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“I’d tried to quit many times before, too many times to count, if I’m honest. It got to be a bit of a joke amongst my mates… I was very good at quitting, just terrible at staying quit. I’d never thought of it as the sort of thing that people see a therapist about but I reckoned it was worth trying. After all, I’d tried patches and gum and vaping and all manner of other gadgets.

“Therapy wasn’t what I was expecting. I suppose I thought it would be someone telling me not to smoke, but instead, we spent a lot of the first few sessions exploring what smoking meant to me. How I got started and when I find myself smoking most heavily. The way we looked at the issue was really interesting. I’d heard all that stuff about the addictiveness of nicotine and finding substitutes to replace the fags hundred of times before. That’s all very well but it never got to the root of why I smoked. These sessions weren’t about the cigarettes so much as they were about me.

“There was no condemnation or disappointment from the therapist when I slipped up and had a few smokes in between sessions. What we did was to look at the circumstances around why I had smoked, what I had been feeling and thinking.

"When I went two weeks without a cigarette, the therapist was genuinely supportive and pleased for me but what helped the most was they way he encouraged me to look at those two weeks and identify how it was that I’d managed. The therapist wasn’t analysing me so much as encouraging me to analyse myself.

“Over the course of the sessions, I stopped looking at the cigarettes as the problem and started looking at myself. I started to understand what situations left me feeling really stressed and how I smoked in order to manage my anxieties. I picked up different therapeutic tools: relaxation strategies, deep-breathing techniques and grounding exercises to help me cope with stress and trained myself to use them rather than reaching for a fag.

“Most of all, what I feel I’ve taken from the sessions is a sense of my own strengths. It’s not always been easy, but I’ve come to see that my previous attempts at quitting were because other people wanted me to and the reason I was never able to quit for long was because I wasn’t ready.

"My time in therapy has given me the opportunity to take responsibility for quitting… it was something I wanted to do and we explored the best ways for me to go about doing this. The whole experience was very personal - it was about me and what works and doesn’t work for me.

"I’ve managed to be cigarette-free for six months now, and I know who’s responsible for that. I am.”

Taigh Sàmhchair: professional counselling and psychotherapy
Hereward Proops MBACP, registered member of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
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