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Giving up smoking?  Try positive psychotherapy

The thousands of people who’ve resolved to stop smoking this New Year might soon be able to make use of a new method to help them break free from tobacco.

Called PPT–S, or positive psychotherapy for smoking cessation, its success and potential as a new form of treatment is outlined in the current issue of The Journal of Positive Psychology.

Since positive psychotherapy is known to increase “positive affect” (PA) – how an individual experiences or expresses positive moods – and having greater PA can predict how successful someone’s attempt to quit smoking might be, a team of researchers from the United States wondered if making attempts to increase the PA of smokers who wanted to quit would make them more likely to succeed.

To test their theory, the researchers recruited 19 smokers with low PA who all wanted to kick the habit. Each received eight weeks of nicotine patch therapy as well as six counselling sessions.

Throughout the sessions, the researchers used both standard smoking cessation strategies (such as focusing on the benefits of quitting) as well as positive psychotherapy (PPT) exercises designed to “enhance positive feelings, behaviours or cognitions” (such as focusing on the Three Good Things that happened to them each day and savouring other pleasures).

The smokers had two weeks to practise the PPT exercises “designed to boost positive mood” before attempting to leave tobacco behind on their third counselling session.

Although there was no control group to compare the success of PPT–S to standard smoking cessation treatment, the authors note that almost one-third of the smokers they treated (31.6%) kept away from tobacco for six months; the general success rate for standard treatments is around 23%.

The success of this study suggests “that PPT may serve as a useful enhancement to traditional behavioural smoking cessation counselling”. Participants reported very high levels of satisfaction with the treatment, especially with its positive focus and the fact the researchers compiled and modified a PPT–S treatment manual for use by others as part of their study.

Positive psychotherapy for smoking cessation: Treatment development, feasibility, and preliminary results
Christopher W. Kahler, Nichea S. Spillane, Anne Day, Elise M. Clerkin, Acacia Parks, Adam M. Leventhal  & Richard A. Brown

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