My passion for cessation comes from a very painful loss in my life. My Dad, whom I loved dearly, died when he was just 56 years old from lung cancer caused by smoking, and I miss him every day. It hurts my heart to hear about others who have become ill or sick from the ravages of tobacco use, and this is what motivates me to provide cessation support every day.
It’s normal to feel weird about asking someone about their tobacco use. We don’t want to scare our clients away, or make them angry and defensive. Yet, in the beginning that is exactly what happened when I approached someone who smoked. I would start lecturing them about all the bad things that could happen if they continued to smoke, and soon they would be literally running in the opposite direction. It felt really awful! I wondered how I was ever going to help these people quit, if I couldn’t get close enough.
My AHA moment was the discovery of motivational interviewing (MI) skills, or transformational coaching which works amazingly well in tobacco cessation. Transformational coaching provided me with an innovative way to discuss tobacco use with a client in a non-confrontational and respectful way, and it also provided me with a way to match the level of coaching services to the stage of readiness of the client.
Before long, I had infused all of the Become Quit Coach programming with transformational coaching techniques, and I was getting amazing results. The world of tobacco cessation became a very different space. My clients left our sessions feeling really good about what we had discussed. They never felt judged or disrespected, and they started to feel like someone was listening and hearing about what was important to them. Their quit plan had absolutely nothing to do with what I thought they should do, but rather it was all about their own goals and achievements.
AND, the client was transforming before my eyes. Not because I was some magical coach, or because I knew a lot about quitting tobacco, but because the client could see a clear path through to being tobacco-free, and they were starting to visualize how amazing they could look and feel, despite past failures or attempts.
Assisting our clients to quit tobacco is one of the most impactful things we can offer them. Allow me to share some additional things I have learned along the way. I call them the top 10 myths about working with clients who smoke:
Helping clients to quit smoking is just about getting them to change habits.
Smoking is an addiction. In fact tobacco is more addictive than heroin, and although there are habits associated with smoking called triggers, just changing habits is not enough. Plan to go deeper with the client to determine why they smoke, and assist them to develop strategies to not smoke when faced with their triggers. Just as with any addiction, your client will need ongoing support and accountability to stay on track.
I’ll tell my client about the harmful effects of smoking – that will scare them into quitting and I’ve done my job
Your client already knows all the harmful things about smoking, and reminding them will most certainly turn them off, send them running in the opposite direction, and avoiding your calls and emails. I’ll provide you with the right way to discuss tobacco use. You will be able to frame a quit attempt as a personal benefit to your client so they can start on a positive note and desire a change for themselves. They might not be ready to quit now, but when they are, they will call on you because you’ve offered your help, and you’ve helped them see what is possible for them as a tobacco-free person.
I don’t want to scare my client away and so I won’t talk about smoking unless they bring it up.
Avoiding the topic is no solution at all. In fact, often the more you ignore something, the more it tries to get your attention, and usually in a way you won’t like. I’ll provide you with the questions to ask, the scripts, and when asked in this way, you’ll obtain real insight into the clients beliefs about their smoking, and their readiness to quit. Then you will be able to successfully match your level of service with the clients’ needs. This is transformational coaching at its best.
I don’t work on addictions.
This may be true, but by not addressing tobacco use with a client, you are enabling them to assume that it is not an issue, and that it is not a concern when it comes to their health goals.
I’ve never smoked, so how can I provide authentic advice, OR, I am a smoker and so won’t it be hypocritical for me to ask them to quit, when I am still lighting up?
Be honest with the client. If you currently smoke, please consider quitting, but your tobacco use just reinforces that quitting, and staying on track, can be a challenge. It doesn’t have to be though. Create a personalized quit plan, and assist your client to do the same. You might just discover what is holding you back as well.
If you have never smoked, be honest about that as well. Tell your client that you have never smoked but that you want to learn from them. Your client will feel like you are on their side no matter what.
I’ll just get them to do what my sister did to quit – it worked for her and so it should work for them.
Everyone’s journey to quit is unique! What works for one person, may not work for the next person. There may be similarities, but there are no two quit plans that are identical. The beauty of this program is that clients are encouraged to come up with their own personalized quit plan, and thus, they are more likely to succeed.
What if I’m not sure how the client would benefit from quitting?
You don’t have to know it all. I’ll provide you with a comprehensive list of benefits to draw from, plus you’ll have access to a tribe of quit coaches, and to me, and if you aren’t sure how the client would benefit from quitting, I can help.
I just don’t feel confident talking to my client about quitting – I’m afraid.
It can be a bit nerve wracking to work on something new, and I remember how nervous I was with my first few clients. Your role is to guide and encourage your client, and provide the right amount of accountability to follow through like never before. Your client already has all the answers – you just need to help draw them out and put them into their personalized quit plan. If you start with the scripts, you can’t go wrong, and as you build your confidence, you can adapt the scripts and make them your own. The pearls of wisdom are all included, and so there is no way you can fail.
I’d sooner focus on what I do now, and just refer my clients to someone else who can help them quit.
That’s great!! Send those clients my way. I would love to assist them to quit smoking, and I pay a referral fee, but just a word of warning – you might not get them back.
I don’t think smoking is one of my client’s biggest issues. They are overweight, unhappy in their marriage, and I just feel like there are bigger fish to fry.
The beauty of this program is that you can work on tobacco cessation first, celebrate the clients new tobacco free best self, and then invite them to continue to work with you as their coach. Start with whatever provides the biggest impact, and tobacco cessation is one of the most effective preventative treatments of illness and disease, AND you would need to gain 100 pounds of weight to have the same harmful effects as smoking.
The Become a Quit Coach training incorporates transformational coaching methods useful in tobacco cessation and other health behaviour changes your client desires to make.
Trust me when I tell you that the niche of tobacco cessation could open up new coaching doors for you, and a new supply of clients to work with. Are you ready?