Hypnosis in the Medical Community

 The benefits of hypnosis have been known for decades. As far back as 1958, the American Medical Association certified hypnosis as a legitimate treatment tool. The National Institutes of Health also recognized hypnosis as an effective intervention in 1996. However, despite its effectiveness, scientists could not explain how hypnosis generated its beneficial results. Then again, they could not explain the obvious benefits of sleep, either. Today, all that is rapidly changing. In universities and hospitals across the country, hypnosis is the subject of active research and widely increased application. Hypnosis is fast becoming mainstream in medical and behavioral arenas.

“The study of hypnotic phenomena is now squarely in the domain of normal cognitive science, with papers on hypnosis published in some of the most selective scientific and medical journals.” 1

Part of the new interest in hypnosis is driven by the advent of new imaging and brain-wave measuring tools, which clearly document the impact of hypnosis on the brain is both real and measurable. Researchers like Helen Crawford of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute have found, “The biological impact [of hypnosis] is very real and it can be quantified.” 2

Other researchers at prestigious institutions like Harvard, Stanford, Tulane, Mount Sinai, Case Western, and Beth Israel are more focused on the successful application of hypnosis in mainstream medicine. Researchers like Carol Ginandes, a Harvard psychologist, are trying to prove that “through hypnosis, the mind can have a potent effect not only on mental well-being, but also on the acceleration of bodily healing itself.” 2 The results of these efforts have been extremely impressive. To cite just one study:

In a 2002 review of 20 studies on hypnosis and surgical pain, “Mount Sinai researchers found that adding hypnosis to standard post-surgical care sped recovery almost 90% of the time, in terms of pain, anxiety and need for pain killers.” 3

Today, close to 15,000 doctors combine hypnotherapy with standard medical treatments. It’s estimated 94% of these patients benefit from hypnotherapy, even if it’s only linked to improved relaxation. 4 Hypnosis is also finding increased application outside of the hospital. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, “Hypnosis is increasingly being used to help women give birth without drugs, for muting dental pain, treating phobias and severe anxieties, for helping people lose weight, stop smoking, or even perform better in athletics or academic tests.” 2

As for weight loss, studies clearly indicate the potential benefits of hypnosis. A 1996 meta-analysis study conducted at the University of Connecticut and published in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology found people using hypnosis were able to lose, on average, almost 2.5 times as much weight as those not using hypnosis. Further, the study found “the correlation analysis indicated that the benefits of hypnosis increased substantially over time.” 5 The strength of this study and others prompted a task force of the American Psychological Association to validate hypnosis as an adjunct procedure for the treatment of obesity. 1

Positive Changes continues to make advancements in the application of hypnosis to life-long challenges, helping clients push through self-imposed limitations and achieve their loftiest goals, whether their goals include losing weight, shedding stress, ending life-long cigarette addictions, or earning top scores on their SATs.

  1. The Scientific American, “The Truth and the Hype of Hypnosis.” Michael Nash, July 17, 2001
  2. Wall Street Journal, “Altered States: Hypnosis Goes Mainstream.” October 12, 2003.
  3. Los Angeles Times, “Hypnotic Reach.” Benedict Carey, January 5, 2004.
  4. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Clinical Hypnosis: Tapping into the Mind/Body Connection.” Joan Friedrick, Ph.D., M.A., C.D.N., June 25, 2002.
  5. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64 (3), 517-519. “Hypnotic Enhancement of Cognitive-Behavior Weight Loss Treatments Another Meta-Reanalysis.” Irving Kirsch, University of Connecticut, 1996.

Some Hypnosis Statistics

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Hypnosis Statistics for Weight Loss


Here is a brief review of some of the research evidence on the effectiveness of hypnosis for weight loss:

Hypnosis Most Effective Says Largest Study Ever: 3 Times as Effective as Patch and 15 Times as Effective as Willpower.

Hypnosis is the most effective way of giving up smoking, according to the largest ever scientific comparison of ways of breaking the habit. A meta-analysis, statistically combining results of more than 600 studies of 72,000 people from America and Europe to compare various methods of quitting. On average, hypnosis was over three times as effective as nicotine replacement methods and 15 times as effective as trying to quit alone.

