Are psychological interventions effective for weight loss?

From: The Cochrane Collaboration

Journal rating:
rating: 98%
Study Quality:
rating: 100%

Overall Reliability

Article Quality:
rating: 75%
rating: 50%


  • 36 studies including 3,495 participants


  • The paper is a systematic review / meta analysis of all relevant trials.
  • This means that the data from all similar trials has been grouped together to form an overall outcome.


  • Behaviour therapy resulted in a greater weight loss than a placebo (average loss 2.5 kg). When behaviour therapy was combined with a diet / exercise approach and compared with diet / exercise alone, the combined intervention resulted in a greater weight reduction.
  • In all studies, participants in the behavioural intervention lost more weight than no treatment controls.
  • Cognitive therapy was not effective as a weight loss treatment compared to behaviour therapy. However, when combined with a diet / exercise intervention, it was found to increase weight loss compared with diet / exercise alone (average loss 4.9 kg).
  • There was not enough evidence to reach a conclusion about other psychological forms of therapy, such as relaxation therapy and hypnotherapy. 


  • Yes (with confidence) – for behaviour therapy and cognitive therapy.