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Hypnotists under consideration by county leaders

Wednesday, July 14, 2010 by Michelle Jimenez

Travis County employees who want to kick their smoking habit could get hypnotized, free of cost, under a proposed pilot program with Baylor University.


Dr. Hari Dhir, medical director of the Travis County Employee Wellness and Health Clinic, asked county commissioners Tuesday to consider allowing employees to participate in a two-year pilot program and study of hypnotherapy for smoking cessation.


The proposal is expected to return to the court for a vote next week.


“We’re trying to give the employees as many tools as we can because everybody is different,” Dhir told In Fact Daily after his presentation.


The county would team up with Dr. Gary Elkins, a Baylor University professor who has studied mind-body interventions, to implement the program. Hypnotherapy would be offered along with other services provided under the county’s wellness program. The service would be free to employees but would cost the county $12,050 for the first year, according to an estimate provided Tuesday.


The county currently provides smokers with a few other options for helping them quit, including a hotline, counseling programs, and prescribed medication, such as Zyban, an anti-depressant, and Chantix, a drug developed specifically for smoking cessation.


Dhir told the court that, last year, 79 employees who were smokers were on one of those medications. Of those, 26 quit smoking for six months or longer, and another 20 stopped taking the medication because of side effects, which include hostility, agitation, and depression.


Melanie Collins, a drug and alcohol counselor for the county, tried the medication, as well as other approaches. But it was hypnotherapy that helped her become a non-smoker after 37 years of smoking, she told the court Tuesday.


“The hypnotherapy allowed me to relieve myself of a great deal of stress, which is one of the main reasons I smoked,” Collins told the court.


She continues to use what she learned in her sessions with Dr. Dhir, she said.


“I especially use it at 4:30 in the afternoon, when I’m sitting on I-35 bumper-to-bumper traffic,” she said.


The pilot program would include 15 smokers in the first year and could begin shortly after court approval, Dhir told In Fact Daily.

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