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International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society
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Interdisciplinary Care Specialties: Clinical Psychology & Neuropsychology

The Role of the Clinical Psychologist

Clinical psychologists provide assessments and psychotherapeutic interventions for various emotional and social problems to individuals, couples, families, or groups. Most clinical psychologists use cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), interpersonal therapy (IPT), or other modern theory-driven, evidence-based interventions. 

Such therapies can provide an effective alternative to pharmacotherapy, particularly in those presenting with mild to moderate disorder, or can be used in combination pharmacological approaches. Neuropsychologists are clinical psychologists who work specifically with clients with neurological disorders, either for assessment alone or in broader rehabilitation and psychotherapy. 

In environments that do not include a clinical psychologist on the multidisciplinary team, referral should be made to an appropriate specialist (e.g., with experience in elder or dementia care, neurorehabilitation) or to an adult mental health team that can offer 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 healthcare professionals in assessing and managing such problems. They may work jointly with them to deliver group-based interventions to patients and their caregivers. 



Originally contributed by Richard Brown, PhD, CPsychol (2009). Maintained by the Health Professionals SIG. 

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