Tim Brunson DCH

Welcome to The International Hypnosis Research Institute Web site. Our intention is to support and promote the further worldwide integration of comprehensive evidence-based research and clinical hypnotherapy with mainstream mental health, medicine, and coaching. We do so by disseminating, supporting, and conducting research, providing professional level education, advocating increased level of practitioner competency, and supporting the viability and success of clinical practitioners. Although currently over 80% of our membership is comprised of mental health practitioners, we fully recognize the role, support, involvement, and needs of those in the medical and coaching fields. This site is not intended as a source of medical or psychological advice. Tim Brunson, PhD

Abstracts of Studies on Hypnotherapy and Weight Reduction

By Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D.

Scientific research shows hypnotherapy to be effective for weight reduction when used in conjunction with behavioral therapy. Studies recommend that effective hypnotherapy programs for weight control consist of at least six sessions of group or individual hypnotherapy. This article summarizes representative studies conducted between 1985 and 1998 on hypnosis for weight control. The abstracts are presented in alphabetical order, according to the last name of the lead author.

Allison, D. B., and M. S. Faith. 1996. Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy for obesity: A meta-analytical appraisal. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 64 (3): 513–16.

In this meta-analytical examination of clinical weight-loss studies, Allison and Faith examined the effectiveness of hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy. The studies consistently found that hypnotherapy enhanced cognitive-behavioral approaches to weight reduction.

Andersen, M. S. 1985. Hypnotizability as a factor in the hypnotic treatment of obesity. International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 33 (2): 150–59.

Andersen conducted a program of time-limited, relatively uncontaminated hypnotherapy for the treatment of obesity, exploring the relationship between hypnotizability, as measured by the Stanford Hypnotic Susceptibility Scale, form A, and success at weight reduction via self-hypnosis. The participants were 43 outpatients, male and female, ranging in age from 21 to 56, at the Morton Prince Center for Hypnotherapy in New York City. Thirty participants completed the program, which consisted of an orientation session, 8 weekly individual treatment sessions, and 12 weeks of follow-up, during which the participants practiced self-hypnosis. The 30 participants who completed the program reduced 20.2 pounds on average. Results indicated a statistically significant positive association between degree of hypnotizability and success at weight reduction. Highly hypnotizable participants did significantly better on the weight reduction program than did participants who scored in the medium to low hypnotizability range.

Barabasz, M., and D. Spiegel. 1989. Hypnotizability and weight loss in obese subjects. The International Journal of Eating Disorders 8: 335–41.

Barabasz and Spiegel conducted a controlled study with 45 females, finding that supplementing a basic self-management program for weight loss with hypnosis resulted in slightly increased weight loss at a three-month follow-up.

Bolocofsky, D. N., D. Spinier, and L. Coulthard-Morris. 1985. Effectiveness of hypnosis as an adjunct to behavioral weight management. Journal of Clinical Psychology 41 (1): 35–41.

Bolocofsky and colleagues studied the effectiveness of hypnotherapy compared to behavioral therapy for weight control. The 109 participants, mostly women, ranging in age from 17 to 67 years, were randomly assigned to two treatment groups, behavioral therapy and hypnotherapy. Within the two groups, the participants were again randomly assigned to specific therapists. The purpose of the behavioral treatments was "to familiarize participants with their present inappropriate eating habits and to enable them to learn behaviors more conducive to weight loss and maintenance." Each participant began a similar treatment program, with some components personalized for individual needs. Nine weekly meetings took place, with emphasis was on slowing down food consumption, recognizing and modifying responses to stimuli that preceded maladaptive eating behaviors, charting weight changes, and developing methods of self-reinforcement for successful weight loss. The hypnosis group followed the same program, except that the rules were given in the form of hypnotic suggestions. The final results, after follow-ups at eight months and two years, showed that "although both interventions resulted in a significant weight change from the initial to final sessions, only the group that utilized hypnosis continued to lose a significant amount of weight."

Cochrane, G. 1992. Hypnosis and weight reduction: Which is the cart and which is the horse? American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 35 (2): 109–18.

In a review of scientific literature on hypnosis and weight loss, Cochrane concluded that hypnosis can reveal the specific reasons why people overeat and that this realization, in turn, can help therapists prescribe specific interventions targeted at those reasons. Cochrane stated that "hypnosis then, in research, theory, and practice, must be adapted to the problem and perceived not as a treatment but as a potentially valuable aspect of effective treatment."

Cochrane, G., and J. Friesen. 1986. Hypnotherapy in weight loss treatment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 54: 489–92.

Cochrane and Friesen investigated the effects of hypnosis on weight loss for 60 overweight females. Treatment included group hypnosis with metaphors for ego strengthening, decision making, and motivation, and individual and group hypnosis with maintenance suggestions. The group exposed to hypnosis was more successful than a control group: 17 pounds reduced versus 0.5 pounds at follow-up.

