Feature Article: Clinical Psychology & Neuropsychology

Role of Clinical Psychologist and Neuropsychologist

Contributed by Richard Brown, PhD, CPsychol

Clinical psychologists provide assessments and psychotherapeutic interventions for a wide range of emotional and social problems to individuals, couples, families or groups. The majority of clinical psychologists use a form of cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT) or other modern theory-driven evidence-based intervention.

Such therapies can provide an effective alternative to pharmacotherapy, particularly in mild-moderate disorder, or can be used in combination. Neuropsychologists are also clinical psychologists who work specifically with clients with neurological disorder, either for assessment only, or wider rehabilitation and psychotherapy.

Where a service does not include a clinical psychologist in the multidisciplinary team, referral must be made to an appropriate specialist (e.g. elder or dementia care, neurorehabilitation) or adult mental health team that can offer both psychological and psychiatric expertise.

Ideally, the clinical psychologist will have an established link with the referring team and some experience in seeing clients with Parkinson's disease. However, even if the clinical psychologist more typically works with other client groups, their problem-focused therapeutic techniques are readily applied to many of the symptoms experienced by patients with movement disorders including:

  • Depression and anxiety
  • Interpersonal and relationship problems
  • Fatigue, sleep disorder and pain
  • Apathy and executive dysfunction
  • Anger and irritability
  • Gambling, hypersexuality, compulsive shopping and eating

Clinical psychologists can also offer consultation and training to other health-care professionals in the assessment and management of such problems, and may work jointly with them to deliver group-based interventions to patients and their caregivers.

References

Macniven J. Psychological services for people with Parkinson's disease. The British Psychological Society, Leicester, UK (2009). Website: www.parkinsons.org.uk

Bender M, Wainright T. The need for psychotherapeutic services for people with Parkinson's disease. British Psychological Society: Psychologists Special Interest Group, Working with Older People PSIG Newsletter 2005;89 (April):17-23.

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