Psychoprophylaxis is a method of psychological intervention aimed at all those who have to undergo surgery or are in the process of recovery after having undergone the operation.

This intervention focuses its efforts on adequately channeling the patient’s emotions and impulses that could have a direct impact on the process of the operation.

In this article we will see what psychoprophylaxis consists of, and its characteristics.

What exactly is psychoprophylaxis?

This therapeutic tool is based on employing multiple resources based on specific activities , depending on the needs of the patient. For example, it is not the same to apply psychoprophylaxis to a pregnant woman as to a person who has undergone spinal surgery.

In this sense the activities should be different, but always focused on encouraging coping, on reducing the psychic sequelae of the operation , and on accelerating the biopsychosocial recovery of the person.

As for the activities used, they are varied, and depend on the reality of the patient and other factors, such as age and interest in such activities.

When dealing with children, activities of a playful nature are usually employed so that through the process of play the therapist can influence the level of distress of the infant and relate the feeling of tranquillity that play produces to the surgical experience that he will have to face (or to the recovery process that he is going through).

In the case of adults, the techniques are more related to physical activities that can provide them with a sufficient flow state to make the therapy have good results.

How are patients helped?

Next we will see in detail the areas of influence of psychoprophylaxis .

1. Dealing with the operation

This area focuses on the cognitive part of the patient, and the resolution of people’s doubts and concerns, as well as giving the possibility of expressing anguish in words and questioning irrational beliefs .

2. Minimize the psychic consequences of the operation

The aim here is to avoid leaving the subject with any psychic trauma from the operation.

For example, it sometimes happens that after going through the operating room, post-traumatic stress appears, by which the subject generates an irrational fear of everything related to medical procedures , or health centres.

This can be achieved through the majeutics employed by the therapist during the performance of activities with the patient. The aim is to identify and modify the subject’s catastrophic thoughts in order to replace them with more adaptive ones.

3. Accelerating biopsychosocial recovery

Taking into account that a surgical procedure can interfere in several aspects of a person’s life, not only from the organic, but also from the social and psychological aspects, psychoprophylaxis is in charge of recovering the person in each of these areas .

From the physical activities that are used in this form of intervention, the physical part that contributes to organic recovery is worked on, and at the same time a significant social interaction is considered, which helps the subject to gain confidence to face his situation with a more optimistic and adaptive attitude.

What are the variations of this technique?

Depending on the case there will be some variations in this therapeutic method, as we have seen before, it is not the same to face a birth as a spinal surgery.

Thus, depending on the surgical process to which the subject must submit, there must be certain adaptations. Let’s look at them.

1. The integration of the medical team

This implies involving the members of the medical staff who are related to the operation in at least one of the therapeutic sessions, so that the patient feels more confident with the process and reduces his or her level of anxiety.

2. Psychoeducation regarding operation

During this process, the therapist is responsible for providing the patient with specific information about the process he or she must undergo, or has undergone. Always from a positive approach, with a view to restoring the subject’s quality of life.

3. Working with the family

In some cases it is good to involve the family in therapy , especially in cases where one or more family members play the role of caregivers.

This is not only positive for the patient but also for the family members, who may have a high level of stress and anxiety as a result of their work in caring for the subject.

Bibliographic references:

  • Merino Barragan V., Jiménez Gómez F., Sánchez Crespo G., García Palacios I., Urbano Villanueva, I. (1992). Effectiveness of obstetric psychoprophylaxis: An experience in the province and city of Zamora. national institute of health. 1-5.