Gastrointestinal Psychologist – What Do They Do?

Written by: Shreya Manerkar MA (Clinical Psychology)
Last updated date : January 30, 2023

Have you been having problems with your stomach and keep visiting the doctor frequently? Every time you visit a doctor, they say it is stress. Well, do you know that there are gastrointestinal psychologists who help with this issue? Let us explain what a gastro psychologist does.

In this article, we will discuss who gastrointestinal psychologist is and what they do. We will also discuss how a session with them works and what you can talk about in your first session.

Before we proceed with the article, let us discuss some key terms

  • Gastrointestinal – issues and concerns related to the stomach and intestine.

  • Psychologists – are mental health professionals who help people cope with difficult situations. They talk to you about your thoughts, emotions, and feelings and help you deal with any issues.

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Chapter 1:

Who Is a Gastrointestinal Psychologist?

A gastrointestinal or gastro psychologist helps you understand the link between your body and mind. Once you understand how thoughts hamper the body, you can deal with any digestive issues. Remember your body, mind, and emotions are connected. So, if you are undergoing a stressful situation, your body will react to it.

Chapter 2:

What Does a Gastro Psychologist Do?

Many people wonder how only talking can help them. While it is true that a psychologist uses talk therapy, it is not a gossip or chit-chat session. Like other psychologists, gastrointestinal psychologists will help you deal with your digestive problems and stress. Here are some steps that they follow.
Complete Assessment of Your Health
A gastrointestinal psychologist will analyze your overall health. They work closely with other doctors to understand if there is anything wrong with your health. If there is nothing wrong, a gastro psychologist will teach you how to cope with your stress.

Sometimes, you may have a genuine health issue and still need a gastrointestinal psychologist to help you deal with stress.

Understand Your Mind and Body
Let us discuss a few examples to help you understand the body-mind connection. Have you ever felt butterflies in your stomach before an important presentation or a job interview? Or maybe, you are waiting to hear about a new job offer and the employer calls. You feel uneasiness in the pit of your stomach. This is a classic example of your stomach and mind communicating with each other.

The body and mind communicate with each other just like a text message between friends. Would you update your friend when something is happening in your life? The same way, the mind sends a message to the body if something is wrong. The body will then responds to the message

Break the Connection
This communication is like a never-ending cycle. When you go on stage, your stomach starts to pain. You start thinking – “Oh my god this is bad.” As you are presenting, you keep having the same thought over and over again. This makes you nervous. You feel so nervous that your heart rate increases. Your stomach pain will continue to grow and the cycle will never stop.

With the help of a gastrointestinal psychologist, you will understand how the body and mind communicate. When you understand the harmful thought patterns, they will work towards breaking this cycle.

Show Proof between the Symptoms and Thoughts
Gastro psychologists use methods that show the link between your thoughts and digestive issues. Take an example of giving a presentation before a big crowd. They will ask you to imagine everything going wrong. While you do this, they will ask you to describe how your body feels. After this, they will ask you to deep breathe while still thinking of the negative event. Finally, they will ask you to describe the difference in your body when you feel relaxed.

Chapter 3:

What Should I Talk about in the First Session?

Talking about digestive problems can be difficult for some people. In your first session with a gastro psychologist, you may feel your heart beating faster, your palms sweating, and so on. However, some preparation can help you.
Be Open and Honest
Many people feel embarrassed when they need to discuss their health. They worry that the gastrointestinal psychologist may judge them for their body reaction, thoughts, or feelings.

However, remember that the team is there to help you. So, you need to be honest about how you feel and the triggers that are causing you stress. You also need to open up about the digestive issues you are facing.

Plan Your Goals
A gastrointestinal psychologist will ask you “why” you decided to seek their help. This is another way of saying what goals you wish to achieve in therapy. Be clear and concise with what help you need.

Before your first session, make a note of what you have been feelings. Next, write the goals you want to achieve. Plan your goals keeping the final change in mind. You can ask yourself these questions – Do you want to have better emotional and physical health? What are you finding difficult to change? How would you like the psychologist to help you?

Be Realistic in the First Session
A gastrointestinal psychologist is not a miracle worker. The first session is just an introduction between you and the therapist. This session will help the therapist more than you. After a complete and thorough discussion, the gastro psychologist will be able to understand your triggers, emotions, thoughts, and behaviors. Along with this, they will get an idea of your goals and devise a treatment plan accordingly.

Therefore, the first session should only be about discussing your issues and planning future sessions. Also, remember to ask for information such as the timing, frequency, and charges for each session. If you like, you can ask the gastro psychologist how to measure progress and change.

They Are There to Help You
While it may be scary going for your first session, remember a gastrointestinal psychologist is there to help you. And so, they may ask you uncomfortable questions. If you are extremely uncomfortable you can request the therapist to discuss them in the following sessions.

Sometimes, however, seeking professional help may not be a option. Finances, timings, or other personal issues may stop you from going to a gastrointestinal psychologist. Therefore, you may seek answers online. A good option would be to enroll in our self-help course, “Managing IBS”. The course contains tips to help with understand your mind and how negative thoughts affect the body.

"Completed at my own pace, great online learning!" Venus

99 sections

6-Weeks Self-Paced

  • Educational Content
  • Quizzes
  • Self-reflection material
  • Suggestions & feedback
  • Worksheet, tips & tools to use

$9.00 $12.00

25% discount