Bariatric Psychology

For more information on Bariatric Surgery / Weight Loss Surgery (GBS): (Internationally acclaimed and acknowledged leader in the field of Laparoscopic Gastric Bypass Surgery: Prof Heine van der Walt (UNITAS Hospital - 012-6648046)

Bariatric psychology (for bariatric surgery, also called Gastric Bypass Surgery – GBS, or Weight Loss Surgery - WLS) and Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery if indicated:


A psychological evaluation is a routine procedure for bariatric and / or metabolic disease patients who intend to have Gastric Bypass Surgery. Below are some general questions and answers (Q&A) about the psychological assessment and preparation for such surgery:


Q: Why do I have to see a psychologist?

A: This kind of surgery requires a very important decision that involves many emotional and behavioural lifestyle changes. This operation might be one of the most important, if not the most important, investment you will ever make in your life. In order to offer you the best possible chance to benefit from this surgery, we have to assess your psychological readiness and strengths to cope with this life-changing decision. For some, this comes with a feeling of loss (such as food), isolation and some other concerns. Others may have unrealistic expectations about the results of surgery. Radical relationship changes (some good and some bad) can be a result of this life-changing situation. You, your partner / family or support system will need the guidance of a therapist in dealing with the “new” you. Counselling prior to and after surgery will assist in developing better coping mechanisms, building (psychological) strengths and ensuring that a strong support system  is in place.

Q: What happens if I fail the test?

A: The psychological evaluation / assessment is not a pass or fail test. It is one of many assessments that the surgeon will take into term sustainability on the program. This is a particular helpful and needed session.

Q: Who will get the psychologist’s report?

A: Your report will only be sent to your surgeon and is a generic report which does not contain personal information that was discussed during your individual session.

Q: Will my medical aid cover the psychological evaluation and treatment?


A: Yes, depending on you specific Medical Aid and or Scheme benefits. In the majority of cases your medical aid will cover all or some of these services. Visits to Dr Liebenberg must be paid upfront and thereafter claimed back from the medical aid. Statements as proof of payment will be issued after each session to facilitate your medical aid claims.


Q: How do I make an appointment?


A: You can only make an appointment for an assessment once you attended Prof Heine van der Walt’s Seminar of Gastric Bypass Surgery as well as your first visit to Hanlie Sweers (Dietician). Call (012) 6431594 Monday - Friday between the hours of 8 am and 2 pm (Fridays only until 11 am) and ask for an appointment with Dr Liebenberg for the Bariatric Information Session and assessment.


Q: What happens if I don’t attend all my sessions?


A: The success of the program depends on your full participation and cooperation. Should you choose not to attend a session/s, Dr Liebenberg will be unable to provide the necessary details of your suitability, preparedness and readiness for the surgery. This will be taken into consideration by the surgeon as to your commitment and further participation in the program. As part of the psychology practice policy, you will be charged the full amount of the booked session if you don’t cancel your appointment at least 12 hours prior to your session.

Psychological Preparation DVD for Bariatric Surgery Patients (You Tube):

In addition to Gastric Bypass Surgery (Bariatric Surgery), Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is often indicated. This kind of surgery requires a psychological assessments and preparations as part of mental “self-image reconstruction therapy”

Some patients need to get rid of e.g. excess skin and or need a “tummy tuck” (Abdominoplasty). These patients needs to be prepared for Reconstructive Surgery. For some bariatric patients other body image issues might need attention to be “corrected” or improved after weight loss surgery. This however is not a rule and the minority of patients need to and undergo Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery after Bariatric Surgery.

For many prospective plastic and/or reconstructive surgery patients, the fantasy of walking out of hospital a complete new person, unfortunately crumbles once they realise that this kind of surgery can be significantly more invasive than what they ever expected or anticipated.

The role of the psychological assessment and support prior to and after this kind of surgery is crucial in order for the results and expectations to be in line with reality. There are some patients that are not emotionally and psychologically suitable candidates or who are not yet optimally prepared for such invasive surgery, and the role of the psychologist in dealing with these patients is far more important than anticipated. If patients are informed and realistic prior to plastic or reconstructive surgery, they are usually happier and more content patient afterwards.

For many years the role of the “psyche” was undervalued as part of the preparation for these patients. Recently, Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons increasingly acknowledge the benefits of patients who are properly assessed, informed and supported through the process of changing their appearances. For some it is a life-changing experience and for others it turns into a nightmare. For that reason the psychologist uses an assessment protocol and support plan to assist in making those changes which the body and mind needs to go through. The outcome reflects a better and more realistic acceptance of what some people think is a true “Hollywood fix”, indeed creating a realistic reflection of what a surgeon can do to enhance, change or alter your body to give you a better self- image. Unfortunately, for some patients, the bodily change is not sufficient to influence the mind in changing preconceived perceptions. Therefore, the role of the psychologist in the body and mind alteration is increasingly valued by surgeons all over the world.