What is a Neuropsychologist?
A Neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist trained in the science of brain-behavior relationships. Neuropsychology is a specialization within the more general field of Clinical Psychology. The doctoral training and degree are typically in Clinical Psychology but the Clinical Neuropsychologist must have also completed a two-year postdoctoral residency, or equivalent, in Neuropsychology. Board certification is not required but is further evidence of competency and qualifications to practice Clinical Neuropsychology.
Neuropsychologists are different from other doctors. For example, Psychiatrists receive a medical degree (M.D.) and then specialize in Psychiatry during their residency. Psychologists receive their training in the science of human behavior and receive a graduate degree (Ph.D. or Psy.D.). Psychologists are not medical doctors and cannot typically prescribe medications.
How do I prepare for my Neuropsychological Evaluation?
The length of a typical evaluation is from 4 to 7 hours, usually completed in one day, with a one-hour lunch break. Sometimes, the evaluation may be divided up over two or more days for patients who have limited endurance or for children. The evaluation starts with a detailed interview of the patient or caregiver (or both) regarding their complaints and history, lasting about 1 to 1 ½ hours. In the remaining time, the patient will be asked to perform various verbal, non-verbal, paper-pencil, and/or computer tasks that will test the limits of his or her ability. Often, spouses, parents, teachers, or other informants are also asked to complete questionnaires regarding the patients functioning.
Unlike school, there is no “pass” or “fail”. There is no way to study for a neuropsychological evaluation. Instead, results are compared to others that are similar in age, education, sex and background. Even though it can be mentally challenging, most patients find the process intellectually stimulating and interesting.
The best preparation is to get plenty of rest, eat a good breakfast, avoid sedating medications (as recommended by a physician), and bring the following on the day of the appointment:
- Forms sent by our office
- Valid photo ID and insurance cards
- Hearing aids/ glasses/ assistive devices
- Medication list
- Relevant medical records (e.g., physician reports, brain imaging reports, rehab evaluations, etc.)
- School records for academic evaluations (e.g., IEP or 504 plans)
- Previous cognitive or psychological evaluations
- Snacks (if needed)
A detailed report will be prepared typically within 2-4 weeks and shared with the referring physician. In most circumstances, a one-hour debriefing session is scheduled at this time where results and recommendations are reviewed with the patient. It is most helpful when a support person such as a spouse or parent also attend the debriefing session in order to understand the patient’s strength and weaknesses.
Why do I need a neuropsychological evaluation?
Although doctors are able to look at scans and images of the brain, pictures do not always show how the brain is working and how the brain has been injured. By doing a neuropsychological evaluation, doctors are able to see how your brain is working. These tests will also help you understand how your abilities and mood have changed. Once you have completed the evaluation process, your health care providers will be able to give you recommendations that will help you and your family to develop a plan for getting better.
- To help answer questions about living to the best of my abilities:
When can I go back to work?
Can I start driving again?
Can I live by myself or do I need to live with my parents?
What kind of accommodations do I need for school?
Am I depressed or am I just tired?
Are my memory problems a part of normal aging?
- To understand your current strengths and weaknesses.
- To see how my abilities change over time.
- To help your rehabilitation team come up with the best treatment plan for your current difficulties.
- To help you make decisions about returning to work or school.
- To help you be more successful at work or school, or live more independently.
- To make recommendations for additional treatment that will help you with recovery.
- To refer you to other professionals who can help you.
- To provide information if you are involved in a court case.
- To provide you with some ways to cope with impairments and improve relationships.
- To provide information, resources, or recommendations to your family as they help you with recovery.
- To help document your disability (e.g., social security claims).
- To help determine if psychotherapy or cognitive rehabilitation could help you.
What types of problems are evaluated?
Individuals with a variety of brain related disorders and illnesses are evaluated. Typical referrals include patients with:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Concussion/post-concussion syndrome
- Cerebrovascular disease and strokes
- Developmental learning disabilities
- Dementing conditions (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease)
- Attention deficit disorders
- Autism spectrum disorders
- Psychiatric or neuropsychiatric disorders
- Seizure disorders
- Debilitating medical illnesses or treatments (e.g., chemo)
- Chronic pain
- Neurotoxicity (toxic encephalopathy)
How will the outcome of my results be used?
Many people worry that their evaluation results will be used to make decisions about whether they can drive, go back to work, manage their own money, cook, stay home alone, etc. These decisions will ultimately be made by you, your physician, and your family. However, based on your strengths and weaknesses, a neuropsychologist will make recommendations that seem to fit your life at this time. These recommendations are focused on your safety and letting you be as independent as possible. Remember that neuropsychological testing is a “snapshot” of your abilities at one point in time. People who actively engage in physical, cognitive, and emotional therapies can show many improvements over time. Your recommendations may include setting up an appointment for reevaluation after a certain amount of time. If you complete a reevaluation, your neuropsychologist will look at your abilities again and will likely make adjustments to old recommendations.
What kind of payments are accepted?
- Anthem Blue Cross
- Worker’s Compensation
- Private Pay
Insurance coverage varies greatly, depending on individual insurance plans. A physician’s (M.D.) referral is usually required. If you have any concerns, please check with your insurance company.