University of Iowa, Journal of Applied Psychology, How One in Five Give Up Smoking. October 1992.

(Also New Scientist, October 10, 1992.)

Hypnosis Over 30 Times as Effective for Weight Loss

Investigated the effects of hypnosis in weight loss for 60 females, at least 20% overweight. Treatment included group hypnosis with metaphors for ego-strengthening, decision making and motivation, ideomotor exploration in individual hypnosis, and group hypnosis with maintenance suggestions. Hypnosis was more effective than a control group: an average of 17 lbs lost by the hypnosis group vs. an average of 0.5 lbs lost by the control group, on follow-up.

Cochrane, Gordon; Friesen, J. (1986). Hypnotherapy in weight loss treatment. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 54, 489-492.

Two Years Later: Hypnosis Subjects Continued To Lose Significant Weight

109 people completed a behavioral treatment for weight management either with or without the addition of hypnosis. At the end of the 9-week program, both interventions resulted in significant weight reduction. At 8-month and 2-year follow-ups, the hypnosis subjects were found to have continued to lose significant weight, while those in the behavioral-treatment-only group showed little further change.

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (1985)

Hypnosis Subjects Lost More Weight Than 90% of Others and Kept it Off

Researchers analyzed 18 studies comparing a cognitive behavioral therapy such as relaxation training, guided imagery, self monitoring, or goal setting with the same therapy supplemented by hypnosis.

Those who received the hypnosis lost more weight than 90 percent of those not receiving hypnosis and maintained the weight loss two years after treatment ended.

University of Connecticut, Storrs Allison DB, Faith MS. Hypnosis as an adjunct to cognitive-behavioral psychotherapy for obesity: a meta-analytic reappraisal. J Consult Clin Psychol. 1996;64(3):513-516.

Hypnosis More Than Doubled Average Weight Loss

Study of the effect of adding hypnosis to cognitive-behavioral treatments for weight reduction, additional data were obtained from authors of two studies. Analyses indicated that the benefits of hypnosis increased substantially over time.

Kirsch, Irving (1996). Hypnotic enhancement of cognitive-behavioral weight loss treatments–Another meta-reanalysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64 (3), 517-519.

Hypnosis Showed Significantly Lower Post-Treatment Weights

Two studies compared overweight smoking and non-smoking adult women in an hypnosis-based, weight-loss program. Both achieved significant weight losses and decreases in Body Mass Index. Follow-up study replicated significant weight losses and declines in Body Mass Index. The overt aversion and hypnosis program yielded significantly lower post-treatment weights and a greater average number of pounds lost.

Weight loss for women: studies of smokers and nonsmokers using hypnosis and multi-component treatments with and without overt aversion.Johnson DL, Psychology Reprints. 1997 Jun;80(3 Pt 1):931-3.

Hypnotherapy group with stress reduction achieved significantly more weight loss than the other two treatments.

Randomised, controlled, parallel study of two forms of hypnotherapy (directed at stress reduction or energy intake reduction), vs dietary advice alone in 60 obese patients with obstructive sleep apnoea on nasal continuous positive airway pressure treatment.

J Stradling, D Roberts, A Wilson and F Lovelock, Chest Unit, Churchill Hospital, Oxford, OX3 7LJ, UK

Hypnosis can more than double the effects of traditional weight loss approaches

An analysis of five weight loss studies reported in the Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 1996 showed that the “… weight loss reported in the five studies indicates that hypnosis can more than double the effects” of traditional weight loss approaches.

University of Connecticut, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology in 1996 (Vol. 64, No. 3, pgs 517-519).

Weight loss is greater where hypnosis is utilized

Research into cognitive-behavioral weight loss treatments established that weight loss is greater where hypnosis is utilized. It was also established that the benefits of hypnosis increase over time.

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (1996)

Showed Hypnosis As “An Effective Way To Lose Weight”

A study of 60 females who were at least 20% overweight and not involved in other treatment showed hypnosis is an effective way to lose weight.

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology (1986)4