FAQ

DO I HAVE TO BE REFERRED BY MY PHYSICIAN?

No, psychological services are available to anyone without a referral. Please call our office manager at 250-352-6600 to schedule an initial consultation. Your physician, social worker, insurer, lawyer or employer may also, at your request, make a referral by telephone or fax (250-352-6648).
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WHY HAVE I BEEN REFERRED FOR NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT?

Individuals are usually referred for neuropsychological evaluation to help gain a better understanding of how well that person’s brain is functioning. Such testing is recommended when there are symptoms or complaints involving memory, thinking or personality change. The changes may be due to any number of medical, neurological or psychological causes, and testing will be helpful in better understanding that individual’s unique situation.
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WHAT IS A NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT?

Clinical neuropsychology is a specialty area of psychological practice that focuses on brain functioning. Registered Psychologists with expertise in clinical neuropsychology are knowledgeable regarding how behavior and skills relate to brain functioning. In neuropsychological assessments, brain function is evaluated by objectively testing memory and other mental skills (intellect, planning, problem solving, attention and concentration, language, visual processing, movement and sensation). Mood and personality are also impacted by brain functioning and are routinely assessed in a neuropsychological assessment. Following this detailed assessment, a profile of an individual’s strengths and weaknesses is generated. This profile can be used in important health care areas such as diagnosis and treatment or rehabilitation planning.
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WHAT HAPPENS DURING MY NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT?

Neuropsychological evaluations usually involve an interview and testing. A friend or family member may be asked to provide additional information, as the psychologist attempts to understand the impact of your symptoms, and gain detailed information regarding your medical history and other important factors. Testing involves taking paper-and- pencil tests or answering questions and typically takes several hours owing to the range of mental skills being assessed. Some tests are easy, while others are more difficult. Bring glasses or a hearing aid if you use them, and refrain from taking any non-prescription drugs in the day prior to testing. Most people find the testing interesting, and the detailed information that the testing yields will contribute to your care.
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HOW WILL THE RESULTS OF A NEUROPSYCHOLOGICAL ASSESSMENT HELP ME?

Neuropsychological assessments may help in a number of ways. First, the assessments may provide objective evidence of mild difficulties with mental skills such as memory that are otherwise not obvious in less detailed examinations. Second, because different illnesses result in unique profiles of strengths and weaknesses, neuropsychological testing can assist in making an accurate diagnosis. This careful diagnosis then guides treatment decisions. Within a rehabilitation context, test results can be used to tailor treatment plans that use strengths to compensate for weaknesses. Knowing an individual’s unique pattern of strengths and weaknesses allows for customized rehabilitation and treatment, which is the best means of achieving optimal results. Finally, research has shown that scores on some specific tests relate to everyday functional skills like managing money, driving and readiness to return to work. In this way neuropsychological testing can help guide planning for future assistance or treatment.
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WHAT HAPPENS ON MY FIRST VISIT TO A PSYCHOLOGIST?

Once you have the name of a practitioner and make a first appointment, it is usual for him or her to ask you to describe your problem and to ask for details about your personal history. These questions will include when did your problem start, what makes it better or worse and how does the problem affect your work or social life. Questions about your personal history can include details about your experiences growing up, your education and work history, your marital status and interpersonal relationships and whether you use medication, alcohol or drugs. The initial appointment is scheduled for up to two hours to accommodate this information-gathering and may include the use of psychological tests.

Usually, by the end of the initial session, you and your psychologist will have a treatment plan that is carried out across weekly or bi-weekly sessions of 1 hour duration. In the case of neuropsychological assessment, the assessment is typically conducted across an entire day and includes questions noted above along with approximately five hours of detailed testing. An educational assessment is similar to a neuropsychological assessment but typically takes less than a full day to complete.
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WHAT HAPPENS TO THE PERSONAL INFORMATION I DISCUSS WITH MY PSYCHOLOGIST?

In consulting a practitioner about personal psychological problems, people are often concerned about confidentiality. Information disclosed to a psychologist (including case notes, records, and psychological test results) is confidential and cannot be disclosed without the client’s consent. If there is a need or desire to disclose information from files with another professional (for example a medical doctor, lawyer, pastor, or third party billing source), the client will be consulted first and asked to sign a release of information document. There are some legal limitations to confidentiality, however, which your psychologist will discuss with you during your first session.
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WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PSYCHOLOGIST AND A PSYCHIATRIST?

