress in many people. In order to keep the stress level as low as possible when giving up smoking, relaxation exercises are an important part of behavioral therapy.
Furthermore, mindfulness-based principles are used in behavioral therapy. By mindfulness we mean the conscious and non-judgmental perception of the present. When we experience moments mindfully, we focus our full attention and concentration on our doings and actions. In the context of behavioral therapy, various mindfulness exercises are used, such as meditation, yoga or the body scan (mindfully feeling individual parts of the body). You consciously go into a state of "actively doing nothing" in order to train mindful perception. These are supplemented with further exercises in which mindful perception is integrated into everyday activities. For example, one should brush one's teeth, concentrate on the activity with full mental attention and do not already mentally deal with everyday problems.
Forms of behavioral therapy (apps, courses, etc.)
Behavioral therapy does not always have to take the form of a therapy session with a therapist. There are several methods of behavioral therapy that can be used to help you quit smoking.
Alternatives to a personal therapy session include:
- Group therapy : In group therapy, people meet to work together on their cessation of smoking. Under professional guidance, participants learn how to change their smoking behavior and develop healthy coping strategies. By exchanging ideas with other smokers, they can support and motivate each other.
- Online Courses : Online smoking cessation courses offer a flexible and anonymous way to quit smoking. These courses can be conducted from home and often offer a combination of self-study materials, interactive exercises and coaching elements. They can also be offered in the form of group therapies, where participants meet in virtual rooms.
- Apps : There are already some apps that can help you quit smoking. These apps often offer features like a smoke-free timer, cigarette tracker, reminders, and motivational messages. One app that offers scientific behavioral therapy is nuumi . A coach guides users through the mental training and offers 24/7 support with quitting smoking ( nuumi in the iOS App Store / nuumi in the Google Play Store ).
When choosing a smoking cessation method, it is important to consider individual needs and preferences. Likewise, the gradual nicotine withdrawal should be planned in a planned manner in order not to be subject to physical withdrawal symptoms and thus to an increased risk of a relapse.
That's what science says
Behavioral therapy has long been discussed in science as an empirically proven and effective method for smoking cessation. If you look at the research of the last few years, it becomes clear that cognitive behavioral therapy is probably the most effective and best-established innovation for smoking cessation.
This is also the conclusion of the review "Cognitive Behavioral and Mindfulness-Based Interventions for Smoking Cessation: A Review of the Recent Literature" from 2021, in which various studies are considered. In particular, cognitive behavioral therapy and mindfulness-based interventions in connection with smoking cessation are examined there and rated as very effective. Thus, these interventions can help reduce nicotine cravings, prevent relapse, and promote long-term nicotine abstinence.
In addition, specific aspects of the two methods that can contribute to smoking cessation are also discussed. This includes, for example, the identification of triggers for smoking behavior and the development of strategies to deal with withdrawal symptoms and to prevent relapse. Because a behavioral therapy intervention typically takes 1-2 hours to complete and involves multiple sessions, it is a high-intensity procedure, and higher intensity intervention is positively correlated with smoking cessation success.
Overall, the review concludes that behavioral therapy offers promising approaches to smoking cessation and that further research in this area is warranted to better understand both the effectiveness and long-term effects of the interventions.
Combination with other forms of therapy
Behavioral therapy alone is usually not enough to successfully stop smoking. Although the behavior and thus the psychological dependence is treated and, in the best case, changed, the physical side of cigarette addiction is left out. However, if behavioral therapy is combined with smoking cessation, the probability of successfully stopping smoking increases by up to 83%. On the one hand there are traditional nicotine replacement products such as patches and sprays and on the other hand there are modern tools such as e-cigarettes containing nicotine .
Tip : The smart non-smoking program nuumi combines gentle nicotine weaning with a smart vaporizer with scientific behavioral training and thus offers a holistic solution to combating addiction.