A Comparison of Hypnosis and Behavioral Treatments for Obesity with One Year Follow-Up

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Counseling Psychology & Community Services


This study was designed to examine the effects of hypnotherapy on both short-term and long-term weight loss when combined with a group behavioral weight loss program. At the beginning of the study, 38 obese female subjects (20% over normal body weight), ranging in age from 21 to 64, were randomly assigned to one of two treatment groups, one utilizing behavior therapy only and the other utilizing behavior therapy plus hypnotherapy.

The groups mot weekly for 1-1/2 hours for 8 consecutive weeks, with follow-up sessions, at 3, 6, 9, and 12 months. Twenty-eight women completed the study. The first hour in both groups was spent by the two co-therapists or visiting lecturers presenting the behavioral format. The remaining half hour was spent in small group discussion in the behavioral group and using hypnosis in the hypnotherapy group.

The results of this study revealed that at the end of the 8 week treatment phase, there was not a significant difference in weight loss between the group utilizing behavior therapy and hypnotherapy and the group utilizing behavior therapy without hypnotherapy. Both groups tended to lose weight during the treatment phase, the hypnotherapy group losing an average of 6 pounds and the behavior group losing an average of 3.25 pounds. However, there was a difference in weight loss between the groups at the one year follow-up. The hypnotherapy group continued to lose an average of .50 pounds while the behavior group gained what they had lost plus an additional .25 pounds.

These results suggest that hypnosis did add to behavior therapy in such a way that it was beneficial. Even though the weight loss was small in the hypnotherapy group, the end result was that these women tended to maintain their weight loss over the one year follow-up. For the majority of the women in this group, the hypnosis apparently contributed to their changing cognitions and behaviors relating to food.