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Understanding the Pre-op Psychological Evaluation

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Licensed psychologist, Dr. Colleen Long has worked in the field of bariatrics for 10 years and discusses the ins and outs of the pre-op psychological evaluation to put anyone getting ready to go through the process at ease.

Every time I sit down with someone to do their VSG and Bypass psych pre-op evaluation- they are understandably nervous and on edge. My first question is: "Has anyone explained to you the reason for why you need a psychological evaluation?" and there answer is always, "no, I have no idea why I am here."

I explain to them the reasons are threefold: 1) to make sure they understand the risks, benefits, and outcomes of the surgery, 2) to understand any psychological/behavioral ties to food that would benefit from behavioral recommendations/modification, and 3) to help the surgeon understand one's personality as it relates to a healthcare context, to better inform treatment.

1) Most people have been able to go over the risks, benefits, and outcomes with their medical team, but if not- I make sure last minute questions are addressed before they proceed.

2) During the evaluation- we talk about the patient's unique eating behaviors and how to modify them to help with maximum weight loss after the surgery. For instance, last week- I met with a guy who said he normally has a bowl of Cereal at night in front of the TV and it provides him with a sense of "contentment." We talked about other ideas to create that same sense of contentment without sabotaging his weight loss surgery outcome, such as reaching out for support, taking a hot bath, listening to music, meditating, journaling, and/or creating a self-care ritual each night before bed.

3) The results of psychological testing provide me with really strong insight into each person's psyche as it relates to a medical setting. For instance, some results will say- " this person is uncomfortable talking about health care issues with strangers and may require more prompting than the average patient," or " this patient is likely to look compliant by being overly agreeable, but has a tendency to venture out on their own, and therefore frequent follow up is recommended," or " this person is uncomfortable in the patient role and will become increasingly agitated in the event of long-term health issues."

The 3rd piece of this evaluation is of concern to some, but for the most part- it is meant to help better inform their treatment plan. If a surgeon understands that a patient is more apt to look compliant but "go rogue," they are probably going to incorporate more frequent follow up to make sure that person has the best chance of success.

In the end- a psychologist's goal is not to be a hurdle in a patient's weight loss journey, but a catalyst.

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