I Have to Talk to a Psychologist?

I Have to Talk to a Psychologist?

You will leave your initial consultation with a list of requirements and medical tests needed before surgery can be scheduled. You may be surprised and perhaps a little bit leery if a psychological evaluation on the list.

Many insurance plans and some surgeons require a psychological evaluation before they will approve bariatric surgery. The purpose is not to fail you. In reality, only a very small number of people are found to be poor candidates for weight loss surgery based on the results. Instead, the purpose is to be sure that you have the necessary supports in place to be successful.

What’s in it for you? 

The evaluation can help to identify strengths that will help you to be successful after surgery, such as a strong support system or a high motivation to exercise. It can also help to identify areas in which some extra support may be needed, such as a rocky marriage or emotional eating.

Learning new stress management or relaxation techniques can be helpful for those who are nervous about the surgery itself or adjusting to the post-surgery lifestyle. Being more relaxed can help with faster healing and less discomfort. The evaluator will most likely be a good resource for these supports.

Behaviors, such as, grazing between meals, eating in the middle of the night or emotional eating may reduce chances of success. The psychologist will be able to help set up counseling for those

Some find that engaging in therapy before or after surgery is helpful to work through emotions and implement behaviors that support a healthy weight.

A Barix Clinics patient’s comments about the value of the psychological evaluation:

I was completely honest about my worries after surgery and following the diet. It can be really overwhelming reading through the book and trying to keep all the nutrients in line so I don’t get sick or put weight on. His response was, “well think of your body like car. They tell you what kind of fuel to put in your car and where to get it right? If you put the wrong fuel I, you run the risk of damaging your car and having costly repairs. So think of your body as the car and the food is your fuel. If you don’t put the right fuel in your body you can get sick, put weight on, etc.” I thought he was going off the deep-end when he started talking about cars, but it was a really simple explanation that clicked with me afterwards. And he was right. I have a book full of information that tells me what I can and shouldn’t have. I’m 14 months out and down almost 160 lbs. I am not perfect but his words echo in my head every time I’m tempted to make a bad decision.

What to expect

The evaluation will include a lot of paper and pencil testing, such as personality tests, mood inventories and other questionnaires.

There will be a face-to-face interview, during which you’ll be asked about your eating patterns, level of activity, family and social history, medical issues, psychological concerns current family situations, and your reasons for seeking weight loss surgery.

Conditions such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, and even eating disorders are not barriers to having success with weight loss surgery if they are well-controlled.

It’s normal to feel some degree of discomfort

Most people find visiting a psychologist a little unnerving, which is understandable.

It can be difficult to talk about personal issues with someone you don’t know. And it is a little counter-intuitive—typically when meeting someone for the first time, you present yourself in the best light. That usually doesn’t include sharing conditions, past history or current behaviors that may be seen as less-than-ideal.

Keep in mind that mental health professionals hear it all. Everyone has had some challenging life situations. We all have has less than perfect behaviors and sometimes make poor choices. Eating is complicated. There are many emotions, habits and coping behaviors tightly wrapped around our food intake. The psychologist is there to help you identify your strengths and areas that may need additional support to set you up to have the best results.

The psychological evaluation can actually bring a level of comfort. It provides an opportunity to ask questions and put supports in place. It is one more step to insure the bases covered and you’re ready for the changes that your new life will bring.


About Deb Hart

Deb Hart is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist. For the last 28 years, she has been helping bariatric surgery patients reach their health and weight goals. She teaches people how to set up a lifestyle that supports a healthy weight. Deb set up her own lifestyle to include lots of long walks with her furry family members, workout classes at her local wellness center, meal prepping, and finding new ways to enjoy foods without added sugar.
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