At some point in your life, you may have thought or asked yourself…
- I don’t remember things the way I used to.
- I’m forgetting a lot lately … does this mean I have dementia?
- I can’t concentrate … I have to reread things multiple times in order to remember what I read.
- I’ve always had problems in school. I wonder if I have a learning disability?
- I keep losing things.
If these thoughts or questions sound familiar, you’ve probably wondered at some point about how your brain is functioning.
These are just some of the many questions people have and are often left wondering how to answer. One resource that can help you answer these questions is a neuropsychological evaluation.
What is neuropsychology?
Neuropsychology is the study of brain and behavior relationships. There are many factors that (e.g., behaviors, diseases, drugs, normal aging process, etc.) that can impact how we function cognitively (e.g., attention, memory, problem-solving ability, etc.), behaviorally and emotionally.
Ok, but what does that really mean?…
Let’s say your car breaks down and you take it to a garage to be fixed. Usually, in any given garage, there is more one mechanic – each with different areas of expertise (just like at a hospital where you’ll find interdisciplinary teams of providers with varying specialties).
Let’s say, while one mechanic, with the use of diagnostic equipment (i.e., CT, MRI, etc.) and expertise, can help you identify where/what the problems are with your car. However, in order to determine how your car is actually running, another mechanic needs to drive it.
This is what a neuropsychologist does.
. . .
What is a neuropsychologist?
A neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist with additional, specialized training in brain function and knowledge about common conditions that can affect it (e.g., traumatic brain injuries, stroke, ADHD, etc.). The way in which a neuropsychologist answers the question of “how” your brain is functioning is with a neuropsychological evaluation.
What is a neuropsychological evaluation?
As brain function can impact us cognitively, behaviorally, and emotionally, a neuropsychological evaluation assesses all of these areas and, in doing so, answers the question of how your brain is functioning and, most importantly, how potential changes in these areas can impact your daily life (e.g., work, school, etc.).
Additionally, depending on the purpose of testing (i.e., referral question), neuropsychological evaluations can help track potential changes over time, provide diagnostic information (e.g., rule out ADHD, learning disability, etc.), and assist your medical and mental health providers in informing their work with you.
A neuropsychological evaluation typically involves at least three parts: clinical interview, testing, feedback.
The clinical interview is used to obtain background information from you, providing the neuropsychologist with a context for any cognitive, behavioral or changes you might be experiencing. During the clinical interview, you will not only be asked about what kind of changes you’ve experienced and when they began occurring, but also questions about your personal history (e.g., social, educational, mental health, medical, etc.).
Standardized tests are then used to further assess how you’re doing cognitively, behaviorally, and emotionally.
Your neuropsychologist then uses your clinical interview and test results (along with medical and/or mental health records) to help you understand: what kinds of changes you may be experiencing along with your individual strengths and weaknesses, how these changes may be affecting your everyday life, why you’re experiencing them, and what you can do to cope with them – these questions will be answered during your feedback session.
For more information, resources, questions or if you are interested being evaluated, please call 415.952.0290.
Here’s to your health!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kimberly Kono is a Neuropsychologist at Well Clinic in San Francisco. She believes that therapy is an interactive process, and lets clients guide therapy in terms of their needs and treatment goals.