The Life & Times of an Allen Carr’s Easyway To Stop Smoking Therapist in the North of England

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Mark Keen – 10 years as a happy non smoker.

I have been involved with Allen Carr’s Easyway to Stop Smoking for around 8 years now. It’s been an interesting journey. Having used Allen’s stop smoking method myself I was champing at the bit when the possibility arose of training as an Allen Carr stop smoking therapist myself – what better way to earn a living than to help others out of the smoking trap!

I started my stop smoking therapist training back in 2005 under the careful and guiding eye of Rob Groves who is responsible for Allen Carr’s Easyway To Stop Smoking Clinics in Manchester and Yorkshire. He was a hard task master. Every time I presented myself to him having learned how to present a new chunk of the quit smoking session, he would make me perform it to him whilst he looked at me with a combination of severity and questioning.

I learned later that many people attempt to become Allen Carr Easyway therapists but the training is hard and a vast majority fall by the wayside – Rob had a background in psychology and was deliberately trying to put me on edge. All with the best intentions of course.

I was not swayed from my goal of becoming an Allen Carr stop smoking specialist in the North of England. It was too late for that, I was already visualizing myself in a room of smokers as I imparted to them Allen’s instructions.

Nine months later I delivered my first session; to help people stop smoking easily using Allen Carr’s method. It was nerve wracking but I got through it, carried by adrenalin, I suspect. Every hour for the next day I telephoned Rob to see if any of the smokers had been in touch. I needn’t have worried…the sessions are not about the therapist, they are about the method.
I have lost count of how many clients I have seen since then but it is in the thousands. I did many sessions in Manchester and Leeds and then I had the calling to open up clinics in areas of the North West which were not already covered by Allen Carr’s Easyway.

As I live in Preston, the first of these new stop smoking centres was to be in the parts of Lancashire not yet covered. Finding a venue for sessions isn’t always ‘easy’ – it involves visiting a number of hotels, checking out the conference rooms, sussing out the parking availability, deciding on the accessibility of the hotel itself, and then, after all this, knocking down the Conference Manager’s ridiculous opening gambit on how much they want to charge you for the room! Having lots of smokers visit their hotel – who might not otherwise do so – is a great opportunity for hotels who are keen to attract new private and corporate customers – so we normally get a great deal.

But to me, the most important factor is the room in which the quit smoking therapy is going to be presented. It’s great for there to be natural light, not too small to be cramped, but not to be so big that it isn’t intimate, either. At the start of stop smoking sessions, whether there are 2 clients wanting to escape from cigarettes or 22 clients, I always make sure that I have memorised their names and that I have eye contact with every single one.

In Preston we have been using the Swallow Hotel in Samlesbury since 2005. The staff are worked hard on Sundays but are always friendly. Smokers enter the Bowland Suite concerned about their ability to quit smoking easily but leave 5 or so hours later – happy non-smokers. The room we use looks out to the gorgeous Trough of Bowland – there is plenty of light and it is strange, but comforting to think that many people have spent their last 5 hours as a smoker in that room.

Of course there are memorable clients. Some have wept tears of joy once they’ve put out their final cigarette – so relieved have they been to have escaped the smoking trap. One chap had clearly been bullied into attending by his partner and was very vocal in the first few minutes about how he knew it wasn’t going to work for him. A month later I was delivering a session to 21 of his employees, paid for by him. It’s amazing quit smoking stories like these that helps spread news of Allen Carr’s Easyway To Stop Smoking – whether it is in Preston, Manchester, Newcastle, or Liverpool.

The second clinic I opened was Liverpool. I must confess it came as a surprise to me how noticeably genuine and down to earth Liverpudlians are. We do the quit smoking sessions in Knowsley, which, ironically, has one of the most concentrated smoking populations in the country. The Express by Holiday Inn has also been the host of many smokers’ last few hours succumbing to the weed.

It was during some stop smoking sessions in Liverpool that I noticed I had the odd client from the Isle of Man. During conversations with them it became obvious that there might be a demand for an Allen Carr Stop Smoking Session on the island. So this became my next new project. Having discussed it with the Allen Carr Easyway international directorate, I took a friend over to the island and did some marketing. The reaction was fantastic and we were fully booked for sessions for the remainder of that year. The people of the Isle of Man were queueing up to “give up” smoking.

Because of the financial links between the Isle of Man and Jersey there were soon ideas that we should do sessions in Jersey – there was some negotiation with the States of Jersey government but in the end they decided it would be in the interests of the smokers of Jersey if we were to hold our stop smoking sessions there. Guernsey also hosted several quit smoking sessions and apart from members of the public we have also had corporate clients in both bailiwicks.

However, there was more work to be done in the UK as we attempted to cover the whole country with the availability of Allen’s method. Allen Carr’s Easyway Cumbria was born with sessions to stop smoking in Carlisle and Seascale and then about two years ago I was given the opportunity of taking over the reins of the North East clinic, for which I was very grateful. I have to say, though, that my first job in Newcastle was to change the venue. Naming no names, on one bizarre occasion I had to start my session late because the hotel couldn’t actually open the door to the meeting room. Now we do the sessions at the very comfortable Novotel Hotel near Newcastle Airport.

I am passionate about taking the stop smoking sessions to new venues in new towns and cities in the North East. We have held sessions stop smoking courses in Newcastle and Middlesbrough but we are looking at sessions in Sunderland and maybe Durham. It will be great to help smokers in these areas stop smoking easily too. In Merseyside we have held sessions in the Wirral as well as Liverpool and we hope to develop that area, too. Cumbria is a nightmare county to cover – so few people over such a big area! However, as well as Carlisle we have held stop smoking groups in Seascale and we are also looking at Kendal and Penrith.

Over the years we see other stop smoking fads come and go but Allen Carr truly nailed the smoking problem when he identified it as a psychological issue above all else.