Despite all the anti-smoking advertising, despite all the claims from people who believe they've discovered "the one, true cure", 70% of the population of the UK still smoke. What is going wrong?
Perhaps it's time to go back to basics and remember some of the fundamentals of psychology, then to apply those to smoking cessation treatments.
People learn best when presented with material in their own, dominant modality.
For those unfamiliar with this concept, the modalities are the senses – sight, touch, hearing, taste and smell. The most important of these, from a learning perspective, are sight, touch and hearing.
Predominantly visual people will learn best when material is presented in a visual format. Tactile people will learn best when they can touch, feel and physically manipulate the teaching materials. Auditory people will want to listen to tapes and to a lecture but may "blank out" when presented with printed lecture notes.
These basics of learning were first presented in a format which gained international acceptance in the early 1970s by Richard Bandler and Dave Grindler and formed one of the basic concepts of neuro linguistic programming. It is worth mentioning, however, that they incorporated existing and widely accepted concepts from linguistics.
So How Does This Relate To Smoking Cessation Treatments?
If you accept that people learn best in different ways – and each person reading this has only to think about the ways they themselves learn to test the truth of this statement – then no one "system" based on talking and discussion is ever going to provide a successful outcome for everybody.
The tragedy of modern smoking cessation therapy treatments is that it could now be seen as a money-making industry, with numerous people copyrighting their own particular "system".
If, however, one examines the basic concepts of neuro linguistic programming and of modern education theory, it is clear that unless that system incorporates all four modalities, successes will by its very nature be limited.
This is not to say that each "system" or advertising campaign doesn't have its successes and its benefits. What we are looking at in this article are the inbuilt limitations on those successes.
The attempts to persuade the population of the UK to quit smoking have, by and large, been such an uphill struggle over the last twenty years that any successes are hailed as evidence that the campaign is on the right track. It may be harder, but perhaps more honest, to look at the reasons why 70% of the population have not responded to this message. It is necessary to look at the reasons for failure.
Could it be as simple as needing to readjust the message to take account of people's learning modalities?
This cannot be the whole truth but how many smoking cessation therapists incorporate all four modalities into their treatment plans?
Rather than "one system", surely at least part of the answer for smoking cessation therapists is to offer as wide a range of options as is possible, based on the main modalities.
One thing is for sure. We are not getting it right. The statistics speak for themselves. Therapists can rest on their laurels, convinced that anyone who fails to stop smoking after using their "system" simply didn't want to quit in the first place, or we can work to offer an ever-greater range of options, treating each one as an individual instead of as merely the next one on the conveyor belt.
Smoking cessation treatment is widely available and has a success rate of 90%. Let us try the grass roots approach, looking again at some basic psychology and educational theory and ignoring the possibility of a 'quick fix' and we therapists may yet succeed.
By Shelagh Clayton
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