Table 2

Major elements of suggestion therapy

Approach the patient with confidence that the coughing will be stopped.
Explain the cough as a vicious cycle that started with an initial irritant that is now gone, and now cough itself is causing irritation and more cough.
Instruct the patient to concentrate solely on holding back the urge to cough, for an initially brief timed period (e.g. 1 min). Progressively increase this time period and utilise an alternative behaviour, such as sipping lukewarm water or inhaling a soothing cool mist from a vaporiser, to “ease the irritation”.
Tell the patient that each second the cough is delayed makes it easier to suppress further coughing.
Repeat expressions of confidence that the patient is developing the ability to resist the urge to cough; “it’s becoming easier to hold back the cough, isn’t it” (nodding affirmatively generally results in a similar affirmation movement by the patient).
When ability to suppress cough is observed (usually by about 10 min), ask in a rhetorical manner, “you’re beginning to feel that you can resist the urge to cough, aren’t you?” (said with an affirmative head nod).
Discontinue the session when the patient can repeatedly respond positively to the question, “do you feel that you can now resist the urge to cough on your own?”. This question is only asked after the patient has gone 5 min without coughing.
Express confidence that if the urge to cough recurs that the patient can do the same thing at home (autosuggestion)#.
  • #: autosuggestion involved expressing confidence that 15-min sessions at home concentrating on holding back the cough using sips of lukewarm water to “ease the irritation causing cough”.