Clinical Neuropsychology Minor

Clinical Neuropsychology Minor

Philosophy and Mission

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professor matt grili discussing brain image on computer

Our Clinical Neuropsychology Minor emphasizes understanding basic mechanisms in neuropsychological disorders and developing, evaluating, and disseminating new approaches to assessment and treatment. Our training is designed to ensure that our students receive broad exposure to and develop advanced skills in the following:

  1. Neuropsychological theory and research methods, particularly those drawing upon current developments in cognitive psychology (e.g., modern models of executive functioning) and cognitive neuroscience (e.g., neuroimaging techniques), and
  2. Broad-based skills in general clinical psychology, particularly those related to assessment and intervention across the adult lifespan. We encourage students to develop additional specialized research and clinical expertise (e.g., gerontology, psychophysiology, development of new assessment methods, neuroimaging, etc.) that will make them more broadly competent and competitive in the job market. 

The Clinical Neuropsychology Minor is open to students outside of the clinical psychology PhD Program and our training is designed to be applicable to other subdisciplines and fields.

Didactics

Our three-course sequence in Clinical Neuropsychology is guided by the Clinical Scientist training model, but also adheres to the Houston Conference Guidelines for neuropsychology training and the American Board of Professional Psychology’s (ABPP) expectations for certification eligibility in clinical neuropsychology. Specifically, we cover the foundations of brain-behavior relationships and the practice of neuropsychology (Houston Conference Guidelines) and the eight core knowledge areas of neuropsychology (ABPP) through a three-course sequence blending science and practice.

This course sequence consists of:

  • PSYC 504a    Human Brain and Behavior Relationships
  • PSYC 504b    Clinical Neuropsychology Practice: Evaluation of the Older Adult

For the third course, clinical psychology PhD students are required to take:

  • PSYC 694d    Clinical Neuropsychology Practicum

Students pursuing a degree other than a PhD in clinical psychology can take 694d, or they can opt to replace 694d with an alternative course within the scope of neuropsychology/cognitive neuroscience. The minor advisor will review and approve the third course, if not 694d.

504a, 504b, and 694d are described in detail below. Students typically complete 504a and 504b in Year 1. In Year 2, students complete 694d, which is a two-semester course (or an alternative, one-semester third course). Students are also encouraged to consider other courses in cognitive psychology, biopsychology, and neuroscience (e.g., neuroanatomy, fMRI course).

  • Human Brain and Behavior Relationships (504a) covers fundamental topics in human neuropsychology for graduate students who are interested in clinical neuropsychology and related clinical fields, educational applications of neuropsychology, and/or studying clinical populations from a cognitive neuroscience perspective. Topics include motor control, perception, language, learning and memory, attention, executive functions, emotion, and social cognition. The role of demographic factors (e.g., education, race/ethnicity, age) is examined throughout the course. Functional neuroanatomy is covered in detail, in particular in relation to neuropsychological conditions that commonly affect major domains of cognition and emotion.
  • Clinical Neuropsychology Practice: Evaluation of the Older Adult (504b) builds on the foundations of 504a and examines clinical applications of this knowledge base and the assessment of cognitive and affective sequelae of human central nervous system disease/damage, with emphases on disorders associated with aging, including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, fronto-temporal, and other dementias. Clinical implications and potential interventions for cognitive decline in elderly patient groups are reviewed, as well as the use of neuroimaging and neurological methods to clinically evaluate brain function and dysfunction in the elderly.
  • Clinical Neuropsychology Practicum (694d) is a two-semester practicum (3 credit units in the fall, and 2 credit units in the spring) intended to provide graduate students with advanced knowledge and practical instruction in skills central to being a clinical neuropsychologist or a professional in related fields, including assessment, consultation, supervision, and patient feedback. Students receive exposure to a range of neuropsychological assessment problems and instruments through classroom instruction, case presentations, and clinical assessment experience in the Behavioral Health Clinic and our Satellite Neuropsychology Clinic. Students also are exposed to clinical neurology and interdisciplinary care through case conferences at Banner Alzheimer’s Institute and Neurology Grand Rounds and Stroke Case Conference. In this practicum, students evaluate individuals representing a wide age range, from young adulthood to the “oldest old”, and they see the spectrum of educational, occupational, language of origin, and ethnic and cultural diversity that characterizes Southern Arizona. Ethical issues are examined in the presentation of every assessment discussed in the practicum. Students also gain supervised experience providing feedback and developing treatment plans.

 

Additional Clinical Training Expectations for Clinical Psychology PhD Students

Most clinical psychology PhD students pursuing the clinical neuropsychology minor are seeking advanced practical training that will prepare them for predoctoral internships and postdoctoral fellowships that emphasize clinical neuropsychology, and ultimately a career as a clinical neuropsychologist. These clinical students are expected to complete a yearlong, 12-15 hour per week externship in clinical neuropsychology, and they are encouraged to supplement this training in a subsequent year with another neuropsychology externship requiring a smaller time commitment (e.g., 8-10 hours per week). The Clinical Neuropsychology Minor offers several neuropsychology-oriented externships with licensed psychologists, many of whom are board-certified in clinical neuropsychology. Currently, externship placements include Banner Alzheimer’s Institute, several private practices in Tucson, and our Behavioral Health Clinic.

Between the course sequence, externships, and the assessment practicum in Year 1, our program follows the general clinical training guidelines for a Major Area of Study in Clinical Neuropsychology, according to the taxonomy of training in clinical neuropsychology. To meet full criteria for a Major Area of Study students also must engage in relevant research.