2016 Bulletin

Spring 2016 Bulletin

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22 | Bulletin vol. 30 no. 1 Special Topics How We Can Make Neuropsychology Relevant to the Public K. Drorit Gaines, Ph.D. Pepperdine University "As far as the laws of mathematics refer to reality, they are not certain; and as far as they are certain, they do not refer to reality." -Albert Einstein Although Albert Einstein may have meant for something very different in the above quote, to me it represents the limitations of a social science that solely depends on numerical findings. Neuropsychology is unique in the sense that it uses the integration of measurement data with astute clinical judgment to produce recommendations that fit reality. Neuropsychological evaluations must consider a multitude of factors given the complexity of the human condition. An ancient saying describes further the nature of this complexity: "A person is a whole world; when you destroy a person, you destroy a world. When you build a person, you build a world." While neuropsychological evaluations require immense professional responsibility for accuracy and relevance, they often have the potential to significantly improve clients' lives. The latter can be achieved further with public education. Using our expertise, we can increase the public's understanding of various conditions that neuropsychologists assess and treat and help our clients make informed decisions. Many clinical neuropsychologists may find that it takes years for a client in need of neuropsychological services to present for an evaluation. A multitude of reasons may contribute to this phenomenon: treating physicians may not know how to identify which clinical cases can benefit from a neuropsychological evaluation; treatment centers and schools may not be trained to identify symptoms that may indicate a neuropsychological problem; clients do not know what a neuropsychologist does and what a neuropsychological evaluation has to offer; and financial factors, such as relatively high costs of assessment and lack of insurance coverage. While academic development and legislative activities make strides in the professional map, reaching out directly to the layman through publicly available mediums of communication, such as the internet, radio, television, and magazines, invites various populations in need to discover what neuropsychology can do for their health and wellbeing, and provides direct exposure to basic but often necessary information. Furthermore, by having clinical and research experts providing basic knowledge and answering common but essential questions, we serve to reduce the tremendous confusion that the layman may experience when bombarded by the internet's flow of unprofessional, unsubstantiated, misleading and even frightening information. Guided by inaccurate information, individuals may attempt to self-diagnose and subsequently base important life decisions on this self-diagnosis; they may choose all kinds of therapies that would not benefit their condition or, in worse circumstances, cause harm; they may feel undue stress, anxiety, depression, or despair; they may spend their often limited funds on ineffective therapies, hoax treatments, and unsubstantiated care programs; and they may waste valuable time and cognitive "windows of opportunities" during which they could have been treated with therapies that are designed specifically to treat their condition and are supported by clinical practice and research findings. Perhaps most importantly, these individuals are at risk of losing hope and faith that effective treatments exist for their condition, thereby depleting the most important resource they have – their internal mechanism of hope and endurance. Combating the flow off erroneous information and mitigating these very real "costs" is our collective responsibility as professionals who are committed to protecting our clients and serving to advance their wellbeing. A large number of our "potential" clients may not be able to afford meeting with a neuropsychologist to receive basic information that can assist them in making simple decisions toward better care. As one solution, simple questions such as, "Should I see a psychologist, a neuropsychologist, or a psychiatrist?" can be easily explained via media platforms. Providing a general review of a particular specialty within neuropsychology, such as sports concussions, would be a relatively simple (and arguably enjoyable) task for the expert neuropsychologist and simultaneously valuable to the general public who can be misinformed by movies and shows that seek to sensationalize medicine and health. Furthermore, recent APA member polls have found that the public attributes value to public and media education activities, and wants more of them. 1 The above rationale sparked my interest in creating a direct relationship with the public via the most popular and fastest growing media platform, internet radio. The format focuses on psychoeducation primarily in neuropsychology and other areas of psychology and wellbeing, such as maintaining a healthy brain. While my desire to broadcast admittedly began in my teen years with a rather odd high school radio show that I suspect received only partial attention from sleepy students entering classrooms at 7am, it took professional form years later in today's weekly production on air. About two years ago, I researched and could not find an on-air, live show that focused on neuropsychology, the brain, and wellbeing. To my pleasant surprise, the show was welcomed by thousands of listeners who are thirsty for knowledge, expert opinion, and motivational psychology. I also discovered that expert neuropsychologists and psychologists were

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