Psychological Assessments for Cosmetic Surgery Patients
When people seek cosmetic surgery it is with the aim of producing a desired physical change but typically with the further aim of leading to psychological change. In fact it could be argued that the only reason for performing cosmetic plastic surgery is to improve psychological well-being and relieve self-consciousness, distress or a negative self image. Cosmetic surgery is elective, but this does not mean that it is trivial or frivolous. It is undeniable that having a socially acceptable appearance can have an impact on relationships, self-esteem, social functioning, perceptions by others, and educational and employment success. In this way it is different to many other surgical procedures for which success is judged in purely physical or functional terms. Plastic surgeons therefore often work with psychologists and may refer their patients for psychological assessment and intervention, with the intention of this being of benefit to both the surgeon and the patient.
In fact, a non-judgmental collaborative approach between surgeon and psychologist often results in the most optimal surgical and psychological outcome for patients. Surgery on its own may lead to minimal change as the sense of deformity could remain and there maybe unresolved psychological issues. Similarly, although psychological input alone is sometimes appropriate when psychological issues are the most pressing, at other times although the patient will make a lot of progress with psychological therapy they seem unlikely to come to terms with their perceived deformity. In these cases, surgery in combination with psychological intervention is a powerful driver for change.
Correct evaluation of a patient’s suitability for surgery (in terms of e.g. motivations, surgical expectations, personality, ability to understand and cope with the risks and process of surgery) is important to the surgeon, as it can help clarify how to proceed surgically. Often this also has the effect of helping the patient clarify for themselves, exactly what surgical intervention they would like, and their personal aims from surgery. This can be a complex issue, and careful assessment is important, because cosmetic surgery may not always be the correct solution to someone’s difficulties and surgery does not in every case bring benefit and may in sometimes lead to further psychological harm or dissatisfaction with the post-operative results. Also disappointed may be individuals seeking surgery in the hope of pleasing others, saving a deteriorating relationship, or who are responding to pressure from others. An appointment with the Psychologist can also offer support and preparation for a procedure, that they may otherwise find too daunting or anxiety provoking to go though with.
In summary then, an appointment with the Clinical Psychologist can contribute to the process of cosmetic surgery in a number of ways:
- decision making about surgery
- clarifying psychological and surgical issues to facilitate a smoother post-operative course.
- assisting patients to consider alternative solutions to surgery that may be more helpful
- offering pre and/or post-operative psychological input, instead of or as well as surgery
- preparation and support for surgery
- long-term support
To arrange a Clinical Psychology appointment, you can either be referred by your Plastic Surgeon or you can arrange one by contacting Dr Maggie Bellew directly:
Dr Maggie Bellew, BA (Hons) MSc, PhD, CPychol,AFBPsS
Consultant Clinical Psychologist.
Via Mobile: 07757 124664
Via FAX: 0113 2681340
Consultations all take place at the Spire Hospital Leeds, Jackson Avenue, Roundhay, Leeds, LS8 1NT.
- Psychological assessment - involves a detailed clinical interview, which will include completing a number of psychometric measures. Patients are seen for one or two, hour-long sessions, after which a report will be written.
- Psychological therapy - The number of treatment sessions provided is in line with the Department of Health's Evidence Based Clinical Practice Guidelines (between 8 and 16 sessions for most interventions).
Dr Bellew is a Consultant Clinical Psychologist, with both a Consultant NHS post and a private practice. She has Chartered Clinical Psychologist status and also Chartered Health Psychologist status. She is an Associate Fellow of the British Psychological Society and is registered with the Health Professions Council. She qualified in 1991.
Dr Bellew is registered with all the main private healthcare insurance companies, such as BUPA, AXA PPP Healthcare, CIGNA, Simply Health, WPA, AVIVA, Standard Life Healthcare, Medisure and PruHealth.