Psychologists registering in British Columbia are now required to hold a doctoral degree in psychology that involves from 10 to 12 years of university study in how people think, feel and behave. Registered psychologists typically will have completed their graduate university training in clinical psychology, counselling psychology, clinical neuropsychology or educational/school psychology. Central to their training is a strong emphasis on research and understanding of the scientific method.

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who go on to specialize in mental health and mental illness. A psychiatrist has at least three or four years of general university training (often emphasizing science courses) and then goes on to complete a four year medical degree (M.D.). Following this there are four years of training in psychiatry as a medical specialty. Much of the training of psychiatrists goes on in hospitals with a good deal of experience in inpatient psychiatric units including the treatment of those with severe impairment. Psychiatrists often use medication to help their clients manage their mental illness and there are some mental illnesses for which medications are very necessary (schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder for examples). Some psychiatrists also do psychotherapy much like psychologists do. If a psychiatrist sees a patient who requires assessment or treatment by a psychologist, the psychiatrist may arrange to consult with a psychologist who provides that service.

Although psychologists are licensed generally and not in specific specialty areas, they are required to declare their areas of competency to the regulatory body and required to practice within the bounds of their competence (for more information on regulation of psychologists, see the FAQ “Why should I see a regulated professional?”). It is important, for example, that a psychologist practicing neuropsychology (assessing and treating problems in thinking or brain function that might occur after an accident or stroke for example) has been trained in the specialty area of neuropsychology. A psychologist working with children should have been trained in the area of child psychology and so on. Typically, the psychologist will have received this training while in graduate school where he or she will have chosen the courses and training experiences to prepare for working within a particular specialty area and will have pursued specialized training during their internship or post-doctoral fellowship.

A practicing psychologist is trained to assess and diagnose problems in thinking, feeling and behaviour as well to help people overcome or manage these problems. A psychologist is uniquely trained to use psychological tests to help with assessment and diagnosis. Psychologists help people to overcome or manage their problems using a variety of treatments or psychotherapies. If a client of a psychologist requires medical assessment or treatment, the psychologist may arrange, with the client’s consent, to consult with the client’s family doctor or with an appropriate medical specialist (including a psychiatrist when appropriate).
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HOW LONG WILL PSYCHOTHERAPY TAKE?

Most people will make substantial progress toward their goals in 8 to 15 sessions. Some people who are dealing with particularly complex issues may wish to continue therapy for 20 or more sessions. Some consultations may be as short as 1 or 2 sessions. After the initial session, the client will be provided with an estimate of how long it may take for them to adequately address their concerns.
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WHY SHOULD I SEE A REGULATED PROFESSIONAL?

Provincial and territorial governments give a few health professions the responsibility to license or regulate their professions. Regulation or licensure is important because it ensures that the practitioner has met a high standard of training and provides a high standard of care.

If you have any concern about the behaviour of a regulated practitioner, you can contact the provincial or territorial regulatory body that licenses his or her practice. The role of the regulatory body is to protect the public by ensuring that its practitioners are properly trained and are competent. You have no assurance that an unregulated person is competent to provide the service offered and no regulatory body to contact if you have any concern about the service provided.

Psychologists are regulated by the College of Psychologists of British Columbia. Contact information can be found at: collegeofpsychologists.bc.ca

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ARE FEES FOR PSYCHOLOGICAL SERVICES COVERED BY INSURANCE?

Private psychological services may be covered by private health insurance and extended health benefit plans provided by many employers (e.g., Blue Cross) or employee assistance plans. However, they are not covered under the BC Medical Services Plan. You may want to check with your employer about what services are covered, and the limits of coverage, if you have a plan through your work or education program. You may also qualify for funding through the Workers’ Compensation Board or the Insurance Corporation of British Columbia. Many people choose to pay privately for their own psychotherapy. We would be happy to discuss the issue of payment with you at your first session. In general, our fees are consistent with recommendations of the British Columbia Psychological Association. However, we are committed to providing access to quality psychological services and strive to ensure that a person’s financial constraints do not become a barrier to receiving those services.

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