February 9, 2011

What's up with Hypnotherapy for Weight Loss?

So I was scouring the internet yesterday and quickly got off on another tangent when I came across a weight loss program based upon hypnotherapy. Of course, my inner cynic went on overload as I imagined someone paying out big bucks to lie in front of a swinging watch on a string being told to slowly walk away from the donuts and put down the cheezy. I know...I've been influenced by TV...I get that.

So...I was on Scholar Google faster than you can cluck like a chicken (while under the mind control of an old guy in a beard). Is it as simple as suggesting you can succeed at losing a few? Can the power of the mind overcome the power of the intoxicating scent of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies? I do know a few people in my own profession who have gotten involved with this work, but I don't know how that's working out for them. I have never met someone who has worked with a hypnotherapist so everything I know (or don't know) comes from my own research and understanding of the psychology of behaviour change. I know it ain't that easy as just being told something......so what's up with it?

Of course there are two trains of thought on the subject coming from those that are selling it and those that are researching it. This is the first step in critical thinking; are these results coming from those that sell the service or product or are they from a non-biased research study. It was no surprise that the hypnotherapy groups and associations state the positive results of hypnotherapy. Surprisingly, I found two academic studies that suggested a slight loss in weight (approximately 6 pounds) but no long term data that would suggest it was a life long weight loss (in other words, no one has done long term research to show it sticks). However, based upon the other weight loss strategies out there, the cards are stacked in the favor of weight re-gain over time.

Do not look directly into this pic
lest you succumb to its' power
and bark like a dog.
The important consideration is if this service is coupled with sound nutrtitional advice and physical activity perscription. If it isn't, the chances of successful weight loss has got to be very low. I mean, okay..so you got me to put down the chocolate bar, but now what? Without re-education, how is one to know what is a healthy option? In addition, if the practitioner isn't educated in healthy eating and/or exercise perscription (in other words a personal trainer and nutritional specialist - at least...if not a nutritionist), you may be looking at some misinformation.

My only hesitation with this line of "health-care service" is the fact that those with the certification in hypnotherapy, while calling themselves "clinical hypnotherapists", may not hold a graduate degree in counselling pyschology or social work (unless they have coupled one with the other....then they rock!). Because if you think about it, emotional eating and weight gain is usually linked to the psychology of behaviour. While you may use hypnotherapy to suggest or deconstruct patterns of thinking, wouldn't it be beneficial to have the education and skills behind you to be able to counsel the individual through this change? What if someone triggers in their session bringing up terrible memories of the past? Is a certified "clinical hypnotherapist" able to deal with this? Teaching Suicide Intervention training programs, I have experienced someone triggering during class (and in my office) and I felt completely helpless (and I have graduate education in behavioural psychology...but not in counselling psych.). I not only think it matters, but I think it represents a respect for the individual you are helping and the profession of counseling psychology...but that's just me.

I have to be honest, this
is how I was introduced
to hypnosis....It was
I think we will see more and more of this type of service marketed to those desperate to lose fat.  That's why it is very important to be your own critical thinker, do the research yourself, and make an educated decision (not based upon what others are doing or saying) but on non-biased research. I highly recommend "Scholar Google" just for this reason. You can find this in the list of data bases at the top of the Google page (where Images and Web are). The information found here comes from universities all over the world and provides you with the abstract (a small paragraph of findings). Although you may have to still critically analyse what you are reading, you know you aren't going to get the garbage you get on the web.

For those who have experiences in or practice hypnotherapy and would like to comment on your experiences or thoughts on this, I completely invite it. Please include some references so I can read more about it (ie. a few articles that are not provided by the schools or associations of hypnotherapy).

That's all I got for today.


  1. Kathi dear...you should check out Dr Oz's website...he actually had a show on this the other day.


  2. Thanks for your comment, Nicole;
    I sense a bit of defense from you use of "dear" but I may be wrong. I hope so.

    I am completely interested in more information on this, but again, I hesitate to trust Dr. Oz, or Dr. Phil or any TV show highlighting medical information.

    Dr. Oz does share some important information, but I would rather read the research vs. assume his translation of the research.

    I have also heard Dr. Oz mention that being overweight is unhealthy for us...when, in fact, more research points to sednetary lifestyle and fatty foods (vs. weight).

    I do appreciate your suggestion and the time it took to comment. I am expecting more as people read this particular post (it's a hot topic).


  3. Hi Again;
    I just wanted to follow up on the first comment re Dr. Oz's show. I went home and logged onto his site to watch his review of hypnotherapy for weight loss (no...i did not know he was going to show this..it was a very strange koinky dink).

    What his guest demonstrated, during his large group hypno exercise, was the power of visualization vs. hypnotics. Science has shown that if you visualize yourself doing an activity, you are actually firing the same muscles as you would be doing the activity. Similarly, if you visualize yourself a couple of dress sizes less and see yourself thinner (as suggested by Oz's guest) the chances of you achieving this are greater. Visualization is a powerful tool.

    Unfortunately, this hypnotist didn't speak on healthy eating or exercise to assist, he suggested that "he could make me thin".
    I wasn't surprised by this in the least...BUT I did go in keeping an open mind. Even Dr. Oz stated the importance of critical thinking (that was very nice to see). Kudos to him!