Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
What is Clinical Neuropsychology?
Clinical neuropsychology is a specialty field within clinical psychology, dedicated to understanding the relationships between brain and behavior, particularly as these relationships can be applied to the diagnosis of brain disorder, assessment of cognitive and behavioral functioning, and the design of effective treatment.
What is a Clinical Neuropsychologist?
A clinical neuropsychologist is an independent, professional, doctoral level psychologist who provides assessment and intervention services to people of all ages, based upon the scientific concepts of clinical neuropsychology. Training in clinical neuropsychology comprises a broad background in clinical psychology, as well as specialized training and experience in clinical neuropsychology.
Training and preparation in clinical neuropsychology specifically entails…
- Completion of a doctoral degree in psychology with an credited university training program.
- Internship in a clinically relevant area of professional psychology.
- The equivalant of two years of additional specialized training in clinical neuropsychology.
- State or provincial licensure to practice psychology and or clinical neuropsychology independently. Attainment of the ABCN/ABPP Diploma in Clinical Neuropsychology (i.e., board certification) is the clearest evidence of competence as a clinical neuropsychologist, assuring that all of these criteria have been met.
What happens during a neuropsychological evaluation?
Neuropsychological evaluation consists of gathering relevant historical information, a neuropsychological exam, analysis and integration of data findings, and feedback to the referral source. History is obtained through reviewing medical and other records, and through interview with the patient. With the patient’s permission, family members or other knowledgeable persons may be interviewed and asked to share their perceptions and perspective on important aspects of the history and symptoms. Examination typically consists of the administration of standardized tests using oral questions, paper and pencil, computers, the manipulation of materials such as blocks and puzzles, and other procedures. Depending on the scope and intent of the evaluation, testing may focus on a wide range of cognitive functions including attention, memory, language, academic skills, reason and problem solving, visuospatial ability, and sensory-motor skills. The neuropsychologist may also administer tests and questionnaires concerning psychological aspects of mood, emotional style, behavior, and personality. Some or all the testing may be administered by a neuropsychology technician, under the direct supervision of the clinical neuropsychologist. The amount of direct contact time required for the patient will depend on the scope of the specific evaluation.
Well will happen after the evaluation?
After the evaluation, the clinical neuropsychologist will analyze all of the data and information gathered by history and examination, integrating it into a comprehensive report. Again, depending upon the referral issue and scope of the evaluation, the report will provide a description of neuropsychological strengths and weaknesses, patterns of findings that have diagnostic significance, and recommendations for further evaluation and/or treatment. The clinical neuropsychologist may schedule a follow-up consultation with you to review the findings and recommendations, and address any questions of concerns you may have.
Depending on the situation, this type of follow-up can also be provided over the telephone or through other forms of communication. With your permission, the report can be shared with the doctor (or other professional) who initiated the referral and other health care providers involved in your care.
Examples of common referral issues…
Learning and development: Does this patient have a developmental disorder affecting learning? If so, how can we help him circumvent these weaknesses and provide the best learning environment for success?
Traumatic brain injury: what are the enduring effects of injury and what treatment might help?
Memory and aging: is this normal age-related change or a disease? Or is it something else?
Changes in personality and behavior: are these symptoms of a psychiatric disorder or do they signify a brain-related syndrome?
For litigation purposes: whether a person’s cognitive problems are a consequence of some sort of accident?
How can I find a Clinical Neuropsychologist?
If you have a concern that you believe would be best addressed by consulting with a clinical neuropsychologist, you can discuss referral options with your physician. Because neuropsychologist frequently work with neurologists, neurosurgeons, psychiatrists, and rehabilitation clinicians, speaking with one of these professionals is another option for finding a neuropsychologist.
A listing of Clinical Neuropsychologists, certified by the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology, can be found on the AACN website under the member directory link: http://www.theaacn.org/. Most states have professional membership societies or associations dedicated to clinical neuropsychology. Although membership in a state association does not necessarily imply professional competence, many do provide a referral service for the public.
How do I know if my child needs a Neuropsychological Evaluation?
A neuropsychological evaluation may help if your child has:
- A neurological disorder such as spina bifida, hydrocephalus, cerebral palsy, epilepsy (seizures), neurofibromatosis, tuberous sclerosis, or a brain tumor.
- A brain injury from a trauma to the head, stroke, lack of oxygen, or an infection.
- Other medical problems such as prematurity, diabetes, chronic heart or breathing problems, certain genetic disorders, or treatment for childhood cancer.
- Been exposed to lead, street drugs, or inhalants (carbon monoxide)
- Been exposed to alcohol, smoking, or certain drugs prior to birth.
- A developmental or school problem such as a learning disability, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), or autism spectrum disorder/pervasive developmental disorder
- Had an evaluation by a psychologist or the school, but the treatment following that evaluation has not helped.
How does a neuropsychological evaluation differ from a school evaluation?
Pediatric neuropsychologists and school psychologist often use some of the same tests. However, school of evaluations focus on deciding IF a child has a problem with academic skills such as reading, spelling, or math. Pediatric neuropsychologists focus on understanding WHY a child is having problems in school or at home. This is done by examining academic skills but also examining all the thinking skills needed to perform well in and outside of school – skills like memory, attention, and problem-solving. Understanding a child’s specific thinking strengths and weaknesses helps to better focus school plans and medical treatment and understand potential areas of future difficulty. Because neuropsychologists have training in clinical psychology, they are also able to diagnose emotional problems like depression and anxiety.