What is a Neuropsychologist and how to become one

How do lesions to different parts of the brain translate into subtle and not-so-subtle behavioral differences? And how can challenges, from inborn metabolic differences, to brain trauma be overcome? Neuropsychologists make it their life work to explore questions like these.

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Neuropsychology is a psychological discipline that has developed out of our growing ability to understand the brain. Clinical neuropsychologists work directly with individuals. They provide assessments, consult with other professionals, and carry out treatment. They are adept at carrying out batteries of traditional psychological assessments. They are also very familiar with neurological tests like MRIs.

Neuropsychologists can have various specialized roles, from making assessments for insurance purposes to doing forensic consultations. They may work as part of large, multidisciplinary teams. The Association of Neuropsychology Students in Training lists the following as possible work settings: VA hospitals, rehabilitation hospitals and outpatient centers, neurology centers, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, and private practice settings. Some neuropsychologists focus specifically on pediatric populations; children may have a variety of conditions including genetic disorders, brain tumors, or epilepsy.

Other neuropsychologists approach brain-behavior issues in an indirect way, as researchers.

Neuropsychologist Education and Training

Neuropsychologists have education at the doctoral level. The discipline may be offered as a concentration within a broader field of psychology, for example, clinical psychology. As a clinical sub-specialty, neuropsychology programs may be accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA).

Grand Canyon University (GCU) offers a variety of Master’s in Psychology programs modeled after the standards and recommendations set by the American Psychological Association with emphases in: Forensic Psychology, General Psychology, GeroPsychology, Health Psychology, Human Factors Psychology, Industrial and Organizational Psychology and Life Coaching. Three Bachelor’s in Psychology programs are also offered. Click here to learn about GCU and their programs.

Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) offers online Bachelor’s and Master’s in Psychology programs with several emphases to select from as well as a CACREP accredited online Master’s in Counseling. Click here to learn about SNHU and their programs.

Click Here to learn more about psychology education options based on your current educational attainment.

Students can expect general clinical coursework which covers the foundations of human behavior, psychopathology, psychological measurement, professional and scientific standards, and research methodologies. Concentration coursework may include topics like cognitive neuroscience and acquired cognitive and language disorders.

Applied neuropsychologists can expect to do an internship rotation in an appropriate neuropsychological setting. Internships may be arranged through the Association for Internship Training in Clinical Neuropsychology.
Students may opt to become members of the Association of Neuropsychology Students in Training.

After graduation, psychologists complete postdoctoral supervised practice — at least if they will be doing clinical work as part of their job. The Association of Postdoctoral Programs in Clinical Neuropsychology (APPCN) sets the bar for postgraduate training (http://www.appcn.org). As of October 31, 2013, the APPCN boasts more than 60 member programs. Applicants go through a matching process. Member facilities are as distinguished as the Mayo Clinic and the John Hopkins University Medical Center.

Like other direct service psychologists, neuropsychologists take a licensing examination, the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology. They may also take a state oral examination.

It is possible to become a neuropsychologist even if one’s doctoral degree was not in the discipline, but in a related one. Substantial training may be required; this could include pursuing a post-doctoral certificate and working under supervision.

Neuropsychologist Licensing, Certification, and Professional Memberships

Neuropsychologists are state licensed, though in most cases, they have a generic psychology license. A small minority of states recognize neuropsychology and actually designate it on the license. Regardless of what is printed on the credential, psychologists are ethically bound to practice only y in areas where they can demonstrate competence.
Neuropsychologists may seek voluntary certification through the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology. The ABCN boast 907 board certified neuropsychologists in the United States and Canada.

Psychologists seeking certification face a four-stage process. The first is a review of credentials; demands are more rigorous for those who graduated in 2005 or later. The candidate must then pass a written examination which covers concepts like general clinical psychology, brain-behavior relationships, and clinical neuropsychology practice; it is administered in four annual testing windows.

The ABCN also requires submission of work samples. The process culminates in an oral examination. The 2013 candidate handbook is available on the site. Click here to view the handbook.

An additional resource is the National Academy of Neuropsychology.