Gastric Hypno Band Virtual Con. Mass Marketing Scam That Lacks Integrity & Evidence

Francis Picabia. Ventriloquist.

Today I spoke to a client had a really negative experience of this very popular and marketed form of gastric band hypnosis.  This is not the first time that this has happened. In my friendship circles, friends told me of colleagues negative experiences who felt ripped off by this procedure and I’ve met some of these people in social events. 

The mass marketing of the hypnotic gastric bands seems to me to be sadly indicative of how in hypnotherapy our profession can be deeply discredited through forms of expensive & overpriced hypnosis that suggests that they have 99% cures or other impossible claims that I do not feel can be statistically proven, shown or is revealed in any psychological research! 

The search derivatives on Google for these forms of gastric hypnosis bands are very prevalent, in that if you put in ‘gastric band hypnotherapy and con’, ‘hypno band victim’ or ‘this didn’t work for me,’ then the advertising literature will contain these postulations as questions i advertising lierature.  Therefore these terms are used as a campaign for this gastric band – for which people are paying up to £1000.

I wholeheartedly agree with the rising voices on the internet, from fellow hypnotherapists and psychotherapists who are extremely critical of the gastric hypnosis forms of advertised weight loss.  For example Marie Burns is quoted in a blog where she suggests until the evidence comes otherwise about the hypnotherapy gastric band weight loss then like her I suspend belief and remain cynical about the claims.  Other therapists online are suggesting that these methods though had they have a great pulling power to gain clients, are not necessarily geared up for the client’s needs.

On the website no-nonsense hypnotherapy, Greg Forde suggests “Any therapist doing Gastric Band Hypnotherapy, is either in it for the money, or unaware of how effective hypnotherapy actually works. Not being aware, while quite shameful, is all too common amongst so-called Hypnotherapists”. 

Like Greg, I would criticize the concept that the subconscious can be deceived into believing that the stomach has been shrunken in the long-term. That the experiences of shame or the psycholigical comfort eating, or the ways people respond to threats (in the amygdala system), can be placated in such a simplistic way. 

Societies prizing of the perfect body is also a disturbing element of this because it is not encouraging self-acceptance, healthy lifestyle or that the nature of change requires effort and patience. I have had enquiries where in being honest with clients about how I cannot say ho many sessions they will have to undertake for weight-loss.  Often there is a sense that they can go back to someone who can promise them instantaneous success. I wonder if many have been less feeling disappointed and cheated? I will never lie to clients and say ‘oh yes, one to three sessions and you will be fine’!  Such generlizations and promises are  as unpalatable as they are unethical.

In a sense I would suggest that some of this at best overzealous advertising and at worst this honest, discrediting and professionally suspect marketing can be extremely damaging to the client. Like my client said to me yesterday, “I never wanted to try hypnosis again, because I was told it would work for me, and because it didn’t I thought they must be something wrong with me because I didn’t respond to this”.  Like the proverbial snake oil seller, I wonder how damaging the overzealous claims of success rates can be on people’s self-esteem?  How does this discredit their attempts to maintain, accept and find emotional and physical freedom by undergoing the therapeutic process?

Unlike many psychotherapists who train for years, a certificate in this gastric band hypnosis is very easy to pick up.  Some may be utilizing their own therapeutic skills and use these techniques successfully but this notion that there is one size fits all that is communicated to the clients is deeply depressing and offensive, especially when it is all about shrinking the content of the stomach, rather than making changes in motivation the self-concept and perceptions of the self.  Having surgical spirits in the room (one trick) and imagining the surgical process from beginning to end (though it could be a useful metaphor in some instances), is deeply simplistic and cannot be exaggerated to warrant some of the preposterous charges for this therapy.

 In my practice in Manchester city centre as a counsellor, psychotherapist and hypnotherapist, I often get enquiries about weight loss.  I have always tried to be evidence-based and keep up-to-date with what is functional and operative as a form of therapy. 

Moffitt et al (2012) for example look at CBT in terms of cognitive restructuring in helping people think differently about food, there are automatic thoughts are often have driven them to overeat and not exercise reguarly.  They also look at how CBT assists in to enhancing motivation and overcoming core self-concepts that lead to habit, distress and low motivation in health-related areas. 

People need to target ways to overcome feelings of insecurity, using food as comforting or an automatic response to stress.  Clients need to explore resistance to exercise that could actually make them feel better and healthier.  Clients also need assistance in the therapeutic dialogue in finding ways to be self-compassionate and accepting of their self-image.  There needs to be challenge over what is realistic and what is mythological and damaging perceptions of the unattainable self especially where self-esteem perceptions about te sel-image can be so vulnerable  (here I am informed by ACT therapy and compassion-based therapies). 

Kristeller et al (2010) study looks at mindfulness and eating related training as well as the emotional behavioural and physiological ways that mindfulness and meditation and guided meditation seek to make health-related behaviours more self-conscious whilst seeking self-acceptance and self-compassion.  Mindfulness assists in many spects of heath and eating related change, allowing people to be in the present moment, overcome emotional responses and learn kindness in regards to the self during change.

I am so interested in Michael Yapko (2011) detailed book about mindfulness and hypnosis as being in alignment and mutually beneficial for a variety of concerns including weight loss. Yapko also discusses how hypnotherapy relates so well to cognitive behavioural therapy. After all hypnosis on its own, is not therapeutic but is just a psychological state. The real therapy utilizes andis informed by theory and practice that psychologically assists the client.

It is such a shame that hypnosis is often on the outside of research because of biases people naturally pick up to towards it because of the incorrect assumptions and judgments that are provided in the media and in public consciousness.  Part of this responsibility has to go to hypnotherapists that exploit perceptions for a quick buck. The government not regulating the profession is a shame as it allows too many ‘easy’ courses and dubious certification. 

In terms of weight loss, CBT with hypnosis is a useful therapeutic approach.  Kirsch (1996) so that is hypnosis and CBT overtime has a great benefit for weight loss programs as it is approaching the client from the psychological, the educative, the motivational and looking at negative automatic thoughts that impede self-worth and belief in the ability to change.

It makes me very sad that this new influx of a populist, mass-marketed, advertising and media led campaign of ‘virtual’ hypnosis gastric bands will be so damaging to the reputation of hypnosis in the eyes of many clients that could benefit from this effective and gentle addition to the therapeutic relationship. 

If you are reading this and these programs did not work for you I urge you to write these in forums or blogs so that eventually the influx of opinion will override the Google word searches that these organisations have paid for so meticulously. I also want to assure anyone that did not feel that they gained success from this please don’t give up on the concept of hypnotherapy, psychotherapy or counseling and do see people who have accreditations in the UKCP, BACP, BPS, BACBT, NRHP or other reputable bodies of therapy.

Best wishes to you all and keep on keeping on.



Kirsch, I. (1996). Hypnotic enhancement of cognitive-behavioural weight-loss treatments – another meta-reanalysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 64, 517-519.

Kristeller, J.L; & Wolever, R.Q.  (2010). Mindfulness-Based Eating Awareness Training for Treating Binge Eating Disorder: The Conceptual Foundation. The Journal of Treatment & Prevention, Vol 19, (1), pg 49 – 61.

 Moffitt, R; Brinkworth, G, Noakes, M, Mohr, P.  (2012). A comparison of cognitive restructuring and cognitive defusion as strategies for resisting a craved food. (Online preview of forthcoming publication)

Yapko, M.  (2011).  Mindfulness and hypnosis: The power of suggestion to transform experience. W. W. Norton & Co.


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