Our clinics use a proven behavior modification program as a significant part of its treatment protocol. This approach offers many advantages over other forms of therapy. First, specific behaviors can be targeted, new methods can be readily explained, and results can be easily and immediately evaluated. Second, the protocol offers economy of time and effort. It is easily integrated into the patient's daily routines. Patients can control and monitor progress with little difficulty. Third and most important, results are achieved in a short period of time. For people who are quitting, this means faster relief of personal distress. In addition, the efficiency (speed) of the treatment means financial savings.
There are literally thousands of research publications dealing with the systematic application of behavior modification techniques in the successful treatment of maladaptive behavior of individuals. Unlike other therapeutic techniques that deal with exploring inner conflicts or attempting to change the way a person thinks, behavior modification focuses on what the patient does. This approach attempts to change behavior directly by manipulating environmental circumstances through reward or punishment.
Nicotine addiction is particularly complicated with many sources of resistance. That's where our experience and program stand out. Our program works because it eliminates physical withdrawal symptoms, reprograms habits, and alters the pleasure/pain connections patients have to smoking.
Eliminating Physical Withdrawal With nicotine addiction, rational thought is compromised when physical cravings occur. This double-barreled approach recognizes the critical linkage between the physical and psychological drives of the patient.
Nicotine addiction is first and foremost, a physiological need. Patients experience overwhelming urges, cravings and desires for cigarettes. Without adequate nicotine in their systems, patients feel irritable, lightheaded, sluggish or ill.
Our treatment program eliminates cravings -- the physical need -- immediately. Elimination of the physical response to nicotine is a first step toward quitting since learned behavior patterns weaken and disappear over time if they are not reinforced.
Once the physical withdrawal symptoms are gone, patients become more receptive to behavior modification. We then use a simple three-step behavior modification program:
Step One: Interrupt Physical and Emotional Routines
Step Two: Experience Physical Pleasure of Not Smoking
Step Three: Experience Emotional Pleasure of Not Smoking
Smokers develop programmed behaviors surrounding their use of tobacco. These "habits" have been learned across time and are strongly associated with smoking. The behaviors are so habituated that smokers find themselves smoking and do not remember picking up a cigarette and lighting it.
If undesirable behavior can be learned, then it is possible to unlearn it. In step one of this system, patients are counseled on how to interrupt their physical and emotional routines. For example, patients are asked to change their morning rituals, to avoid places (such as bars or break rooms) where they typically would smoke and to place smoking paraphernalia out of reach. The goal is to extinguish smoking habits.
Behavioral therapists, such as B.F. Skinner, suggest that people can create new habits by repeating the behavior 21 consecutive times. The number of repetitions doesn't matter. Behavior that is consistently avoided weakens; behavior that is consistently repeated strengthens.
Changing routines is a necessary and straightforward step toward quitting. It is relatively simple and only requires awareness and forethought by patients.
In addition to breaking old habits and creating new ones, this approach addresses one of the most complicated sources of resistance to quitting -- faulty coping behaviors. Smoking not only is maintained by its positive or pleasurable results, it is negatively reinforced too.
Smoking brings pleasure. However, when nicotine levels in the body drop below accustomed levels, the smoker can experience feelings of anxiety. Smoking relieves this discomfort. So by smoking, the psychological pain of withdrawal is avoided.
Not smoking becomes associated with pain. Anxiety disappears when the patient smokes and smoking is reinforced. As a result, smoking becomes associated both with pleasure and the relief of discomfort. It is this faulty coping behavior that our final two behavioral modification steps addres.
Patients are instructed in ways to shape new behaviors. A variety of techniques are used to help the patient fully associate with the benefits and pleasures of NOT smoking rather than focusing on personal discomfort or cigarettes.
We have geared our approach to help smokers fight the initial impulse to smoke at the first signs of discomfort. Instead of smoking, patients employ positive non-smoking associations to reinforce their resolve not to smoke. Faulty behavior patterns weaken and disappear over time if they are not reinforced.
As with most therapies, patients experience a breakthrough. Change happens in an instant -- a new behavior or perspective emerges. Patients notice this perceptual shift after day six or seven. The result is a confirmed non-smoker in approximately three weeks.
Our approach works, even for patients who have tried and failed before. The linkage between the physical and psychological components of addiction are used to break the cycle. Our medical protocol helps by eliminating the overwhelming urges. Our psychological system shapes new responses and helps patients to anchor to the physical and emotional pleasure of NOT Smoking.