Expert care, compassionate support.

Psychological & Emotional Support

As you prepare for surgery, it's important to get ready both physically and emotionally. Talking about issues related to obesity can lead to feelings of vulnerability for some, so we work hard to create an atmosphere that allows you to feel comfortable.

To help you prepare for a new lifestyle, our program includes:

  • A health and behavior assessment
  • Individual counseling and education
  • Support groups

Health and behavior assessment

Early in the program you will meet with a psychologist for an assessment. This health and behavior assessment is also known as the "preoperative psychological evaluation." This assessment is required by our program, but is also required by insurance companies as part of the prior authorization process.

We have two psychologists in our program. Dr. John McAlpine and Dr. Paul Bagdade are experienced in assessing people considering weight loss surgery. They are your advocates during the process. Their goal is to help you to be mentally prepared for and have a positive outcome after surgery.

Your initial consultation may take up to three hours with testing.

You will discuss topics such as:

  • Eating history
  • Weight loss history
  • Psychological issues
  • Family history

The testing that is part of the mental health assessment may include the following:

  • Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2) - A commonly used test that assesses your ability to cope with stress, evaluates how you relate to others and reveals psychological factors that may stand in the way of your success.
  • Millon Behavioral Medicine Diagnostic (MBMD) - This newer test was designed for medical patients. It looks at coping styles and personality traits related to your medical condition to determine how successful you will respond to medical care.
  • A self-assessment of your lifestyle and eating habits - This assessment provides you with a good indication of where you still may need to make lifestyle and eating changes prior to the surgery. (For example: avoiding fluids with meals and chewing small amounts of food to applesauce consistency). It is often used to minimize your risk for complications and determine your chance of a successful outcome.

Please note: for insurance reasons, you may need to complete the assessment and testing on different days.

After the results of the testing are available (within about two weeks), you will meet with the behavioral health consultant for follow-up and feedback. At that meeting you will review the changes you've made in your eating and lifestyle. If the behavioral health consultant has concerns, he will discuss recommendations and options with you.

Additional education and treatment may be needed if you have:

  • An addiction (such as nicotine or alcohol)
  • A history of sexual, emotional or physical abuse that has not been completely addressed
  • Untreated mental illness
  • Binge-eating and emotional eating problems
  • Not making the necessary lifestyle and eating changes necessary to be successful after surgery

It is possible that you may be referred to another clinician to assist in these matters.

Individual counseling and education

Bariatric surgery requires a lifelong decision to make eating and other lifestyle behavioral changes. For some, this comes with a feeling of loss (of food), isolation and concern about weight gain. Others may have unrealistic expectations about weight loss. Counseling prior to and after the surgery may help in developing better coping mechanisms and ensuring that a strong support system is in place.

Some individuals will require counseling prior to the surgery to:

  • Treat mental illness
  • Develop better coping strategies/ways to deal with stress
  • Learn how to manage the disease of morbid obesity

For some, it may be as simple as exploring alternatives to eating when bored or stressed. For others, it may be more complex due to a serious family conflict, untreated mental illness or an eating disorder.

Changes in your relationships

It's important to realize that relationships may change after bariatric surgery. You may feel that you "settled" for a relationship and feel more empowered to find a more appropriate match after surgery. A partner may become jealous because of the attention that you receive after a significant weight loss. It is important to have open communication with your partner prior to the surgery.

Connections support group

Research has suggested that people who consistently attend support groups tend to lose more weight after bariatric surgery. Before and after surgery, it is important that you have the knowledge and support to make the necessary lifestyle and eating changes.

A support group:

  • Offers you the chance to listen to professionals discussing topics like nutrition, surgical successes and coping skills.
  • Allows you to spend time with people who are going through a similar process, which can leave you empowered, energized and reassured.
  • Gives you the opportunity to share information about your successes and struggles with the others in the group.

We offer two support groups: Connections - for patients both before and after surgery and Post-Operative Support Group - for patients who have undergone surgery.

Weight Loss Surgery support groups


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Connections: Post-Operative Bariatric Surgery Support Group

Connections: Post-Operative Bariatric Surgery Support Group is a monthly support group for patients who have undergone weight loss (bariatric) surgery and...

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