WHAT IS NEUROPSYCHOLOGY?
Neuropsychology is the branch of Psychology that specializes in the assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of patients with brain injuries, developmental disorders, or other illnesses or conditions that affect the brain, such as dementia, stroke, HIV-Aids, TB meningitis, epilepsy etc. Various mental health diagnoses can also have associated changes in cognition and behaviour, and a neuropsychologist can help the patient understand and cope with these changes. Neuropsychologists have specialized knowledge and training regarding how any injuries to the brain affect a person’s cognition, behaviour, emotions, personality and how they function in everyday life.
WHY PATIENTS ARE REFERRED TO A NEUROPSYCHOLOGIST?
- Inform differential diagnosis when cognitive impairment is reported
- When a patient has a history of neurological illness or injury
- When a patient has a history of vascular illness
- To assist in diagnosis of, and tracking of, dementia
- To assess whether a patient needs frail care
- To assess whether a patient is able to continue in their current capacity at work
WHAT TO EXPECT AT A NEUROPSYCHOLOGY ASSESSMENT?
A neuropsychological assessment usually consists of two main parts, namely the history-taking and the testing. When you first meet with one of our clinicians, they will conduct a comprehensive interview to gain a full understanding of your medical history, your background, and your current concerns. If you have any medical information that you think is relevant, such as blood work or brain scans, or if you are taking any medication, you should share this information with your clinician. Once we feel we have a good understanding of what your concern is, we will start the neurocognitive testing. This is usually done in a second session, with short pen-and-paper tests and verbal tests. Each assessment is planned according to the specific requirements of the patient, and adaptations are made to accommodate any difficulties with speech, hearing, etc. The test findings are important to make a proper diagnosis and to decide what treatment will be best for you. Once completed, we will compile a report for your referring doctor, and will suggest you come in for a feedback session where we explain what, if any, difficulties we found, and discuss how you should move forward to adapt to these difficulties. Where necessary, we may refer you to other professionals, such as Neurologists, Speech Therapists, or Occupational Therapists.
WHAT IS COGNITIVE BEHAVIOURAL THERAPY?
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) rests on the basic premise that irrational or distorted thinking within us leads to symptoms; it is not the past that causes us to be unhappy, depressed, anxious or sad, but what we are telling ourselves about the past. Distorted perceptions from the past, which we continue to believe, make us unhappy and dysfunctional. Most of these beliefs are automatic and we do not even think about them or are not aware of them. Our brains have been ‘wired’ or programmed to think in certain ways leading us into habitual patterns of behaviour and resultant emotional reactions. CBT is more directive and action-orientated: it targets the patient’s irrational beliefs and facilitates more adaptive ways of thinking and behaving
WHAT CBT IS USED FOR?
CBT is effective in the treatment of depression, social anxiety, panic disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bipolar mood disorder, schizophrenia and other stress related conditions. It is not a cure, but typically it results in the alleviation of a patient’s symptoms and/or periods of remission. Research has shown that patients receiving a combination of medication and CBT, recover quicker than those given medication alone. Treatment usually consists of 8-12 one hour sessions, which includes a comprehensive assessment.
WHAT IS ADDICTIONS TREATMENT?
Addiction is a complex medical disease that requires specialized assessment and treatment. Treatment options may be different for individuals and we will help you understand which treatment option will work for you best. Admission to a registered clinic may be considered if you want to maintain complete sobriety. Medical cover for inpatient addictions treatment requires a minimum stay of 21 days, which is prescribed by most medical insurers, and 24 days for Discovery members. Inpatient programs usually include life skills training and regular sessions with a doctor, psychologist or social worker. Assessment of co-morbid conditions (other conditions that are not related to your addiction) are very important to treat as well. Involvement of the family in the treatment process is important to help you to restore family relations, to plan for ‘triggers’ and to prevent relapse. Long-term aftercare is an important part of rehabilitation and may include attending support groups, random drug screening and follow-up visits with your doctor and psychologist.
WHAT IS SOCIAL COGNITIVE TRAINING?
Social cognition refers to your ability to understand and ‘read’ your own emotions and the intentions/emotions in other people. This is a huge deficit in schizophrenia and other disorders, like autism. The aim of social cognitive training is to improve social skills in patients suffering from schizophrenia. Patients should already be in treatment if they want to participate in social cognitive training.
WHAT ROLE DOES SLEEP PLAY IN MENTAL HEALTH?
Sleep and mental health are often closely intertwined. Clinicians frequently find that patients with psychiatric or psychological diagnoses also present with sleep disorders. However, ongoing research has also found that adults and children with primary sleep difficulties are at higher risk for later development of mental health difficulties. Treating sleep disorders may therefore be a useful way to manage and treat symptoms of mental health difficulties.
Click on these links to understand the relationship between mental health and sleep, to understand how depression can change your sleep patterns, and to improve your sleep hygiene. For further information, click on any of these topics to access resource guides about how sleep health can be impacted by:
WHAT IS NEUROCOGNITIVE REHABILITATION?
Neurocognitive rehabilitation uses scientific approaches to help your brain recover after head injury, stroke, inflammatory disease etc. The goal is to improve your memory, attention and problem solving skills through neurocognitive training and learning of compensatory techniques. A neurocognitive rehabilitation program will be worked out for you and includes attending regular sessions (2-3 times/week) over a period of 3-4 months.
WHO CAN BENEFIT FROM NEUROCOGNITIVE REHABILITIATION?
If you recently had a stroke, head injury, brain surgery, brain swelling, cardiac arrest or other event that caused memory and cognitive decline you can benefit from neurocognitive rehabilitation. You need to be able to communicate and walk without assistance.