Scientific Research on the Success of Hypnotherapy for Weight Loss

References: 

Anbar & Savedoff, 2005. Treatment of Binge Eating with Automatic Word Processing and Self Hypnosis: A Case Report, American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis, 48:2-3, 191-198

Barbasz & Spiegel, 1989. Hypnotizability and Weight Loss in Obese Subjects. Journal of Eating Disorders, May 1989.

Bolocofsky, Spinler & Coulthard-Morris, 1985. Effectiveness of Hypnosis as an Adjunct to Behavioral Weight Management Journal of Clinical Psychology.  January, 1985, Vol. 41, No. 1.

 

Cochrane & Friesen, 1986. Hypnotherapy in Weight Loss Treatment.  Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1986, Vol. 54, No. 4.


Gelo, Zips, Ponocny-Seliger, Neumann, Balugani & Gold, 2014. Hypnobehavioral and Hypnoenergetic Therapy in the Treatment of Obese Women: A Pragmatic Randomized Clinical Trial, International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis, 62:3

Greaves, Tidy & Christie, 1995. Hypnotherapy as an adjunct to the dietetic management of obese patients. Nutrition & Food Science, Vol. 95 Issue: 6, pp.15-18.

Hutchinson-Phillips & Gow, 2005. Hypnosis as an Adjunct to CBT: Treating Self-defeating Eaters. Journal of Cognitive and Behavioral Psychotherapies, Vol. 5/2, 113-138.

Johnson & Brinker, 2001. A Comparative Study of Multi-component Weight Loss Treatments: A Replication and Exploratory Look at Female Smokers, Non-smokers, and Participant BMIs. North American Journal of Psychology. 2001, Vol. 3 Issue 1, p13. 18p. 

Johnson & Karkut, 1996. Participation in Multicomponent Hypnosis Treatment Programs for Women's Weight Loss with and without Overt Aversion.  Psychological Reports, 1996, Vol.79/2, pp.659-668

Kirsch, 1996. Hypnotic Enhancement of Cognitive-Behavioral Weight Loss Treatments—Another Meta-Reanalysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 1996, Vol.64, No. 3, 517-519.

Kirsch, Montgomery, Sapirstein, 1995. Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy: A meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 63/2, Apr 1995, 214-220

Mewes, Stich, Habermüller & Revenstorf, 2003. Weight reduction by hypnosis and behaviour therapy. Verhaltenstherapie und Verhaltensmedizin, 24, 499–512.

Stradling,  Roberts, Wilson & Lovelock, 1998. Controlled trial of hypnotherapy for weight loss in patients with obstructive sleep apnoea. International Journal of Obesity, 1998/28.

Research on the Efficacy of Weight Loss achieved through Hypnotherapy (Hypnosis)

 

These are some of the studies that substantiates the efficacy of weight loss achieved with Hypnotherapy. These studies that were conducted over a period of 30 years.

 

Barbasz and Spiegel, 1989
45 obese female subjects were divided into three groups and were treated in different ways:

  • 14 participants in group A were taught a simple CBT self -  management technique only. 

  • 16 subjects in group B were taught the same CBT self management technique but also received hypnosis treatment alongside, but this treatment was not individualized, i.e. not adjusted to their own personal requirements.

  • 15 subjects in group C were also taught the CBT self-management technique and alongside received individualised hypnosis treatment.

Results:

  • Group A lost an average of 1.3 kg.

  • Group B lost an average of 3.4 kg.

  • And finally group C lost an average of 6.4 kg.

The results attested to the efficacy of hypnosis as a weight loss treatment over CBT used on its own.
 

Gelo, Zips, Ponocny-Seliger, Neumann, Balugani & Gold, 2014
60 obese female subjects were treated for weight loss with either:

  • Cognitive behavioural exercises plus hypnosis

  • Cognitive behavioural exercises plus hypnosis plus acupressure

 

Treatments were delivered as 12 sessions over 8.5 months and lasted 120 minutes each. They started with cognitive behavioural exercises followed by a hypnosis session, reflections and homework directions.

Both groups lost significant amounts of weight, with the acupressure group continuing to lose weight at 18 months post treatment. This study showed that weight loss through hypnosis is an effective treatment. 

 

Cochrane and Friesen, 1986
For this study, 60 female participants (aged 20-65), all at least 20% overweight, ( and were not on any other treatment) were divided in three groups:

  • Hypnosis plus audiotapes to listen to at home

  • Hypnosis without audiotapes

  • Control group

All groups were examined for weight loss, first immediately after the end of treatment and again six months post treatment. Subjects in both hypnosis groups lost significantly more weight than subjects in the control group, leading to the conclusion that hypnotherapy is an effective treatment for weight loss.

Johnson & Karkut, 1996
172 overweight female subjects were treated for obesity in the following ways:

  • 86 received hypnosis treatment for weight loss. 

  • 86 received a hypnosis treatment accompanied with aversion treatment. 

