Question: In adults who are overweight, how effective is Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) compared to other weight management interventions, in improving patient outcomes?


Plain language summary

There is limited available evidence on cognitive behavioural therapy for overweight adults. More high quality research is needed in this area to adequately assess the effectiveness of CBT in comparison to weight management interventions for improving patient outcomes.

Clinical and research implications

The available evidence about the effectiveness of cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for overweight and obesity is limited. There is some evidence to suggest that adding CBT to diet or exercise programs may result in small, but statistically significant increases in weight loss relative to diet and exercise alone. These benefits were measured at six months or less post-treatment. Studies comparing CBT alone to behavioural therapy or a dietary intervention indicate no difference in effectiveness. The only study to investigate long-term maintenance of weight loss found that weight loss associated with psychological interventions was reversed by three year follow-up.

Further studies are required to confirm the effectiveness of adding CBT interventions to diet and exercise programmes and to assess whether any weight loss achieved by such combined interventions is sustained over the long-term. There is currently very little evidence about the effectiveness of CBT alone compared to other weight loss interventions, or about the effectiveness of group versus individual interventions. Future studies should include both male and female participants, as the majority of the current evidence is derived from women only or majority women studies.


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