What is a Neuropsychologist?

There is confusion in both the general public as well as the professional community about defining what is a neuropsychologist.  It is important for both consumers and referring parties to be informed about the training standards and guidelines for becoming a neuropsychologist.   As a result, such information may be helpful in determining what type of professional will be most appropriate for your or your child’s clinical needs.

It is important to note that while neuropsychologists are also psychologists, few psychologists are neuropsychologists.  Neuropsychology is a sub-specialty area of psychology that requires extensive education, training and experience to ensure competency to practice.  Moreover, professional organizations in neuropsychology have outlined minimal standards for education and training that should be met in order to call oneself a Neuropsychologist and to practice clinical neuropsychology.  However, neuropsychology is a relatively new field.  Prior to the late 1990’s, many of the current standards did not exist.  As a result, such standards should not be applied to clinicians who completed training during that time period.


Training Standards & Guidelines:

In September 1997, guidelines for training neuropsychologists were outlined at what is known as the Houston Conference.  The Houston Conference committee consisted of 37 clinical neuropsychologists and 5 additional delegates who attended as representatives of the sponsoring neuropsychological organizations. The committee members and delegates generated minimal training standards for neuropsychology known as the Houston Conference guidelines.

The Houston Conference guidelines consist of the following requirements:

  1. Doctoral level training in clinical neuropsychology at a regionally accredited institution.
  2. A pre-doctoral internship (usually one full-time year) at an internship program that has been approved by the American Psychological Association or the Canadian Psychological Association and that includes specific training in clinical neuropsychology.
  3. A two-year, post-doctoral residency (fellowship) in clinical neuropsychology.
  4. Note that exit criteria from residency include:
  • Eligibility for state or provincial licensure or certification for the independent practice of psychology.
  • Eligibility for board certification in clinical neuropsychology by the American Board of Professional Psychology.

Additionally, another frequently cited position paper on training guidelines in clinical neuropsychology comes from the National Academy of Neuropsychology (NAN). For those psychologists completing training in 2001 or later, NAN established the following minimal training standards:

1.  A doctoral degree in psychology from an accredited university training program.

2.  An internship, or its equivalent, in a clinically relevant area of professional psychology.

3.  The equivalent of two full-time 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.

4.  A license in his or her state or province to practice psychology and/or clinical                   neuropsychology independently, or is employed as a neuropsychologist by an exempt agency.

If you are looking for a clinical neuropsychologist for you or your child, please contact the Portsmouth Neuropsychology Center at (603) 433-0800.