What Does A Neuropsychologist Do?
Neuropsychologists are clinical psychologists who typically work with individuals who have suffered varying degrees of brain injury. Because of their specialized knowledge and training, they usually work with those who have dementias, neuropsychiatric disorders, traumatic brain injuries, seizure disorders and other neurological problems.
Through a scientific study of the relationship between human behavior and its relationship to the functioning of the central nervous system, neuropsychologists are able to evaluate, provide treatment and rehabilitate those who have these neurological disorders.
In a typical day, neuropsychologists see patients and assess them using specialized neuropsychological techniques. There are various procedures that neuropsychologists do to determine what the problem is. One of these methods is the neuropsychological evaluation. This is an interview that the neuropsychologist does with the patient in order to assess his brain functions. Questions about the patient’s symptoms, medical history and the medications that he has taken will be asked. Through the data gathered in this interview, the neuropsychologist is able to determine the mental health issues that the patient is facing.
Neuropsychologists also administer standardized tests to their patients to find out various things about them. There are standardized tests for memory, cognitive ability, reasoning and problem solving. There are also tests that reveal things about a patient’s personality or his emotions. To aid them in making a diagnosis, neuropsychologists also conduct brain scans of their patients. These scans can either be done through computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
After the tests have been conducted, the neuropsychologist will then review the results. For standardized exams, he will compare the scores to those of others who are of the same age and educational level as that of the patient. The brain scan will also reveal if there are tumors or other obstructions in the brain that will necessitate surgical removal. From these tests, the neuropsychologist will come up with a treatment plan to give the patient the intervention he needs. Treatment can be in the form of counseling, taking of prescription medications or surgery. In many cases, the neuropsychologist works with a team of physicians and surgeons to provide the necessary interventions.
If the neuropsychologist determines that the appropriate course of therapy is counseling, he will schedule the patient for future sessions. In each meeting, he will carefully record what happened so that he will be able to keep track of the patient’s progress. If he feels that the patient will benefit from being seen by another specialist, he will make the necessary referrals. In the event that brain surgery is necessary, the neuropsychologist will form part of the medical team who will map out the procedure so that it will be safe and will give the best possible outcome for the patient.
Neuropsychologists may also be called upon to assist in criminal cases. For example, they may be asked to evaluate a criminal’s competency when brain damage or injury is suspected. They also perform the same tests to evaluate the person’s psychological condition. Another reason to call on the expertise of neuropsychologists is when the criminal is suspected to be faking a disease in order to be let off the hook or be given a shorter sentence. Based on their evaluation, the neuropsychologist will then write a report and give an expert testimony in court.
Some neuropsychologists prefer not to work directly with patients. Rather, they are more interested in researching about the brain and its functions or about coming up with medication that could provide better treatment to those suffering from various central nervous systems disorders. Professionals in these cases work in research laboratories, mostly of pharmaceutical firms. They are usually part of the team that conducts clinical trials of new drugs that are being developed that have an effect on a person’s nervous system.
Clinical neuropsychologists may not necessarily focus only on their practice. Some of them also teach university and college students. In this role, they perform the tasks that other teachers do. They prepare lesson plans, evaluate the curriculum, come up with the syllabus, facilitate the class discussion administer tests and grade students. Other neuropsychologists also provide independent consulting work to various organizations in addition to the clinical work they do with their patients.