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What is a Neuropsychological Evaluation?

February 4, 2016

People are often referred to BRAINS for a neuropsychological assessment. However, most people come in unsure of what that even means. There is confusion about how it differs from psychology or neurology. A common definition of neuropsychology is the study of the structure and function of the brain as they relate to specific psychological processes and behaviors. This is different from psychology which may focus on treating mental health concerns. It also differs from neurology as it is not entirely focused on diagnosing and treating disorders of the brain and nervous system. A neuropsychologist does not complete neuroimagining, prescribe medications, or provide therapy.

So what is a neuropsychologist and what do they do? A neuropsychologist is a doctoral level licensed psychologist (PsyD, PhD) with specific training in neuropsychology and the understanding of brain functioning. They often have a background in psychology as well as a functional understanding of neurology. They conduct psychological and neuropsychological assessments to determine diagnoses, recommendations, and assess current functioning.

What is the purpose of a neuropsychological assessment? There are many different reasons for an assessment. Some common reasons include clarifying a diagnosis, developing recommendations for treatment, evaluating progress of current treatment, or understanding the effects of medical diagnoses or treatment on a person’s everyday functioning. At BRAINS, each person’s assessment is tailored to their specific questions. Our approach is to view each individual as unique and address their specific needs. The overall purpose is to help patients, their families, and their service providers to understand the patient in a comprehensive, brain-based way. This will help others set realistic goals for patients and direct treatment.

What makes neuropsychological assessment different from other types of assessments? A neuropsychological assessment at BRAINS is meant to offer a comprehensive view of a person. It takes into consideration medical, psychological, and contextual factors which may be contributing to the presenting concerns. Recommendations are customized to fit all presenting concerns as well as those identified through the assessment.

What is the assessment process? At BRAINS, a neuropsychological assessment is a three-step process. On the first visit, you will have an interview with the neuropsychologist. This appointment is used to discuss the problem and get a detailed history. When planning for this appointment, please bring any information that may be relevant including school records (IEPs, report cards, teachers’ notes), medical records, previous assessments, etc. During this initial appointment, the neuropsychologist will determine if testing is appropriate or if another course of treatment better suited to the patient’s needs. The second session is testing for the identified patient. This visit varies for each person as it is dependent on the presenting concerns and performance of the patient. For the patient, this will include some questionnaires, hands-on tasks, computer activities, among other things. The final appointment is the feedback session in which the neuropsychologist will discuss the results of the assessment and recommendations as well as answer any questions that the patient or family may have. In addition to the discussion of the results, the neuropsychologist will also have a comprehensive report for the patient and/or their family.

What do you do after a neuropsychological assessment? At the end of each report, there will be a list of recommendations to address the needs of the patient. These will also be discussed in the feedback session. Recommendations are given for the family, school, and other service providers. Additional evaluations by occupational, physical, or speech therapists may be recommended. Other services including behavioral health and psychiatry may also be recommended to patients. In some cases, follow-up medical care may be recommended based on concerns in the testing as well as the history provided. A neuropsychological assessment is meant to help patients and their families develop or alter a plan of care.

How do I make an appointment for an assessment? Call us at BRAINS and our support staff will be happy to set up the initial appointment.