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Group Therapy: An Essential Component to Smoking Cessation

Updated: May 29, 2019

There were multiple factors that helped me quit smoking besides using Chantix. I went cold turkey 2 or 3 times, with each attempt lasting approximately several years, but maybe the most instrumental factor besides Chantix was group therapy. I can remember my peers and me when we used to meet upstairs in the Matrix building here on George Street. The facilitators of the group were Stacy and Jose. Boy, does that bring back memories! I believe I was receiving mental health treatment at that time from Raritan Bay Mental Health Center in Perth Amboy. Eventually Raritan Bay instituted their own smoking cessation program. I also remember how generous the CHOICES program was in providing Nicotine replacement devices when there was a surplus in the budget. Dr. Williams presided over the group. I also remember pictures and slogans on the walls that delivered blatantly honest slogans on the dangers of smoking like two cowboys riding horses on the range, one exclaiming to the other “I miss my lung, Bob!” Another depicting a tongue licking a dirty ash tray.

I also remember our various clients in the group each informing us of their trials and tribulations on how to quit smoking. Some clients consumed a pack of cigarettes or more a day. Some consumed individual cigarettes which they bought from convenience stores (I believe they were called “loosies”). Other people in the group were concerned with such issues such as weight gain after they quit smoking. Others were concerned with the foul odor they were held prison to.

On the other hand, there were the positive aspects that were discussed such as food tasting better, “well winded breathing”, and maybe the greatest reward, the money they could save.

Some more of the great rewards came with the prevention of serious disease. Afflictions such as lung cancer, heart attack and stroke were greatly reduced leading to greater longevity. Elimination of second hand smoke in one’s household prevented danger to family members. Employers were willing to hire because of greater productivity and lower insurance premiums. And overall greater motivation in life with a secure and happy state of mind and a bright future.All in all the group produced camaraderie and warmth which enhanced an atmosphere conducive to smoking cessation. The various clientele giving support and empathy showed a great deal of understanding to each other’s plight. As a result, support groups are an essential component to recovery. By attending them, hopefully patients can see a breakthrough out of the foggy quagmire which engulfs those of us caught up in the bondage of smoking. without becoming overwhelmed and acting on impulse.

The fourth area is ‘distress tolerance’. This area is focused on developing skills to cope with crises when emotions become overwhelming, like during a death, sickness, etc., without relapsing into addictive behaviors like smoking.

Addiction is very often described as a sort of hell—a world of dependence, pain, desperation, and loss. DBT may be a useful roadmap out of this. Using DBT many are able to reclaim their power by becoming more comfortable with their emotions and feelings. It is a way of realizing that feelings aren't something to avoid or diminish with smoking and drugs.  On the other hand, DBT allows one to understand that feelings are the very fabric of life itself. And through this insight, many are able to break free from the chains of addiction.


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