Thursday, August 10, 2017

Hypnotherapy and Eating Disorders

(This blog was originally posted on July 11, 2016)

Photo by Rick Hustead

Hypnosis Motivation Institute founder John Kappas, Ph.D. advocated addressing the emotional problems that caused the eating disorder when working with someone who suffered from anorexia nervosa or bulimia. The hypnotherapist believed that this process would alleviate the symptoms of the disease in order to address them directly. However, he warned against specifically mentioning the client’s bingeing and purging behaviors because these would be inferred during the hypnotherapeutic process. “If you’re not bingeing and purging, you’re not as concerned about the weight,” Dr. Kappas said.

Therapy with someone who is suffering from an eating disorder is a long process which may take many sessions to overcome, Dr. Kappas warned. Furthermore, it is may take many sessions for the hypnotherapist to build rapport with the client to address these issues.

When working with someone who has an eating disorder, he recommended changing the client’s suggestibility from herself to the therapist in order to facilitate treatment. “[She must] turn over conscious control to the therapist to take control of the unconscious process,” Dr. Kappas explained. While she is in hypnosis, provide suggestions to increase the client’s perception of having self-control, feeling better about herself and being calm, he advised. “Think of yourself feeling good physically, emotionally, psychologically. You’re becoming important to yourself. You’re beginning to control old habits and compulsions. You’re not controlled by old habits.”

 Meanwhile, the hypnotherapist and other members of the client's medical/psychological team should monitor the person's eating and bingeing behaviors. “If they get worse, the hypnotherapist] will have to move in and attack the behavior," Dr. Kappas said.

As I explained in my blog titled, Eating Disorders Are Not an Extreme Diet, anorexia nervosa and bulimia are very complicated, dangerous conditions that can cause severe physiological destruction and even death. The symptoms and etiology (medical/psychiatric origin) of each are addressed in the Diagnostics and Statistic Manual of Mental Disorders, a basic reference guide for various psychiatric disorders. Typically, these conditions are out of scope of my or most other certified hypnotherapists’ professional expertise to address in hypnotherapy (Business and Professions Code 2908). To do so, I would need to receive a referral from the person’s (licensed) medical doctor and/or mental-health worker to work with the individual. Even then, my input as a hypnotherapist would be only to help the client fortify her or his self-confidence and self-esteem and reinforce new healthy-eating behaviors recommended by the person’s medical and psychiatric team. Ultimately, the treatment (management) of anorexia nervosa and bulimia is often a lifelong process which must be done under such medical supervision.

Sara R. Fogan, C.Ht. is a certified hypnotherapist based in Southern California. She graduated with honors from the Hypnosis Motivation Institute in 2005. For more information about Calminsense Hypnotherapy® and to set up an appointment, please visit
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