What is a Neuropsychologist?

A neuropsychologist is a doctoral-level psychologist who specializes in the study of brain-behavior relationships such as language, learning and memory, and higher level thinking (referred to as “cognition”).  The neuropsychologist spends about eight to ten years (college, graduate school, post-graduate training) learning how to evaluate and treat individuals who have sustained an injury to the brain, who develop a disease of the brain, or who have a developmental disorder that may have affected the brain since birth.

The neuropsychologist is different than a clinical psychologist who typically studies and treats behavioral and emotional disorders such as anxiety and depression.  Even though the neuropsychologist may do this as well, it is typically within the context of working with individuals who have neurologic disease (such as Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease) or brain injury (for instance, traumatic brain injury from a motor vehicle accident).  The neuropsychologist is different than a neurologist in that a neurologist is a physician who treats the physical part of an illness or injury (e.g., headaches or seizures) and who oversee the medical aspects of their care (e.g., administration of medication, ordering diagnostic studies).

A client, family member, or most commonly, the treating physician seeks out the expert opinions of the neuropsychologist to help assess the basis of brain-based problems as well as its impact on physical and emotional functioning.  Neuropsychologists are occasionally credentialed through the American Board of Professional Psychology (or, ABPP) or the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (or, ABCN) which denotes that the psychologist has completed the most rigorous training and certification standards within the profession.  It is important to note, however, that neuropsychologists do not need to complete this certification in order to practice neuropsychology.