Having Surgery? Talk it Over with a Counselor

No one likes having surgery even when the consequences are anticipated to be positive. That’s because most people worry about different tests that have to be done as well as the discomfort of some of the preparation, the potential risks of surgery, and the possible pain afterwards. Preparation for an operation is primarily physical with little time or emphasis given to the psychological component, which can be very important to many anxious people.

Some doctors and hospitals provide counseling for those who are to undergo surgery. This is usually for those who have complicated operations that may be life-threatening or have negative effects. Few medical facilities give counseling to those who have minor or relatively common surgeries, such as knee replacements and hysterectomies. It is likely, however, that more people would benefit from counseling prior to surgery than many physicians consider. Patients may not disclose their fears of surgery, preferring to show the proper “face”, when in fact they may be very anxious. Since anxiety is an emotion that can affect behavior, it is important for everyone to have an opportunity to talk through feelings prior to an operation.

In the days before an operation the patient needs someone safe to talk to about the procedure in some detail. Usually the doctor will have time to sort out the physical issues but may not have the time or inclination to deal with the psychological ones. A brief therapy session with a counselor can be of real help during these times. In many states, a prescription or referral from a physician to a counselor may allow the therapy to be covered by insurance. Even so the usual $100 to $150 cost for an hour is well worth the money to get good advice as preparation for surgery to deal with the fear and anxiety.

Even if counseling is privately done without insurance coverage, it is still good preparation for surgery of almost any kind. It allows the patient to talk through fears and all of the “what ifs,” to identify problem feelings and issues, and to learn what emotional preparation can be undertaken through any exercise the therapist might recommend. Often it is useful to involve a significant family member or close friend, following therapeutic preliminaries, and with the patient’s consent. That’s because some of the emotional support may be reinforced by folks the patient trusts.

Operations are more than physical events; they are psychological ones as well. With the body – mind connection long established, it is likely important for a potential surgical patient to have counseling prior to an invasive event.

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