If you’re a candidate for certain surgeries, there is a very high probability that you will be referred to a psychologist for an evaluation prior to your surgery.

You might be thinking, “Why do I need a psychological evaluation before surgery?”.  The reality is that pre-surgical evaluations have become standard practice over the past several years.

A psychological evaluation is typically requested for the following surgical procedures:

  • Bariatric Surgery
  • Cosmetic Surgery
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Organ Transplant
  • Spinal Cord Stimulator Placement

In this blog post, we will explain why pre-surgical evaluations have become standard practice and how a psychological pre-surgical evaluation is typically completed.

Why Do I Have to See A Psychologist for A Pre-Surgical Evaluation?

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 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 to learn more about the surgery they are requesting an evaluation for and specific questions they wanted answered in the evaluation.

  • Administration of psychological tests and self-report questionnaires to assess your current level of psychological functioning. For the purposes of test security, we can’t go over the details of the questionnaires in this article. 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 weaknesses, provides treatment recommendations, and give it to you and your physician.

  • We will also conduct a feedback session to go over testing results and our treatment recommendations.


Pre-surgical evaluations have become standard practice for several types of surgeries over the past several years.

If you’ve been referred for bariatric surgery or spinal cord stimulator placement, there is almost a 100% chance you will be asked to undergo a psychological evaluation.

The goal of an evaluation is to help identify good candidates for surgery and to increase your chances of success post-surgery.

We’re hoping that this overview helped ease your anxiety by explaining what you can expect when meeting with a psychologist for a pre-surgical evaluation. 

Do you have any questions?

Schedule your free 20 minute phone consultation today!

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