How can I become a “neuropsychologist”?

There is one university in South Africa that currently runs a Masters degree in neuropsychology: the University of Cape Town (UCT).  As yet, the students who have completed this degree have not been able to register as psychologists, but this might change in the future.  For more information on the university course, it is recommended that you contact the university directly.

At the moment, the only way that you can quality to practice in the field of neuropsychology is to first do a Master’s degree in psychology and then to do further self-study in the field of neuropsychology.  You will, though, still have to practice within your scope of practice, as published by the HPCSA in 2011.

If you are already registered as a psychologist but would like to work in the field of neuropsychology, it is recommended that you do the following:

Study extensively the subjects related to neuropsychology, such as neuroanatomy, neurophysiology, neuroimaging, neuropathology and neuropsychological tests, then write the knowledge exam of the South African Clinical Neuropsychological Association (SACNA) to check that your knowledge is on par with the standards expected in this field.  (Go to www.sacna.co.za for more information about the SACNA exam.)

Once you have passed the SACNA exam, you would need to gain experience in the field of neuropsychology under supervision.  Once you have gained sufficient experience, you should submit reports to SACNA of unsupervised neuropsychological assessments that you have done. If the SACNA credentialing committee is satisfied with your ability to apply your knowledge, you will become a Full SACNA member, in which case you can consider yourself recognised as an expert in neuropsychology among your peers.

Please note: this does not mean that you will be able to register as a Neuropsychologist.  The Minister of Health needs to sign the training requirements as proposed by the HPCSA before a grandfathering process can be embarked.  However, considering that neuropsychology falls within the scopes of practice of certain categories of psychologists, you may still work in the field of psychology if you are registered in one of those categories.

In order to become and remain up-to-date in this field, it is also recommended that:

You attend as many relevant training opportunities as possible.  To see which are currently available, click on “Training Opportunities/Workshops/Conferences” on the home page of this website.

You become a subscriber to the website, which will give you access to articles of relevance in this field and research updates, among other advantages.

May you use the term "neuropsychologist" to refer to certain psychologists in South Africa?

In South Africa there is a recognised category of neuropsychology, but the HPCSA is still in the process of deciding what qualifications one needs to register in that category.  While no person can yet call him/herself a “neuropsychologist”, there are many psychologists that have specialised knowledge of neuropsychology and practice in the field of neuropsychology.  It is foreseen that in the near future some psychologists would be able to register in the category of neuropsychology with the HPCSA and will thus be able to officially call themselves “neuropsychologists”.  For more information in this regard, contact the Professional Board of Psychology of the HPCSA.

What does a psychologist practicing in the field of neuropsychology do?

Such psychologists assess brain-based behavioural disorders for the sake of clarifying diagnoses, helping with treatment decisions, monitoring treatment efficacy, research and giving opinions regarding medico-legal matters.  They are also sometimes involved in cognitive rehabilitation.

When is a neuropsychological assessment needed?

Neuropsychological assessments are needed if a brain-based impairment or disturbance in thinking or behaviour is suspected, such as with:

  • Traumatic brain injury (e.g. concussion, coma and open head wounds)
  • Strokes
  • Memory difficulties with unknown cause
  • Brain tumours
  • Dementing conditions (e.g. Alzheimer’s disease)
  • Neuropsychiatric disorders
  • Seizure disorders (epilepsy)
  • Effects of toxic chemicals or chronic substance abuse
  • Movements disorders
  • Forensic cases (e.g. if a person needs a curator)
How can a neuropsychological assessment help you?

A neuropsychological assessment can:

  • Confirm or clarify a diagnosis
  • Quantify cognitive and behavioural strengths and weaknesses to guide rehabilitation and vocational or educational needs
  • Pick up changes in functioning since prior assessments
  • Help guide the person to others that can help with treatment and/or rehabilitation and/or management of quality of life issue
How do I find a "neuropsychologist" in my area?

Go to the tab “Find a Neuropsychologist” from the home page of this website to find a psychologist practicing in the field of neuropsychology in your area.