Self-help in the long-term treatment of obesity


  • Address reprint requests to: J Latner, Department of Psychology, Rutgers University, 152 Frelinghuysen Road, Piscataway, NJ 08854-8020, USA. E-mail:


Despite the short-term success of professional behavioural techniques for obesity, weight losses are typically regained following treatment. The long-term maintenance of treatment effects will probably require ongoing, continuing care. Continuing care may be economically feasible when administered through self-help treatment modalities. Self-help confers a number of psychological benefits, such as self-reliance and an increased sense of empowerment. The effectiveness and cost-effectiveness of various modalities of self-help are reviewed, including purely self-prompted help, self-administered manuals, computer-assisted therapy, professionally assisted correspondence courses, and non-profit and commercial self-help groups. Stepped-care models suggest using a combination of these approaches when appropriate. However, logistical difficulties present themselves in stepped-care approaches with obesity, such as the complicating effects of severity and comorbidity on stepped-care status. Self-help groups are a promising venue for the provision of continuing care and as an adjunct to more intensive, specialty therapies.