Bariatric Surgery Center

Many people who undergo bariatric surgery describe it as a life-changing event. To help ease the transition, it is important for prospective patients to be mentally and psychologically prepared.

The first step for those considering bariatric surgery is to attend a free group information session, where a registered nurse clinician discusses the different types of surgery, including a new outpatient adjustable gastric band surgery. Attendees can ask questions and meet others who are considering surgery.

"Perhaps most important, the session helps people understand what is expected of them," says Heather Gallivan, PsyD, a licensed psychologist with Park Nicollet Bariatric Surgery Center."Some come looking for a magic fix. But weight-loss surgery is not magical; people must be highly motivated and willing to make long-term lifestyle changes."

Team assessments ensure you're ready

At Park Nicollet Bariatric Surgery Center, doctors, psychologists and dietitians work together as a unified team in helping patients prepare for surgery and succeed afterward. Their communication is aided by electronic medical records, which they all can access.

Just as our doctors assess candidates to determine if they are physically able to withstand surgery, psychologists assess candidates to determine if they are mentally and emotionally prepared. The assessment begins with standardized testing - questions that screen people for signs of substance abuse, compulsive behavior, eating disorders, depression, anxiety and other forms of mental illness.

"If we find any red flags, we refer people for treatment," Gallivan explains. "We don't want to deny people surgery; we just want to do all we can to ensure long-term success." Sometimes, that means postponing surgery until other conditions are resolved.

"For example, if people are depressed, they often experience lowered motivation and may not be able to follow through with the necessary lifestyle changes, such as eating healthy and getting exercise," Gallivan says. "Surgery, by itself, does not guarantee long-term weight loss - nor can it cure depression."

Others may need help changing life-long behaviors and thinking. "When people are emotional eaters, we use psychotherapy to help them develop alternative coping strategies. If they have low self-esteem, we help them shift their thinking toward self-acceptance," she continues. "We help people make small, incremental changes they can accomplish. It is impossible to change everything at once."

Emotional concerns after surgery

Even success requires psychological adjustment. Dramatic weight loss can impact how people view themselves and affect relationships with a spouse, partner or friends. For help with these adjustments, people may want to take advantage of Park Nicollet's surgery support group meetings. These monthly meetings take place at Park Nicollet Clinic-St. Louis Park.

"If people think they could benefit from additional help, it is important they talk with one of our doctors or bariatric nurse clinicians. We are all willing to do whatever it takes to help our patients succeed. This is a huge challenge, and we know long-term success often requires a team effort," Gallivan adds.