Psychological-Behavioral Approaches to Quit Smoking

There are a number of behavioral methods to quit smoking that address primarily the habit of smoking, not the underlying physical nicotine addiction.

Self-help (quitting smoking on one's own). The author's review of the literature in the Annals of Internal Medicine is consistent with previous reviews and found that self-help - trying to quit smoking on one's own - does not have good success rates when undertaken without a person-to-person intervention.

Telephone support. Most states manage some type of free telephone-based smoking cessation program (go to; or call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345 to find if there is one in your state). The telephone specialist helps the patient plan a quitting method that fits the person's smoking pattern. According to the American Cancer Society, people who use the telephone counseling stop smoking at twice the rate of those who don't use this type of service.

Counseling and behavioral treatments. This broad category includes such things as:

  • Counseling (practical, supportive, educational, etc.)
  • Hypnosis
  • Behavioral interventions

The evidence for brief counseling to help with quitting smoking is inconsistent as are the findings for hypnosis. Behavioral interventions are generally more structured and include such things as identifying the individual's cues and triggers for smoking and developing alternative skills to help the individual cope with those situations.

Several studies have supported the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral treatment to help quit smoking, either completed alone or in conjunction with taking an anti-smoking medication.

See Resources to Help Quit Smoking for contact information for many of these treatments.


Stop smoking programs. There are a number of structured stop smoking programs offered through non-profit groups, churches, hospitals, etc. When evaluating these programs, the American Cancer Society recommends that the stop smoking program have at least the following components:

  • Sessions are least 20 to 30 minutes
  • The number of sessions is at least 4 to 7 sessions
  • The number of weeks is at least two

Also, be sure the leader of the program has training in smoking cessation. Finding a stop smoking program can be done through the local American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, or community health department.


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