28 AprWhat Happens During a Comprehensive Neuropsychological Evaluation? by Dr. Konstantin Lukin, Ph.D. Getting the correct diagnosis before treatment is essential, whether you have diabetes or a brain-based psychological condition. While there was a time when mental health diagnoses were provided based on interviews and observations alone, now cutting-edge psychological centers are using a new protocol. With a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation, you can find out whether there are issues with your cognitive and psychological functioning. Then, your therapist can customize your treatment to your specific needs. Would you like a treatment plan based on an accurate diagnosis? Contact us at the Lukin Center to set up an appointment and request a complete evaluation. What Is the Purpose of a Comprehensive Neuropsychological Evaluation? A comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation can serve several purposes. Of course, the most obvious is to get a diagnosis. Once your treatment team knows the basis of your problems, they are better equipped to help you solve them. They will provide educational materials or services so that you, too, will know more about how you can help yourself. Diagnosis and Treatment Planning With the diagnosis determined through this testing, your psychologist can develop the right treatment plan to help you reach your goals. evaluation Your first evaluation establishes how well your brain is working before treatment. In some cases, you may be offered the chance to have subsequent evaluations to determine the effectiveness of the treatment. Your therapist might also adjust your treatment based on these later evaluations. If you need to work with multiple providers, all of them can refer to this detailed evaluation as they coordinate your treatment. Information You Can Use Also, this testing and evaluation can help you make better decisions about work and school issues now and later. A comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation could prove invaluable in helping you or your child navigate work or school because it gives you information that you can use about learning style, attention, and memory. Because the evaluation increases your self-awareness and gives you insights into your personality and emotional functioning, you can better navigate your everyday life. Parts of the Comprehensive Neuropsychological Evaluation A comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation has several parts, each of which contributes to the in-depth assessment of your brain’s functioning. Typically, the evaluation procedure is broken up into four parts: the records review, interview, tests, and explanation of results. Records Review Usually, before the interview, the neuropsychologist will look over your history to prepare. By looking at your medical, psychological, and educational history, they can better decide what types of testing might prove useful. Clinical Interview The clinical interview consists of the psychologist asking you questions, listening, and observing as you answer. During this part of the evaluation, you will have a chance to talk about the problems you are facing and the reasons you decided to improve your mental health. They may also ask you questions about your daily functioning, your history, and your goals. Sometimes, the clinician might interview other people as well. For example, if you bring your child for evaluation, they will interview both you and your child. In other cases, you might bring someone with you and request that the psychologist interview them, too. Having different perspectives on your cognitive functioning can sometimes prove helpful in determining what types of services you need. A Series of Tests Psychologists use many tests to discover your cognitive strengths and challenges. The clinician decides which tests they need to help you. Then, they or a trained technician administers and scores the tests. During this part of the testing, you may be asked to: Write Draw Solve puzzles Answer questions Note your response to images or words Some tests are given on a computer, others on pencil and paper, and still others are verbal. These are standardized tests and are given in the same way to everyone who has them. During scoring, your answers are compared to people in similar demographics who have the level of functioning that experts expect. Explanation of Results After the interview and testing are completed, it is time to wrap up the comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation with an explanation of the results. The psychologist will not only go over the test results, but they will also give you abundant opportunities to ask questions. Then, they make recommendations for your treatment, whether that is child and adolescent treatment or individual therapy. At that point, you can either decide to begin treatment right away or give yourself some time to think about it first. How Much Time Does the Evaluation Take? The time needed for a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation can vary by many hours. In some cases, it might be completed within an hour, but in others, it could take up to eight hours. The most common time frame is between two and four hours. How long you will be in the evaluation depends on many factors, including how many types of testing you need to complete. Before you have your evaluation appointment, your psychologist can give you a rough idea of how long you will need to allow for the testing. What Can You Do to Get the Most Accurate Results? The purpose of a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation is not to “ace” the test. Ideally, it will show accurate results that point to any significant issues you need to address through treatment. Beyond that, it should give you information that you can use in your daily life. Most importantly, you benefit from accurate results. There are several things you can do to prepare so that your results are not skewed by unusual circumstances, physical challenges, or lack of complete information. Before you go to your evaluation, be sure to: Bring a list of all the medications you currently take, along with dosages Ask a family member to provide history if you cannot do so Provide records of any neurodiagnostic testing, including brain scans like MRIs or CTs. Supply records from earlier evaluations from other providers Get your usual amount of sleep the night before Avoid any alcohol or drugs that could impair your brain’s functioning during the test Eat a healthy breakfast Take your usual medications as directed. Be sure you bring your corrective eyewear or hearing aids if you use them. For children, bring any test results from the school, as well as a copy of their IEP. Could a Neuropsychological Evaluation Help You? A comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation can prove valuable for nearly anyone. However, not everyone benefits equally. If you have neuropsychological issues, such as learning problems, attention difficulties, mood problems, endless worrying, or PTSD, you may receive much-needed information by undergoing this evaluation. At The Lukin Center, we provide both evaluations and treatments to help people in New Jersey and nearby areas reach their cognitive health goals. Our neuropsychologists have extensive knowledge and experience in conducting the records reviews, interviews, and testing needed to determine how your cognitive and psychological functioning is impacting your mental health. After evaluations, we assess how treatments can help you make the improvements you desire and recommend a customized treatment plan. If you want a complete picture of your cognitive health, consider requesting a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation at The Lukin Center. Do you need help with depression, anxiety, or other brain issues? Set up an appointment today at the Lukin Center!