Dr. Jan Mark Burte, Ph.D., MSCP, DAAPM, Licensed Clinical Psychologist Dr. Jan Mark Burte - Home Page Dr. Jan Mark Burte - Clinical Sports Psychology Dr. Jan Mark Burte - Pain Management Dr. Jan Mark Burte - Psychotherapy Dr. Jan Mark Burte - Hypnosis

Habit Disorders



Habit Disorders are some of the more commonly presented conditions treated with psychotherapy. Smoking and overeating are the two most frequently asked about conditions. Psychotherapy, cognitive behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy can be extremely helpful in overcoming these habits. Other habits commonly treated include nail biting and trictilomania (hair twirling and pulling) as well as various motor tics.


Habit disorders are very treatable. Hypnotherapy and psychotherapy can assist in both reducing the symptoms and understanding the underlying etiology so as to prevent symptom substitution (new or different habits) from occurring. Frequently, patients seeking to quit smoking fear that they will substitute cigarettes with food and thereby gain-weight. The increase in hunger, as a way of coping with the desire to smoke can be controlled with hypnotherapy and cognitive behavioral therapy. Weight gain need not be an issue.




Psychotherapy and hypnotherapy for habit control can help uncover issues which drive the habits and can result in positive changes in other areas as well. However, for many patients achieving elimination of the habit (e.g., nail biting) is all that is sought.


For over twenty-five years within his private practice, Dr. Burte has worked with a diverse range of eating disorders. He is a past Associate Director of at the Hofstra Health Dome in New York, where he focused on treating obesity. He has in his private practice worked with individuals experiencing excess weight-gain, obesity, bulimia, anorexia nervosa and food phobias. He completed a one-year post–doctoral practicum at the Renfrew Treatment Center, where he focused on eating disorders. Other than in situations where underlying medical conditions or medications cause weight-gain, obesity is not a symptom, it is an outcome of maladaptive thoughts and behaviors. Individuals overeat or make poor food choices for a diverse range of reasons. For some, overeating is a coping or protective mechanism. For others, it is a way of life. Still others use it to compensate for deficits in their life, past or present. Often physical and emotional pain can lead to changes in eating habits and consequent weight-gain.


Weight Management

Dr. Burte’s approach to weight management is through uncovering the mechanisms, which are maintaining the excessive weight and addressing the behaviors and thoughts that are the self-definition of the person. His philosophy is that from the moment we are born our minds and bodies know how to take care of us. We naturally strive for health, balance and homeostasis. However, when emotional issues and life events impact upon us we move away from letting our mind and body take care of us. The goal of therapy is to “de-hypnotize” the patient away from the issues which unnaturally maintain the weight. The concept is that is one consciously understands the harmful effects of excess weight or poor food choices, then one must be utilizing very powerful negative suggestions to allow themselves to override the mind and bodies desire for maximum health. The individual patient learns the triggers and inert messages which keep them overweight. Through psychotherapy, education, hypnosis, imagery and adaptive choices, the patient gradually evolves into an individual who simply and comfortable lives a lifestyle resulting in weight-loss.


For patients with medical conditions, which require dietary changes (e.g., diabetes, hyperlipidemia) nutritional guidance alone may be insufficient to lead to behavioral change. Psychotherapy and or hypnotherapy may provide the insight and support needed for the individual to embrace the changes necessary to achieve health benefits.


Bulimia is a cycle of compulsive binging, typically followed by the need to purge as a means to control weight. Left untreated, serious medical and dental consequences can occur. Anorexia is often viewed as an extreme desire for thinness. However, the disorder should be better viewed as a struggle for control in combination with a hypercritical sense of self. It is manifested through limiting of food intake and/or the use of excessive exercise or laxatives toward the goal of achieving increasing thinness. Further, it is associated with a body dysmorphia in which the patient perceives themselves as overweight regardless of their level of emaciation. Anorexia is a potentially fatal disorder, which, if untreated, can result in organ damage or death.



More people suffer and die from cigarette smoke induced medical conditions than from all other causes of death combined. Non-smokers, former smokers and active smokers will all agree that cigarette smoking is potentially significantly harmful. Individuals who have quit for extended periods of time—sometimes years—return to cigarette smoking. Individuals who smoke counsel their children to the dangers and harm of smoking, and yet they continue to smoke. Why? We can explore the issues of addiction and see that even individuals who are no longer addicted, return to smoking. What of those who are just now starting to smoke with no prior addiction? What are they telling themselves in order to override all the negative events associated with smoking? Can we view it as a coping mechanism for stress? But, if it is so effective why does it require dosing twenty to forty times a day? Would you consider a pill you needed to take every twenty minutes to control stress a very effective treatment for stress? Not to mention that people often smoke when they’re happy and not stressed at all.


Dr. Burte has yet to hear one good reason why people choose to smoke. He has, however, heard hundreds of reason why they want to quit. They want to “live healthier and longer lives”. They recognize the "cost in money and suffering”. “It’s inconvenient”. “It turns people off.” They say things like, “I don’t want wrinkles.” “I've been diagnosed with emphysema.”, or “I've been diagnosed with lung cancer." The list is seemingly endless. Yet, even these enlightened and motivated individuals continue to smoke.


What’s going on? For these unfortunate individuals, very strong “negative self hypnotic suggestions” have become so deeply accepted by their psyches that the only way to help them change is to “de-hypnotize” them. If, as some say, “all hypnosis is self-hypnosis” then for these individuals the way out is to ease the hypnotic message which allows them to override every safety health check their body and mind can muster.


Through the use of a series of hypnotic and psychotherapy sessions, and if needed, pharmacological intervention (e.g., nicotine patches, or prescription interventions), patients can comfortably reframe their thinking and no longer need to smoke. What if an urge to smoke is not internalized as being bad, but rather, is interpreted the same way soreness after a healthy fitness workout feels good? The smoking cessation program combines hypnosis, cognitive therapy, education, behavioral exercises and medication support—if needed—to achieve its goals. The patient needs to bring motivation and a desire to become a non-smoker. Sessions are specifically focused upon the patient’s unique reasons for having smoked and their individual reasons for becoming a non-smoker. No one “gives up” a habit like smoking or a long-term belief system because no one ever wants to “give up” anything. They “become” a non smoker as they “gain or acquire” new belief systems. Smoking becomes an obsolete part of their past. Anybody ridden a tricycle lately?


Prior to coming to my office, many of Dr. Burte's patients have “quit” smoking multiple times only to start again. There is no magic bullet; the average patient may require four or more sessions to become a non-smoker. You can not quit a habit yet remain the same person. You need to become that new person for whom smoking—like doing twenty cocktails of bleach a day—is just not on your “to do” list. Just as it has taken care of you since the moment you were born, your unconscious mind will allow you to evolve in the direction of increased health while you discard unwanted obsolete behaviors. We need merely to assist it in deleting the negative self-hypnotic messages that are in the way.