The American Psychological Association (APA) defined the practice of Clinical Neuropsychology in 1996, and recently re-approved the definition in 2003. Although another revision is in the works, the 2003 version currently states:
"Clinical neuropsychology is a specialty that applied principles of assessment and intervention based upon the scientific study of human behavior as it relates to normal and abnormal functioning of the central nervous system. The specialty is dedicated to enhancing the understanding of brain-behavior relationships and the application of such knowledge to human problems."
- APA Council of Representatives (1996, re-approved 2003)
In 2001, the National Academy of Neuropsychology expanded on the criteria put forth by APA Division 40 to define the role and duties of a clinical neuropsychologist:
"A clinical neuropsychologist is a professional within the field of psychology with special expertise in the applied science of brain-behavior relationships. Clinical neuropsychologists use this knowledge in the assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and/or rehabilitation of patients across the lifespan with neurological, medical, neurodevelopmental and psychiatric conditions, as well as other cognitive and learning disorders.
The clinical neuropsychologist uses psychological, neurological, cognitive, behavioral, and physiological principles, techniques and tests to evaluate patients’ neurocognitive, behavioral, and emotional strengths and weaknesses and their relationship to normal and abnormal central nervous system functioning.
The clinical neuropsychologist uses this information and information provided by other medical/healthcare providers to identify and diagnose neurobehavioral disorders, and plan and implement intervention strategies.
The specialty of clinical neuropsychology is recognized by the American Psychological Association and the Canadian Psychological Association. They are often board certified akin to medical specialties. Clinical neuropsychologists are considered to be independent practitioners (healthcare providers) of both clinical neuropsychology and psychology."
- NAN Definition of a Clinical Neuropsychologist (2001)
The Houston Guidelines is a document compiled at the Houston Conference in 1997 to outline aspirational criteria for training in clinical neuropsychology. All students of neuropsychology should familiarize themselves with this document. The guidelines were agreed upon by a select group of 37 clinical neuropsychologists and five delegates from neuropsychological organizations including: APA Division 40, the National Academy of Neuropsychology, the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology, the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology, and the Association of Postdoctoral Programs in Clinical Neuropsychology.
Several training criteria must be met for practice as a clinical neuropsychologist:
1) A doctoral degree in psychology from an accredited university with core psychology, clinical psychology, brain-behavior, and clinical neuropsychology coursework in addition to obtaining in-depth training in assessment, treatment, consultation, research, and teaching/supervision. 2) An internship, or its equivalent, in a clinically relevant area of professional psychology that is also approved by the American or Canadian psychological associations. 3) The equivalent of two (fulltime) years of experience and specialized training, at least one of which is at the post-doctoral level, in the study and practice of clinical neuropsychology and related neurosciences. These two years include supervision by a clinical neuropsychologist. Finally, 4) A license in the home state or province to independently practice psychology and/or clinical neuropsychology.
Clinical neuropsychologists are professional clinical psychologists who undergo additional specialty training in cognitive psychology, neuroanatomy and neuropathology, neuroscience, behavioral neurology, and pharmacology. Clinical neuropsychologists are primarily involved in the evaluation of a person's cognitive abilities. A typical neuropsychological evaluation assesses many of the following ability areas:
Individuals needing evaluation may have general complaints of cognitive dysfunction in some or all of the areas listed above, acquired brain injury (e.g., stroke, CNS infection, hypoxia), traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative or demyelinating conditions (e.g., dementia, Parkinson's disease, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis), childhood disorders (e.g., preterm birth, learning disabilities, ADHD, autism spectrum disorders), and/or medical conditions affecting cognitive function (cardiovascular, renal, liver, chronic pain).
Evaluation can help to establish or confirm a diagnosis, assist with differential diagnosis, determine the presence and severity of an individual's cognitive-behavioral-emotional difficulties, assist with determination of limitations in daily functioning and decision-making capacity, evaluate surgical candidacy, assist in treatment planning, offer feedback and treatment recommendations to patients/caregivers and other providers, and provide a baseline from which recovery or deterioration can be tracked.
For more information about clinical neuropsychology, please see the Division 40 adult and pediatric neuropsychology brochures.
In terms of employment opportunities, in what areas do clinical neuropsychologists work? You can find neuropsychologists working in a wide variety of environments, including but certainly not limited to:
1) Academic pursuits like teaching and/or research at the university level.
2) Research and consulting positions in private industry.
3) Positions in federal government (e.g., FBI, CIA, the Department of
Defense, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons, among others).
4) As service members working with active duty military.
5) Veteran's Administration (e.g., VA medical centers, outpatient clinics).
6) Inpatient/outpatient rehabilitation hospitals and clinics.
7) Behavioral neurology clinics.
8) Psychiatric hospitals.
9) Private practice.
10) As forensic consultants on a variety of legal cases.
Training in clinical neuropsychology is represented at all levels by various organizations, many of which offer searchable databases of training programs on their respective websites:
American Psychological Association, Division 40
The Association of Internship Training in Clinical Neuropsychology
The Association of Psychology Postdoctoral Fellowships and Internships
The Association of Postdoctoral Programs in Clinical Neuropsychology
Inter-Organizational Practice Committee
Additional doctoral programs offering specialty training in clinical neuropsychology can be found by perusing our chapter listing, which can be found on the ANST Chapter page. APA Division 40 and ANST are currently working on an update database containing relevant doctoral, internship, and postdoctoral training programs, and this will be available in the near future.
Below are downloadable materials from past ANST training events at various neuropsychology conferences. Feel free to look through these materials and use them to guide your own neuropsychology training: