Neuropsychology is a specialty within Clinical Psychology which is devoted to understanding brain-behavior relationships, brain health across the lifespan, and problems related to brain injury/disease. Not to be confused with neuroscience or cognitive psychology (which are both research domains involving the mind and brain), clinical neuropsychology includes the applied focus of clinical services but with a more specific interest in brain issues. And not to be confused with neurology (a medical discipline focused on the brain), clinical neuropsychology tends to use the scholarly and applied methods of psychology, such as oral interviews and testing procedures designed to measure psychological variables which are related to brain functions (e.g., memory, processing speed, verbal reasoning, spatial skills). Neuropsychology as a field tends to be interested in the inter-relationships between brain function, brain injury/illness, behavior, cognition, and emotion, and in interventions aimed at adjustment to brain changes.
Neuropsychologists are people who are interested in clinical work specialized to brain-related issues (e.g., Alzheimer’s Disease, ADHD, Traumatic Brain Injury, Epilepsy, Learning Disabilities, Stroke, Huntington’s, Autism). Neuropsychologists are Clinical Psychologists, trained alongside them in psychopathology, personality assessment, professional ethics, research methods, statistics, etc., but also with a tighter emphasis on neuropsychological issues. So, the overall philosophy and breadth of the field includes all the issues of clinical psychology, but with much more depth regarding the impact of brain health upon psychological functioning. The daily work of a neuropsychologist often includes testing and assessment for the presence/severity of various symptoms or mental attributes, report writing, feedback and consultation to patients and their families, ongoing care planning, direct interventions aimed at changes to cognition/emotion/behavior, and other activities. The nature of their work often means that neuropsychologists collaborate closely with medical physician colleagues. To give just one example, a neuropsychologist might assess a client to determine the level of memory loss associated with their dementia, would provide this diagnostic information to the medical team, and would assist the patient in planning ways to adjust to the developing symptoms.
Neuropsychologists train at graduate-level clinical psychology programs which offer a specialization / focus in neuropsychology, often housed in universities but occasionally in medical centers. In searching for graduate school options, it is important to select training sites which are both APA-Accredited with regard to the broader clinical psychology training, and also adhere to the Houston Conference Guidelines more specifically on the training of clinical neuropsychologists. Once in the workforce, neuropsychologists are found in settings as diverse as other clinical psychologists (e.g,. hospitals, schools, outpatient clinics, rehabilitation centers, private agencies, military organizations). However, given the special nature of the problems neuropsychologists focus on, they are indeed more likely than other mental health professionals to have roles, connections, and affiliations with medical locations.
Degree: Typically a neuropsychologist would hold a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology (B.A. or B.S.) as well as a doctorate in psychology (Ph.D. or Psy.D), with the doctorate titled “Neuropsychology,” “Clinical Neuropsychology,” “Clinical Psychology – Neuropsychology Track” or something along those lines. While master’s programs in neuropsychology are likely offered in various places, the career options for those with a terminal master’s degree would be very limited compared to those holding a doctorate. The bachelor’s typically takes 4-5 years, the doctorate typically takes 5-7 years, and then the post-doctoral pursuit of licensure and board certification typically takes another 1-3 years while working.
Licensure: In Michigan, the relevant licensing option would be Licensed Psychologist (LP), which one can read about on the LARA website. This is the same professional license which would be sought by clinical, counseling, or school psychologists. Further specialization is often required for neuropsychologists though, typically in the form of board certification.
Neuropsychologists are often motivated by their intrigue in the brain and their desire to help clients with issues related to brain health as it pertains to mental health and everyday personal functioning. They are analytic data-focused thinkers who often enjoy a good puzzle, and can combine various sources of information to come to a complex conclusion. Relative to other helping profession specialties, clinical neuropsychologists also are compensated with strong salaries.
Relevant State-Level Organization
Michigan Psychological Association
Relevant National Organizations
American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology
National Academy of Neuropsychology
Society for Clinical Neuropsychology (APA Division 40)
The Association of Neuropsychology Students & Trainees
Relevant International Organization
International Neuropsychology Society