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Bariatric Pre-SurgicalPsychological Evaluations

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What are Bariatric Pre-surgicalPsychological evaluations?

One of the requirements of undergoing bariatric surgery is to have pre-surgical psychological clearance. The ultimate goal of the bariatric psychological evaluation is to ensure your safety and success by identifying potential barriers and risk factors to your optimal weight loss and health post-surgery. This type of evaluation may be required by your surgeon and/or your health insurance company. The surgeon referring you for evaluation also wants to ensure that you are informed and emotionally prepared for the surgery and the extensive changes that will occur afterwards. Many insurance companies require this evaluation prior to authorizing coverage for weight loss surgery.


Our evaluations meet the standards set forth by the American Society for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery and the VA National Center for Health and Disease Prevention, as well as the standards set forth by the American Psychological Association

The evaluation is not pass/fail. The psychologist will integrate multiple sources of information to provide a clinical summary of your psychological readiness for surgery, and offer recommendations to address and issues or concerns. Since many individuals who pursue weight-loss surgery suffer from psychiatric concerns like depression, anxiety, binge eating, and other problems, these are typically NOT reasons to delay or deny surgery. If there is anything that concerns us, we will work with you to develop a plan to better prepare you to have surgery. The majority of patients that we evaluate are ready to have surgery. Those who may need treatment prior to surgery will be given specific recommendations and referrals. Ultimately, your surgeon will make a decision as to whether they will proceed with the surgery – not the psychologist.


The Convenience of Online Assessments


All of our evaluations are completed virtually using a HIPAA-compliant telehealth platform. One of the key benefits to using telehealth psychological assessments for bariatric surgery clearance is convenience. Instead of having to visit a psychologist in person, you can complete the evaluation from the privacy and comfort of your own home and still receive the same high quality care.

Why are pre-surgical psychological evaluations required?


There are two main reasons why you might have to see a psychologist prior to your surgery:


1. Insurance Companies Require A Pre-Surgical Evaluation

Many insurance companies require their patients to see a psychologist in order to be cleared for surgery.

The insurance company is spending a lot of money on the surgery and they want to make sure that their patients are mentally prepared and ready for surgery. They want to make sure that you understand the post-operative effects, potential complications, and follow-up care required after surgery. A clear and complete understanding of all these factors will greatly improve your chances for success and recovery after surgery. For example, the insurance company does not want to pay for someone’s bariatric surgery if they don’t understand the post-operative requirements after surgery (e.g. maintain a healthy diet and regular exercise). They also don’t want to authorize surgery for someone that has unrealistic expectations as to what the surgery will do for them.


2. A Psychological Evaluation Can Help Identify Ways to Improve Your Recovery Post-Surgery

Being mentally prepared before and after surgery is just as important for your recovery as being physically prepared. A pre-surgical evaluation will provide your physician with information regarding your psychological functioning and mental preparedness for surgery. Psychological and behavioral factors can play an important role when determining your readiness for surgery. Stress, anxiety, depression, or being mentally unprepared for post-surgical requirements can negatively impact your recovery. A psychological evaluation will help identify your strengths, weaknesses, and your motivation for surgery. An evaluation can also help identify areas that you might need additional support or assistance in. For example, a patient might have depressive symptoms due to chronic pain or body image issues due to being overweight. Typical signs of depression are decreased energy, slowing of thoughts and movement, and a loss of interest in doing certain activities. These symptoms can prevent patients from following up with post-operative requirements such as eating healthy, dieting, exercising, staying active, or attending physical therapy. A psychological evaluation can help identify these symptoms and develop a treatment plan in order to help the patient after surgery. A patient might be provided a treatment plan that includes a referral to a psychologist for individual therapy to treat their depressive symptoms.  They can be referred to a support group for individuals who have undergone a similar procedure and are now recovering.  They can also be referred to a psychiatrist for an evaluation to determine if they would benefit from being prescribed psychiatric medications. The goal of the psychological evaluation is to help identify good candidates for surgery and to increase your chances of success post-surgery.


What can I expect during a pre-surgical evaluation?

We get a lot of questions regarding what a patient can expect during a pre-surgical evaluation. This process can be very anxiety provoking and stressful, especially for someone that has never met with a psychologist. We want to ease some of your anxiety so we’ve included a quick overview of what to expect during an evaluation.


A typical pre-surgical evaluation includes the following:

  • A 60-minute clinical interview to gather relevant background information and history. The interview will help us understand important psychological, medical, and social background information, and your current cognitive and psychological functioning.

  • Consultation with your physician and surgeon, if needed or requested, to learn more about the surgery they are requesting an evaluation for and specific questions they would like answered in the evaluation.

  • Administration of psychological tests and self-report questionnaires to assess your current level of psychological functioning. We will go over each questionnaire with you during your evaluation.

  • After we complete the evaluation, we will write a comprehensive report that integrates our findings, identifies your strengths and areas of need, and provides treatment recommendations when appropriate.

  • Finally, we will meet with you for a 30-minute feedback session to go over testing results and any treatment recommendations. We will then give you and your physician and/or treatment team a copy of the final report.

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