Clinical Neuropsychology seeks to analyze, assess and treat behaviors related to the functioning of the brain.
Using their knowledge of the relationship between the brain and behavior, Clinical Neuropsychologists diagnose, treat and rehabilitate patients across the lifespan with medical, psychiatric, developmental and neurological conditions.
A Clinical Neuropsychologist assesses the emotional and cognitive strengths and weaknesses of patients. To do this, the psychologist uses neurological, physiological and psychological methods and uses normal and abnormal functioning of the nervous system for comparison.
In collaboration with other medical and healthcare providers, Clinical Neuropsychologists seek to identify and diagnose neurobiological disorders. Then they develop and implement intervention strategies. They also counsel patients and their families and conduct research and formal psychological testing.
Working in a private practice or in an interdisciplinary medical team, clinical neuropsychologists use their knowledge to assess, manage and rehabilitate people who have suffered from neurocognitive problems due to brain injury or illness. For their assessment they will often use such neurocognitive tests as the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test or the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS). They may also make use of brain scans to get a clearer view of the brain structure or function or employing electroencephalography (EEG).
Most neuropsychologists work in clinical settings assessing patients with neuropsychological problems and treating them. However, this is not true of all of them. Some find themselves working in industry, forensics and pharmaceuticals.
In the field of psychology, neuropsychology is a relatively new player. But, its history dates back at least to the Third Dynasty of ancient Egypt. Over centuries man has come to understand how the brain guides our behaviors. They have also, over time, achieved a greater understanding of the normal and abnormal functions of our bodies.
For many centuries, people believed that the heart was the seat of the soul. A quote from Hippocrates, however, changed this orientation. He said that “The brain exercises the greatest power in the man”, drawing attention to the connection between the brain and behaviors of the body.
Over the centuries since Hippocrates, many scientists have studied the brain and its contributions to behaviors of the body. But, one such scientist, Paul Broca, a French surgeon and anatomist who concentrated much of his scientific attention to the understanding of and the production of speech, has the distinction of often being referred to as “the father” of neuropsychology.
Building on the understanding that independent structures within the brain are responsible for involuntary as well as voluntary functions, the new discipline of neuropsychology developed through the melding of neurology and psychology. Scientists within this new discipline began focusing their scientific attention on how the functions and dysfunctions of the brain affect the body and personality. In addition, neuropsychologists have increasingly concentrated not only on the theories but on the practical application of those theories. Namely, they have worked at developing different treatment plans and tests to help those who have dysfunctions of the mind cope in their daily living.
The practice of Neuropsychology is very difficult but also very rewarding. Neuropsychologists must keep abreast of the evolving research in the field and be willing to experiment. They must know the intricacies of such behaviors as emotion with reference to brain physiology and choose the right treatment for each of their patients.
Graduates are prepared to work in private practice, education and public service. In most states, neuropsychologists planning to provide direct patient care are expected to meet state licensing requirements. Although licensing laws vary by state, requirements usually include completion of a doctoral program in clinical or counseling psychology and at least 1-2 years of professional experience. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for clinical psychologists were projected to increase by 11% between 2008 and 2018 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that, as of May 2009, clinical psychologists earned an average annual salary totaling $72,310.
The American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN), a specialty board of the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP), offers a diploma credential to individuals who have met the appropriate education requirements and demonstrated competency within the field. Requirements include a doctoral degree, three years of experience in neuropsychology, two years of supervised practice in neuropsychology and state licensure for independent practice.