Ida Sue Baron, Ph.D., ABPP
Board Certified in Clinical Neuropsychology
Board Certified Subspecialist in Pediatric Neuropsychology
American Board of Professional Psychology
Clinical Professor of Pediatrics
The University of Virginia School of Medicine, Charlottesville, VA
& The George Washington University School of Medicine, Washington, DC

Tips on choosing a neuropsychologist

Neuropsychology is about more than selecting and giving psychological tests. Well-trained neuropsychologists rely on a broad educational, training and experiential basis to make a full neuropsychological assessment. You should take care to obtain the most professional assistance possible when you are referred for a neuropsychological evaluation.

Is your neuropsychologist board-certified and specialty-trained?

Board Certification in Neuropsychology is similar to your physician obtaining board certification in a medical or surgical specialty. Board certification demonstrates that the specialist has the knowledge, skill and experience to offer the highest quality of care in the field. You would not, for example, want a general surgeon performing neurosurgery.

Unfortunately, the majority of psychologists who say they are neuropsychologists are not board certified in the American Psychological Association approved specialty of Neuropsychology by the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology (ABCN) and are therefore not members of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology (AACN). The ABCN and AACN fall under the overarching umbrella organization, the American Board of Professional Psychology.

Just as for medical specialties, postdoctoral training in neuropsychology and board certification by the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology distinguish a psychologist as having the level of expertise and knowledge to provide the best possible neuropsychological evaluation for a child, adolescent, or adult.

Why does Board Certification matter?

A less well-trained psychologist may only examine for those broad concerns reported in the reason for referral, and may not recognize the signs and symptoms that signal other specific neurological conditions and diseases. Recommendations for treatment or intervention may therefore be limited or inappropriate, without recognition of additional consultations that may be necessary to reach an appropriate neurodiagnostic conclusion. The ability to make these distinctions is not part of the training of many of those who inappropriately define themselves as a “Neuropsychologist” or who indicate that they are able to conduct a Neuropsychological Evaluation.

Cautions:

  1. Most State psychology licensing boards allow psychologists to self-declare areas of expertise, but do not verify the information provided. Some psychologists are claim to be neuropsychologists without having had the proper training and certification!
  2. Insurance companies often refer to their own panel of psychologists who agree to accept their payment schedule when a neuropsychological evaluation is indicated. And, some psychologists think that giving a test identified as “neuropsychological” makes them capable of performing this evaluation. They are willing to accept the insurance company’s lower rates for less evaluation time. An insurance company is not necessarily concerned with paying for a thorough neuropsychological evaluation based on the established principles and standards of the profession. Some insurance companies will tell you, their insured, that the fees of a board certified neuropsychologist are not covered under their plan. They will direct you to their own provider panel, which often includes psychologists untrained to administer neuropsychological evaluations. Many times your insurance company will not tell you that you have the right to obtain consultation from an expert outside the provider panel.

Just because a psychologist claims to be a Neuropsychologist does not necessarily mean that the psychologist, in fact, is a Neuropsychologist. It is up to you to determine if the individual to whom you are entrusting your evaluation is board certified by the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology or has received the appropriate training to be designated as a specialist in the field of Clinical Neuropsychology.

How do I check for Board Certification?

To check a Clinical Neuropsychologist’s board certification status, ask the neuropsychologist to whom you have been referred if he or she is Board Certified by the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology and is a member of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology. Or, go online to the AACN: www.theaacn.org.