Magazine For Hypnosis and
I am often asked by prospective Smoking Cessation clients, “What’s your success rate?” I don’t know about other therapists but I really hate this question. Firstly, why only smoking? After all no-one ever asks for your success rate with stress or depression or IBS do they? And secondly, if I’m honest I don’t actually know.
When I first started to specialise exclusively in smoking a few years ago, I decided that to be professional I had better offer some evidence of my success, but I wanted to do it properly so I decided I would use the gold standard for assessing stop smoking success rates.
The NHS (National Health Service – in the UK) gold standard says that to qualify as a success the ex-smoker must have been continuously abstinent for a minimum of 1 year (continuously abstinent means that he/she must not have had a relapse in that time, not even a puff). And you can’t just take the person’s word for it – it must be verified, for example with a carbon monoxide breath test. It also says that you must count any people you can’t get hold of after a year as failures.
I quickly realised that this was just not practicable for my purposes as a private practitioner (and, as I later discovered, is rarely used by the NHS for exactly the same reasons). As you can imagine, by this reckoning you get extremely low figures, which would hardly sound encouraging to prospective clients and in any case, the idea of hounding down ex clients after a year and insisting they come back and prove to me that they were still not smoking was clearly not on, so the gold standard was out.
I therefore decided that the best way around the problem would surely be to just contact all my ex smoking clients after a decent interval and ask them if they have stopped smoking. You would think so, but actually it’s not at all straightforward. First of all, whendo you contact them? Obviously the sooner you contact your clients after therapy the higher your success rate will appear to be; and what constitutes success anyway? I once had a 40-a-day client who was absolutely delighted that she now smoked only 5 cigarettes a day. I would class her as a failure but she certainly didn’t see it that way. Another client went back to smoking after a couple of months but nevertheless felt he had had good value for money, and was quite happy. It seems we all have a different definition of ‘success’.
Realising that others before me must have come up against this problem I started to look around at other Hypnotherapists for ideas. It was not very encouraging. Many therapists (very sensibly in my opinion) do not quote a success rate, but of those that do, I have yet to see anyone go into any meaningful detail about how they arrived at their figure. It was therefore difficult to come to any firm conclusions but from talking to people it seemed that everyone has their own way of doing it. For example many base their success rate on the number of people who express
dissatisfaction or come back for a second go. Others base it on the number of people who ask for their money back, and others still on the number that express a desire to light a cigarette while still in the consulting room. A few do at least make an effort to contact their clients after a certain period to ask if they were successful, and all credit to them. (However there still remains the thorny issue of what constitutes ‘success’, which remains arbitrary). As for the rest, they give only vague hints of how they arrived at their figures and tend to change the subject rather quickly.
I’m sure they do exist, but so far I have not come across any therapists who go into any meaningful detail. Nevertheless, I can’t help noticing that when a success rate is quoted it is surprisingly often a nice round figure of 80%. Strange that.
Even more disturbingly, some therapists who advertise a very high success rate of, e.g. 95% are not even referring to their own success – instead they refer to the supposed success of the person that invented the method they use. And as for the 97% I came across recently, to be honest this seemed so outlandish I didn’t even bother to look into it.
So what am I to do? The NHS gold standard is impractical and intrusive, and even if I could find a sensible alternative, there remains the problem that it would be totally meaningless to prospective clients: since they would have no way of comparing like for like it would actually tell them nothing.
Maybe I shouldn’t worry so much? Maybe I should just go with the flow and use my own set of criteria for success? I have therefore made the following decision: from now on I will assume that anyone who does not ask me for their money back is a satisfied customer and therefore counts as a success. Since no-one has ever (yet) asked me for their money back, and since I have in fact been offered more on occasion, I make that 101%. Now that’s what I call success!
Penelope Walford is a clinical hypnotherapist based in the UK with clinics in Harley Street, London and on the Isle of Wight.
Stop Smoking in Glasgow, East Renfrewshire and Paisley with Linda Alexander, contact: 07875 493 358 and 0141 632 1440, also linda,firstname.lastname@example.org. Cost £150 – one session technique with additional free session if required.