Personalized cognitive-behavioural therapy for obesity (CBT-OB): theory, strategies and procedures

Biopsychosoc Med. 2020 Mar 9;14:5. doi: 10.1186/s13030-020-00177-9. eCollection 2020.


Personalized cognitive-behavioural therapy for obesity (CBT-OB) is a new treatment that combines the traditional procedures of standard behavioural therapy for obesity (i.e., self-monitoring, goal setting, stimulus control, contingency management, behavioural substitution, skills for increasing social support, problem solving and relapse prevention) with a battery of specific cognitive strategies and procedures. These enable the treatment to be individualized, and to help patients to address the cognitive processes that previous research has found to be associated with treatment discontinuation, the amount of weight lost and long-term weight-loss maintenance. The treatment programme can be delivered at three levels of care, outpatient, day hospital and residential, and includes six modules, which are introduced according to the individual patient's needs as part of a flexible, personalized approach. The primary goals of CBT-OB are to help patients to (i) achieve, accept and maintain healthy weight loss; (ii) adopt a lifestyle conducive to weight control; and (iii) develop a stable "weight-control mindset". A randomized controlled trial has found that 88 patients suffering from morbid obesity treated with CBT-OB followed a period of residential treatment achieved a mean weight loss of 15% after 12 months, with no tendency to regain weight between 6 and 12 months. The treatment efficacy is also supported by data from a study assessing the effects of group CBT-OB delivered in a real-world clinical setting. In that study, 77 patients with morbid obesity who completed the treatment achieved 9.9% weight loss after 18 months. These promising results, if confirmed by future clinical studies, suggest that CBT-OB has the potential to be more effective than traditional weight-loss lifestyle-modification programmes.

Keywords: Cognitive-behavioural therapy; Day-hospital; Obesity; Outpatient; Residential treatment; Treatment.

Publication types

  • Review