Hypnosis might help some lose weight, but studies are few

I'd like to know about dieting by hypnosis. A company called Positive Changes runs a lot of ads in the L.A. Times.

I'd like to find out what they charge. You have to attend one of their free seminars to get an answer. I've heard through a blog that this company charges $200 to $300 a month.

B. G. Stine


We found the question of how much it costs difficult to pin down. "Cost is a hard problem," says Joan Meijer, executive vice president of Positive Changes Hypnosis Centers. "It's all different. We don't see people by the hour, we see people by the program." And because programs are individualized, everyone is different, she says.

Meijer says costs never top about $3,500 for nine months. That comes to about $380 a month, meaning your blog source may have been on the low end. But, Meijer said, the longer a person remains in the program, the lower the monthly cost.

The program's website is full of anecdotes and testimonials, and there are no published, peer-reviewed study results, although the center has some in-house survey data.

The Positive Changes program works with hypnosis in combination with education on nutrition and exercise, as well as behavioral therapy techniques. Unlike smokers, who can go cold turkey, overeaters must continue to eat -- and to overcome that hurdle, the program utilizes suggestions such as "I don't eat sugar" or "I eat small portions." The program includes monthly hypnosis sessions, reinforced daily with recorded tapes, as well as weekly phone calls, Meijer says.

There have been few clinical trials to test hypnosis as a weight-loss technique. But one 1995 review of studies comparing cognitive behavioral therapy alone with the therapy in combination with hypnosis found a small enhancement of weight loss results with the addition of hypnosis.

Another 1996 study found that after two years, people who had behavioral therapy alone lost an average of six pounds, whereas those who had behavioral therapy with hypnosis lost almost 15 pounds.

There are countless websites promising weight loss through hypnosis -- some with as little as one session or the purchase of an audiotape.

Be skeptical. Hypnosis may help some people, but it is one part of a wide-ranging program of behavioral change along with education on diet and exercise.


Susan Brink

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