What’s the difference between a clinical psychologist and clinical neuropsychologist?
People often ask me this question after i tell them i am a neuropsychologist, “So, what’s the difference between a psychologist and your neuro-thing?”
good question! Firstly, there are many types of psychologist, and the most common type of psychologist that people think of is what we call a “Clinical Psychologist“.
A Clinical psychologist is someone who can assess, diagnose and treat psychological and mental health problems. Some common mental health problems include anxiety and depression.
A Neuropsychologist, on the other hand, is someone who can assess, diagnose and treat of psychological disorders associated with conditions affecting the brain. For example, we can look at thinking and behaviour changes after stroke or head injury, assess someone who might have dementia, and assess for learning difficulties.
The simplest (but not necessarily the most professional) way to describe it, is that clinical psychologist deals with the ‘mind’ (or heart), and a neuropsychologist deals with the ‘brain’.
Of course, clinical psychologists and neuropsychologists often work closely together.
Ok, so are your assessments different?
A Neuropsychological assessment is quite different to a clinical psychology assessment. A neuropsychologist uses a series of tests to examine thinking areas such as memory, attention, learning, processing speed and abstract reasoning. We link this information to the person’s brain changes, and provide information about the impact of their thinking changes on the person’s day-to-day living.
…can a clinical psychologist also do this assessment?
That’s similar to asking, “My mum can drive, could she race in F1 competition?”
Kind of yes….mostly, no.
Neuropsychologists are specifically trained to make these interpretations and reports. Neuropsychologists have a deeper understanding of brain and thinking processes that clinical psychologists do not. Conversely, Clinical psychologists have a deeper understanding of mental health issues, and how to treat such conditions.
We are even quite different in the ‘repetoire’ of tests that we use! Neuropsychologists have tests that look at thinking changes associated with damage to certain areas of the brain, we have different types of memory tests, different types of attention test etc.. Clinical psychologists have assessments that look at severity of depression, personality tests etc..
So, the ‘brain’ eh?
That’s right. So whenever you think, see or hear about someone who has thinking changes from some sort of possible brain injury…that person is likely to see a neuropsychologist. Many things can affect the brain (for more information see here), so you may hear about us more often!