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Last Updated: Wednesday, 10 March, 2004, 15:59 GMT
Relaxing way to kick the habit
By Fiona Murray
BBC News Online

For centuries, people have used hypnosis to try to cure ailments and phobias.

Mozart and Chopin said it helped them in their work and Hollywood actor Kevin Costner used it to get over seasickness.

Now a Belfast-based practitioner is harnessing the power of the mind to help people quit smoking.

Hypnotherapist Hugh McCorry
Hypnotherapist Hugh McCorry has adopted a variety of techniques

Hugh McCorry was the first hypnotherapist to be employed full-time at Belfast City Hospital about five years ago, but now works out of a clinic at Belvoir Park Hospital.

He gave free group sessions to the public during No Smoking Day in Belfast. It was hosted by the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Association.

Mr McCorry adopts a variety of techniques to help people focus on why they want to kick the habit, and stick to that decision.

"We can put people in a certain frame of mind where they will say: "That's it I want to stop", he said.

"We can help them to focus on why they want to stop, be it health, be it money, the social aspect, the smell or whatever.

We use relaxation to help the person to focus on their qualities
Hugh McCorry

"They can really take those messages on board and into the sub-conscious mind."

He said one session, and a back-up tape to take home, was enough to help anyone quit a 20-a-day habit.

"Hypnotherapy is successful if a person really wants to stop," he said. "If a person is coming at it in two minds, obviously you are going to have limited success."

Myrtle Neill from the Northern Ireland Chest Heart and Stroke Association said last year's results were good.

"Fifty-seven people took part last year and more than half of them had stopped. I'll know in four weeks if this session has been a success," she said.

Neil McCaughey felt very relaxed
Neil McCaughey felt very relaxed

Hypnotherapy can help a wide range of conditions such as low self esteem, fear of flying, banishing panic attacks or helping someone get through an interview or public speaking.

Mr McCorry also works with pain clinics and cancer patients.

"There are so many different techniques that we bring into hypnotherapy to help the person focus on why they're here," he said.

"We use relaxation to help the person to focus on their qualities, to look at their goals.

"We look at the problem at source, and then we can deal with it, so they can leave the past in the past and enjoy the present."

Mr McCorry said all ages sought his help but they had one thing in common - a desire to get "better control over their thinking".
Maureen Wilson: Smokes up to 40 a day
I am amazed because I don't feel a craving at all
Maureen Wilson

The results of his sessions will speak for themselves, but what did the participants in the smoking seminars think?

Neil McCaughey, 31, who has been smoking since he was 18, said he felt very relaxed.

"There was a musical tape playing in the background. He is quite a relaxed sort of guy himself when he is talking so you are just in a semi-conscious state.

"I feel good now. I don't feel any craving for a cigarette at all now. In an hour that might change. But it was definitely worth having a go!"

Maureen Wilson who has been smoking up to 40 cigarettes a day for 26 years was delighted with the session.

Jacqueline Topping: Felt good after the session
Jacqueline Topping: Felt good after the session

"I thought it went really, really well. I felt really relaxed. I thought it was fantastic. I don't even feel like a cigarette now.

"I am amazed because I don't feel a craving at all," she said.

Jacqueline Topping, who has been smoking about 25 years, said she felt really good. She smokes about 40 a day.

"He put you into a really relaxed state of mind. You were asleep but aware of everything that was going on. He talked you through everything. It really made you feel good.

"I have tried lots of times to stop smoking, I have tried patches and everything. I hope this is going to work, I'm going to think very positively."

BBC NI's Shane Glynn reports
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