Neuropsychology represents a subspecialty under the broader field of psychology. Thus, students can choose neuropsychology as their concentration or focus of study when acquiring a PsyD or can opt for postgraduate work toward certification in neuropsychology in addition to the PsyD. In general, applicants fill out the application for a PsyD program and indicate their desire to pursue the neuropsychology track. Similarly, classes needed for this degree follow that of the general PsyD curriculum, with courses specific to neuropsychology. Common admission requirements and courses are detailed below.
General Admission Requirements for a PsyD in Neuropsychology
Because neuropsychology is often a concentration or certificate track within a university's psychology department, students typically fill out the general application for a PsyD program. Proof of graduation with a bachelor's degree from an accredited school is a requirement, along with transcripts from any institution attended; a minimum GPA of 3.0 is necessary for consideration. Before admission to some PsyD programs, students must have taken prerequisites such as abnormal psychology and statistics. The GRE must be have been taken within the past 5 years. At least two letters of recommendation are required, as is a CV or resume; experience in the field of mental health is a plus. Some schools ask for a personal statement, which should outline the applicant's field of interest and career goals; others provide essay questions to which applicants must respond. Finally, most schools require an in-person interview before granting admission.
Common Core Courses for a Neuropsychology Doctorate Programs
In most degree programs, students enroll in general courses required for a doctorate in psychology. When they choose the neuropsychology track, they then take classes specific to this concentration.
Anatomy and Physiology
Before proceeding to courses about test-taking and assessments and then working in a clinical setting, students must have a basic understanding of neuroanatomy and how the different structures of the brain are related to behavior. Studying the parts of the brain down to the neuronal level and the interactions between these components in the brain as a whole and in relation to other body systems can inform the students' comprehension of normal versus abnormal functioning.
Disorders of the Brain
While examining the workings of the brain in normal behaviors is important, another critical facet of neuropsychology is learning about the issues and conditions that lead to abnormal behaviors. Therefore, most schools require classes that define medical, neurological, and psychological pathologies and the appropriate treatment for these disorders. Knowing the origin and manifestations of these conditions represents part of the process of evaluating and treating the affected individual.
Research and Assessment Methods
Part of the neuropsychologist's role is to examine patients using testing to determine the best treatment path for them. Therefore, students often take classes to learn about the best evaluative tests to administer, how to interpret the results, and how to formulate an intervention plan. In these courses, research theories and methods are presented, including how to design and administer mental health screenings, how to score test results, and how to synthesize these findings into a report or treatment proposal.
Practicums and Fieldwork
Once students learn about neuropsychological testing, they must be able to apply their knowledge and skills in a real-world setting. This training often takes the form of work with patients in hospitals or clinics. At first, students assist a supervisor with observations and assessments; then, they perform these tests while monitored by a professor or clinician. These practicums represent a major component of the neuropsychology track and can involve 2 years or more of clinical fieldwork. Some schools also require additional internship training as part of the degree track.
The culmination of the neuropsychology track for a PsyD is often a dissertation. Students can demonstrate their understanding of the discipline either by research they have developed or by expounding on a topic relevant to the field. They then typically report their findings or conclusions to a doctoral committee.
As a subspecialty of psychology, neuropsychology involves an understanding of both the functioning of the brain and the assessment of conditions affecting behavior, with the goal of healing pathologies. Schools offering this field of study share many of the same admission requirements and offer common courses to train students in this discipline.