Program & Goals

The Department of Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation offers comprehensive rehabilitation psychology and neuropsychological services to help patients and families cope with the unpredictable and sometimes unchangeable aspects of chronic illness and disability.

Integrated Care Model

Rehabilitation psychologists/neuropsychologists are part of the team of rehabilitation professionals. Services and educational materials are available to patients and families at the UNC Health Care Rehabilitation Center, the UNC PM&R Outpatient Clinic and through our community outreach programs.

What is Clinical Neuropsychology?

A Neuropsychologist is a licensed psychologist trained to examine the link between a patient’s brain and behavior. A Neuropsychologist will assess neurological, medical, and genetic disorders, psychiatric illness and behavior problems, developmental disabilities, and complex learning issues. UNC PM&R’s Neuropsychologists work with children, adolescents, and adults.

The primary goal of this service is to utilize results of the evaluation to collaborate with the patient and develop a treatment plan and recommendations that best fit the patient’s needs.

Patients who may benefit from a Neuropsychological Evaluation include those with:

  • A neurological disorder such as epilepsy, hydrocephalus, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias, multiple sclerosis, or hydrocephalus
  • An acquired brain injury from concussion or more severe head trauma, stroke, hydrocephalus, lack of oxygen, brain infection, brain tumor, or other cancers
  • Other medical conditions that may affect brain functioning, such as chronic heart, lung, kidney, or liver problems, diabetes, breathing issues, lupus, or other autoimmune diseases
  • A neurodevelopmental disorder such as cerebral palsy, spina bifida, intellectual disabilities, learning difficulties, ADHD disorder, or autism spectrum disorder
  • Problems with or changes in thinking, memory, or behavior with no clear known cause

What is the evaluation like?

The evaluation will be tailored to address the patient’s specific concerns about functioning, and can address the following:

  • General intellectual ability and/or problems in reading, writing, or math
  • Problems with/changes in attention, memory, thinking abilities, or language
  • Changes in emotional or behavioral functioning

The evaluation may last between 3-6 hours and typically includes:

  1. Interview with the patient and possibly family members/caretakers
  2. Assessment and testing (typically a combination of one-on-one tests of thinking involving paper/pencil or a tablet, along with questionnaires)
  3. Interpretive feedback session
  4. Full written report upon completion

How will the evaluation help me?

  • Make or confirm a diagnosis
  • Emphasize brain-behavior relationships to explain why problems may be occurring at home, at work, at school, or in other settings
  • Record changes in functioning before and after medical treatment or surgery

Your Appointment and Location Details

Prior to arrival

  • Please arrive for your Neuropsychological evaluation after getting a full night’s rest, eating a good breakfast, and taking your normal medications.
  • Please bring your mobility aids (cane, walker, or wheelchair), wear hearing aids if you use them, and wear or bring your contact lenses and/or eyeglasses.

What to bring

  • If you have received all of your relevant medical care at UNC, you do no need to bring any medical records.
  • If you have had any previous evaluations at other facilities (developmental, psychological, speech/language, OT, PT), bring records if you are able.
  • For a school-aged child, please bring any school records you have and a copy of the child’s Individual Education Plan (IEP) or 504 plan from school, if there is one.

Rehabilitation Psychology

Rehabilitation psychologists provide care for individuals across the lifespan, including individuals with chronic illness or injuries resulting in physical or cognitive disabilities. The psychology team routinely assists patients with amputations, spinal cord injuries (SCI), traumatic brain injuries (TBI) and medical illness such as stroke, cancer, diabetes and chronic pain conditions.

The Rehabilitation Psychology Program provides the following:

  • Comprehensive psychological evaluation with standardized testing
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy for depression, anxiety (including PTSD) and stress management
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy for pain management and medical illness
  • Brief interventions for improving readiness for medical or surgical treatments
  • Relapse prevention treatment for addictions
  • Guided imagery and relaxation training
  • Patient and family education

Rehabilitation Neuropsychology

Neuropsychologists are specialists in helping patients, families and other health care providers understand how injury, illness and aging can cause changes in an individual’s thinking, memory, judgment, emotional functioning and behavior. The neuropsychologist works with people who have had strokes, traumatic brain injuries, brain tumors or other insults or injuries to their brain. Because many other kinds of illnesses also can affect brain functioning, many people referred for services may have histories of neurological disease, epilepsy, autoimmune disease, dementia or other chronic health issues. The neuropsychologist also assists individuals with histories of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disabilities or psychiatric issues.

The Rehabilitation Neuropsychology Program provides the following:

  • Cognitive screenings using standardized tests to identify the need for further evaluation or treatment
  • Comprehensive neuropsychological evaluations to measure learning, memory, language, visuospatial abilities, higher order cognitive abilities, fine motor skills, perception, mood, personality and adaptive functioning
  • Baseline assessments and repeat testing to measure improvement or decline over time
  • Rehabilitation treatment planning
  • Patient and family education
  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy to help patients and caregivers cope with changes in cognition, emotions or behavior resulting from injuries or illnesses that affect brain functioning
  • Forensic consultation
  • Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs)

Clinical Neuropsychologists

Peter Duquette, PhD
Matthew Harris, PhD, ABPP(CN)
Hanna Leong, PsyD
Zachary Merz, PhD
Karla Thompson, PhD

Resources

Download our Clinical Neuropsychology brochure.

Become a Partner

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