What Is the Difference Between a Psychologist and a Neuropsychologist?

Psychology is a wide field, and it can be difficult to keep track of the different roles and specialties professionals play in it. If you’re wondering what the difference between a psychologist and a neuropsychologist is, NeuroHealth Arlington Heights is here to clear things up for you. Here’s an overview of the roles each of these important professionals play in the world of mental health science.

What Is a Psychologist?

neuropsychologist in arlington heights

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A clinical psychologist focuses on diagnosing and treating people with mental health conditions, but a large part of their work is simply talking to people about their emotions and thoughts in order to help them lead more fulfilling lives. Psychologists are similar to psychiatrists, but there are many differences between the two. One of the primary differences is that psychologists don’t prescribe medications, except in specific states: Idaho, Iowa, Illinois, Louisiana, and New Mexico.

A major portion of the work psychologists perform is talk therapy. Similarly to a psychiatrist, they will sit down with their clients and talk to them about the particular emotional and behavioral problems the patient faces. The psychologist’s goal is to help the patient be able to manage those problems. The clinical psychologist will listen and communicate with the patient about the patient’s thoughts and feelings to help them lead a happier, more successful life.

One of a clinical psychologist’s main goals is to diagnose disorders, whether pre-existing or developing. If, after interviews and tests, the clinical psychologist finds that there is a presence of mental illness, they may work with the patient and other professionals to develop a treatment plan for that patient. Regardless of the possibility of mental illness, clinical psychologists work with patients to help them understand themselves and improve factors such as social skills, controlling emotions, and coping strategies.

What Do They Cover/Treat?

Clinical psychologists focus on patients’ short- and long-term emotional and behavioral issues and some mental illnesses, such as:

  • Anxiety.
  • Depression.
  • Grief.
  • OCD.
  • Stress.

There is some overlap in the types of patients clinical psychologists and neuropsychologists see, but once a patient’s cognitive abilities have reached a certain magnitude of alteration, they may eventually be referred to a neuropsychologist. Anyone can see a psychologist, but you wouldn’t see a neuropsychologist until you’re diagnosed with a disorder.

What Is a Neuropsychologist?

A neuropsychologist is primarily concerned with cognitive functions — especially functions impeded by the presence of a disease, condition, or injury that affects the brain. They study the connection between the brain and behavior. Neuropsychology is a sub-field or a specialty in the world of psychology, more focused on neurological brain disorders rather than the person’s mental and cognitive well-being as a whole.

Neuropsychologists will administer tests to their patients to assess their cognitive ability. These assessments range anywhere from computerized tests to more hands-on tasks to measure abilities. They may use the information they gather from these tests to diagnose a patient, measure the advancement of an illness, and perhaps offer psychotherapy to help patients manage their conditions. Neuropsychologists may also use imaging, such as MRIs, to better study and diagnose their patients.

Many professional neuropsychologists use the information gathered from working with patients to write up clinical reports. The research-based approach neuropsychologists take is meant to help the medical and scientific community better understand how cognitive disorders work and possible courses of treatment for them. Though research is a large part of a neuropsychologist’s job, they may also provide patients and their families with counseling and therapeutic services.

What Do They Cover/Treat?

A neuropsychologist focuses on mental illnesses, including:

  • ADD and ADHD.
  • Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Difficulties brought on by brain damage.
  • Dementia.
  • OCD.
  • Schizophrenia.

As you can see, neuropsychologists are more focused on diagnosable diseases and conditions rather than the emotional issues a patient may face. That’s where the psychologist comes in.

Differences Between Psychologists and Neuropsychologists

Arguably, the main difference between psychology and neuropsychology is in their approaches to how they address psychological conditions. Psychologists focus more on emotions, while neuropsychologists focus on neurobehavioral disorders, cognitive processes, and brain disorders. Neuropsychology is driven more by research, and psychology hones in on the individual.

Anyone can seek the services of and benefit from a clinical psychologist. Generally, you would only seek the services of a neuropsychologist if you or a loved one is developing or currently has a brain-altering condition. The neuropsychologist helps people maintain autonomy, while the clinical psychologist helps people improve their general mental well-being.

However, despite their differences, both psychologists and neuropsychologists have the same goal: to better understand the mental problems their patients face and get those patients the assistance they need to manage any problems they’re experiencing.

Education Requirements

The educational requirements for psychologists and neuropsychologists are fairly similar. They both require extensive advanced educations to ensure the patients they assist are getting the best help they can receive.

Psychologists’ Education

A clinical psychologist needs a doctoral degree after attaining a bachelor’s degree in psychology. They will also need to be licensed through the state in which they plan to practice. License requirements vary from state to state, but they usually include an examination and thousands of hours of supervised professional experience.

Neuropsychologists’ Education

Neuropsychologists will also pursue their bachelor’s degree in psychology or a closely related field before moving on to a master’s degree or doctorate in neuropsychology. Neuropsychologists also must have a state license to practice. In order to achieve that license, many states require a doctorate from an accredited program, a successful grade on an official psychology exam, and 2,000 hours of supervised experience. This need for so many hours of supervised experience has created many internship programs for both psychologists and neuropsychologists.

Whether you’re looking for talk therapy with a licensed psychologist or you or your family are looking for assistance with a mental illness, contact NeuroHealth Arlington Heights to get the help that you need. Our professional team is here to offer an inclusive and large variety of services, from learning disability treatment to forensic psychological services.