Coman, C., and B. Evans. 1995. Clinical update on eating disorders and obesity: Implications for treatment with hypnosis. Australian Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis 23 (1): 1–13.

Coman and Evans reviewed studies on the effectiveness of hypnotherapy in weight reduction programs. The hypnotherapy methods used in the studies included ego state therapy, age regression, and age progression to identify and correct the origins of participants' disordered cognitions and emotional conflicts associated with eating disorders such as anorexia, bulimia, and compulsive eating. They concluded that hypnotherapy is effective because it addresses faulty cognitions centering on food, identifies eating triggers, and helps with stimulus control.

Farrington, G. 1985. Effects of self-hypnosis audiotapes on weight loss: Relationship with ego-strength, motivation, anxiety, and locus of control. Dissertation Abstracts International 46 (6B): 2048.

In a controlled study, Farrington taught participants to use self-hypnosis audiotapes that promoted mental rehearsal in behavioral change related to weight loss. The study found significant improvement in performance for the treatment groups as compared to the control group.

Greaves, E., G. Tidy, and R. A. S. Christie. 1995. Hypnotherapy and weight loss. Nutrition and Food Science 95 (6).

Greaves, Tidy, and Christie reported on a study of eight participants who were referred from a single general practice. The referral criteria were clinical obesity, lack of success with dieting, and evidence of occupational and social disability due to obesity. Underlying causes of obesity, including endocrine and metabolic factors, were excluded on clinical grounds. One-on-one hypnotherapy was conducted in the general practice surgery environment or in the outpatient unit of the Hitchin Hospital, Hertfordshire, England. All participants showed a limited reduction in basal metabolism index, ranging from 3 percent to 17 percent after hypnotherapy, with progressive weight reduction throughout the course of treatment. A two-year follow-up found that six of the eight patients had maintained a reduced weight, compared to pretreatment. Of these six, four showed a partial relapse but still weighed less than pretreatment.

Kirsch, I., G. Montgomery, and G. Sapirstein. 1995. Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral weight loss treatments--Another meta-reanalysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 63: 214–20.

Kirsch, Montgomery, and Sapirstein performed a meta-analysis of hypnotic enhancement in cognitive-behavioral weight-loss treatments. The researchers obtained data from two studies and averaged the data across post-treatment and follow-up assessment periods. The mean weight loss was 6.00 pounds without hypnosis and 11.83 pounds with hypnosis. At the last assessment period, the mean weight loss was 6.03 pounds without hypnosis and 14.88 pounds with hypnosis. Analysis indicated that the benefits of hypnosis increased over time.

Schaumberg, L. L., C. A. Patsdaughter, F. K. Selder, and L. Napholz. 1995. Hypnosis as a clinical intervention for weight reduction and self-esteem improvement in young women. International Journal of Psychiatric Nursing Research 1 (3): 99–107.

Schaumberg and colleagues, in a controlled clinical trial, found that hypnotherapy was an effective intervention with young women who were treated for both weight problems and low self-esteem.

Stradling, J., D. Roberts, and F. Lovelock. 1998. Controlled trial of hypnotherapy for weight loss in patients with obstructive sleep apnea. International Journal of Obesity 22: 278–81.

Stradling, Roberts, and Lovelock examined hypnotherapy's efficacy in weight loss for 60 obese patients with obstructive sleep apnea. The study, which took place at a National Health Service hospital in the UK, was a randomized, controlled, parallel study of two forms of hypnotherapy (stress reduction or energy intake reduction) versus dietary advice alone. All three groups lost 2–3 percent of their body weight at three months. At 18 months, only the hypnotherapy group treated with stress reduction still showed a significant but small (3.8 kg) mean weight loss compared to baseline. Analyzed over the entire period, the hypnotherapy group treated with stress reduction achieved significantly more weight loss than the other two groups.

Vanderlinden, J., and W. Vandereycken. 1994. The (limited) possibilities of hypnotherapy in the treatment of obesity. American Journal of Clinical Hypnosis 36 (4): 248–57.

Vanderlinden and Vandereycken conducted a review of three controlled, comparative surveys on hypnotherapy in the treatment of obesity and stated that, "A combination of behavior therapy and hypnotherapy appeared to produce more weight reduction than a mere behavior therapeutic approach."

Judith E. Pearson, Ph.D. maintains a private practice in Springfield, Virginia, specializing in NLP and hypnotherapy. She has just published The Weight, Hypnotherapy, and YOU Weight Reduction Program: An NLP and Hypnotherapy Manual. Her book is available at Crown House at www.chpus.com. Her web site is www.engagethepower.com.

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