Both groups achieved significant weight loss, attesting to the efficacy of hypnosis as a treatment for weight loss.


Greaves & Christie, 1995
In this study 8 female subjects with clinical obesity issues received a hypnotherapy based weight loss program. All subjects lost significant amounts of weight. At the final follow up two years after the end of treatment, six of the eight subjects had maintained a reduced body weight compared with their weight prior to treatment.
 

Stradling,  Roberts, Wilson and Lovelock, 1998

  • In this U.K based study 60 obese patients were divided into three groups. 

  • Two of those groups each received a different hypnosis treatment for weight loss alongside dietary advice, the first brief and directed at energy intake reduction, the other more in-depth and directed at stress reduction. The third group received only dietary advice.

  • Weight loss in subjects was recorded regularly up until 18 months post treatment.

  • While all three groups lost weight initially, at 18 months only the group who received an in-depth hypnotherapy treatment directed at stress reduction alongside dietary advice continued to lose weight. 

  • This showed statistically significant results in favor of weight loss through hypnosis.

 

The Efficacy of Weight Loss Through Hypnosis as an Adjunct to Cognitive Behavioural Treatment (CBT)

Hypnosis has become popular with clinicians as an adjunct to cognitive behavioural treatment (CBT) for weight loss. I found five studies which examined the use of weight loss through hypnosis alongside CBT:

 

Kirsch, Montgomery, Sapirstein, 1995

This is a meta-analysis of 18 studies focusing on hypnosis as an adjunct to CBT. The findings were quite remarkable- weight loss hypnosis was found to increase the treatment benefits of CBT by some 70%.

Most notably, the clients who were treated with hypnosis alongside CBT continued to gain from the treatment  continued to lose weight long after the treatment was finished, where those who had only been treated with CBT did not.

 


Bolocofsky, Spinler & Coulthard-Morris, 1985


109 subjects completed CBT treatment for weight loss- either with or without the addition of hypnosis. At the end of the 9‐week program, both interventions resulted in significant weight reduction. 


However, at the 8‐month and 2‐year follow‐ups, the subjects who had experienced weight loss through hypnosis showed significant additional weight loss, while those in the CBT group exhibited little further change. 

 

Kirsch, 1996

This meta-analysis examined six different studies that examined the combination of CBT with hypnosis. Participants who had experienced weight loss through hypnosis alongside CBT lost more than double the weight compared to those who were only treated with CBT.

 

Mewes, Stich, Habermüller & Revenstorf, 2003 

43 obese women were treated either with CBT and hypnotherapy or CBT on its own. Both groups achieved significant weight loss. 

The group treated with hypnotherapy had much enhanced long term weight loss which continued until long after the treatment stopped.


Hutchinson-Phillips & Gow, 2005

Hutchinson-Phillips and Gow reviewed the literature around weight loss through hypnosis combined with CBT, such as treatment protocols and other articles on the topic. They concluded that CBT- out of all the available treatment options for obesity had the best empirical record in treating obesity and that weight loss hypnosis was a useful adjunct to CBT in treating obesity.

With Hypnosis, Subjects Continue to Lose Weight Long After the End of Treatment

Four of the studies above had results where weight loss hypnosis stood out for subjects continuing to lose weight long after the end of treatment:

 

Bolocofsky, Spinler & Coulthard-Morris, 1985. At the 8‐month and 2‐year follow‐ups, those subjects who had experienced weight loss through hypnosis showed significant additional weight loss, while those in the CBT group exhibited little further change.

Kirsch, Montgomery, Sapirstein, 1995. Those subjects who were treated with hypnosis (alongside CBT) continued to lose weight long after the treatment was finished, where those who had only been treated with CBT did not.

Stradling,  Roberts, Wilson and Lovelock, 1998. Here, subjects who had received an in-depth hypnosis treatment aimed at stress reduction, at the 18 months follow up, were found to still be losing weight, where subjects from the other groups were not.

Mewes, Stich, Habermüller & Revenstorf, 2003. The group treated with hypnotherapy had much enhanced long term weight loss which continued until long after the treatment stopped.


 

Different Types of Hypnosis Treatments Will Produce Different Results

The findings of three studies (Barbasz and Spiegel, 1989; Stradling, Roberts, Wilson and Lovelock, 1998; and Gelo, Zips, Ponocny-Seliger, Neumann, Balugani & Gold, 2014) indicate that the exact nature of the hypnotherapy treatment is important and will have an impact on the results of weight loss:

  • Individualized hypnotherapy treatments (Barbasz and Spiegel, 1989) can be expected to produce better result than generic ones.

  • More in-depth hypnotherapy treatments can be expected to produce better results than generic or shallow ones (Stradling, Roberts, Wilson and Lovelock, 1998).

  • The results of hypnosis for weight loss treatments can be enhanced by including techniques from other therapies (Gelo, Zips, Ponocny-Seliger, Neumann, Balugani & Gold, 2014)

References to these studies can be found HERE.