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Definitions

Acquired brain injury (ABI): An ABI refers to injury to the brain that has occurred after birth. This can include any severity of traumatic brain injury following a car accident, fall or assault, or injury to the brain due to a medical condition such as a stroke, aneurysm rupture, brain tumour, seizure disorder, or anoxia/hypoxia (oxygen deprivation following a heart attack, surgical procedure or chronic sleep apnea). Bacterial and viral conditions (septicemia, meningitis and encephalitis), autoimmune conditions (multiple sclerosis, HIV and Lupus), toxic chemical exposure, excessive prolonged alcohol use, severe vitamin deficiency and side effects of cancer treatment (known as chemo fog or chemo brain) are some of the other ways that the brain can be compromised. [Neurodegenerative conditions resulting in dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, are not typically referred to as an ABI but may benefit from treatment aimed at maintaining existing abilities.]

 

Clinical Neuropsychology: Clinical neuropsychology is a specialty in psychology concerned with brain and behaviour relationships. It involves the evaluation of changes in behaviour and cognition that are directly related to neurological dysfunction resulting from a brain injury, disease, developmental disorder or mental health condition (e.g., depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder). Medical history and neuroimaging findings are used together with the neuropsychology evaluation results to diagnose the cause of these changes. The evaluation informs treatment recommendations that are focused on optimizing intact cognitive abilities, promoting recovery, and learning how to effectively compensate for impaired abilities going forward. Neuropsychologists also have advanced training in the administration of neurocognitive rehabilitation in addition to providing therapy for mental health conditions. 

 

Clinical Psychology: Clinical Psychology involves the assessment, prevention, and treatment of psychological difficulties with the aim of promoting mental health and wellbeing.

 

Cognitive rehabilitation: addresses specific cognitive difficulties that interfere with individual goals and optimal productivity. Cognitive strengths are used to buffer the impact of difficulties experienced in managing daily responsibilities (e.g., social, family, household, work or school-related). Evidence-based strategies customized to an individual’s needs can be applied to address difficulties in the following areas:  

  • Concentration

  • Distractibility

  • Keeping track of tasks

  • Planning

  • Problem solving

  • Forgetting intentions/to do things

  • Remembering names

  • Misplacing important items

  • Remembering events

  • Moderate to severe memory impairment (amnesia)

  • Wayfinding

  • Prioritizing tasks and goals

  • Learning new information (such as for academic study /work)

 

Concussion: can be defined as an immediate and temporary change in mental functioning following a direct blow to the head, face, neck or elsewhere on the body with an “impulsive” force transmitted to the head. This would include injuries where the head is impacted in some way including falls, sports, whiplash from motor vehicle accidents and assault. A diagnosis of concussion does NOT require a loss of consciousness or even a direct hit to the head. Further, brain imaging such as from an MRI or CT scan is usually normal following a concussion and structural changes to the brain are not visible.

 

Consultation: An initial consultation involves a 60-minute interview with a psychologist which may include a brief psychological evaluation and completion of questionnaires. The psychologist can then provide you with a general treatment plan and recommendations. 

 

Dementia: Dementia refers to a condition in which greater than age-expected cognitive decline is present and there is marked impairment in ability to independently manage  daily activities and responsibilities. There are many causes of dementia with Alzheimer’s disease and cerebrovascular disease being the most common.

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Memory screening: This is neuropsychological screening appointment that is focused on evaluating memory functioning and is targeted toward middle and older aged adults’ who are concerned about memory decline with age.  The screening will determine whether memory abilities are within normal expectations, representative of mild decline, or possibly indicative of dementia. A dementia classification hinges on whether there is also any significant reduction in independence in managing usual daily activities.  Results will be communicated to you along with feedback on practical strategies that may assist you and, if appropriate, information on community resources. NOTE: Memory screening does not provide a diagnosis of the cause of the memory decline.

 

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI): MCI refers to greater than age-expected cognitive decline that is noticeable to you and possibly others, but that does not significantly interfere with your ability to manage your usual daily activities and responsibilities. Research shows MCI is a risk factor for developing dementia.

 

Mild traumatic brain injury: A mild traumatic brain injury, sometimes also referred to as a concussion, involves an immediate and temporary change of mental functioning following a direct blow to the head, face, neck or elsewhere on the body with an “impulsive” force transmitted to the head. This would include injuries caused by falling, impact injuries which can occur during sports, whiplash from motor vehicle accidents or any other injury where the head is impacted in some way. Individuals do not always experience a loss of consciousness and any episodes of loss of consciousness are typically less than thirty minutes long. Further, brain imaging such as from an MRI or CT scan is usually normal following a mild traumatic injury and structural changes to the brain are not visible.

 

Neuropsychological assessment: Neuropsychological assessment involves an examination of brain and behaviour. Your performance on a variety of thinking tasks provides information about the integrity of your brain function. Mental health is also evaluated as psychological functioning can impact thinking abilities. The tests used may examine attention, response speed, problem solving, learning, memory, language skills, the ability to perceive objects and their spatial locations, basic sensory perception abilities, motor coordination, and psychological well-being. The following types of information are also gathered as part of the assessment; client interview (about problem and life impacts), medical history, and medical reports (such as MRI or CT brain scans).

 

Questions that can be answered by a neuropsychological evaluation:

  • Diagnosis of a neurological disorder

  • The types of cognitive abilities impaired

  • The types of cognitive abilities preserved

  • The severity of cognitive deficits

  • Identification of psychological challenges impeding optimal mental health.

  • Diagnosis of a psychological disorder

  • Whether there has been improvement or decline in cognitive functioning

  • Guidance on the most appropriate treatment approaches

  • Guidance on future planning (such as determining when to return to work, academics, sports, and safety in regard to high risk activities (finances, medication administration, meal preparation, and driving)

Normal aging: Aging adults typically experience  subtle cognitive changes in thinking speed, memory, and ability to solve novel problems. Some cognitive abilities improve with age though, particularly those related to general knowledge about the world, personal interests and professional expertise. Age-related declines in thinking abilities are small and add up slowly over time so they may not be personally noticed until older age. Although more than one cognitive ability is affected by age, it is memory change that bothers people the most.

 

Psychological assessment: A psychological assessment involves a structured clinical interview and may also involve questionnaires or tests to gain information about areas related to your mental health such as mood, anxiety and stress. Your responses to the questions help guide the psychologist in determining the nature of any mental health problems you may be experiencing. Also, the assessment functions to help identify how any current challenges that you may be having can be best addressed. The following are some examples of more commonly seen mental health conditions.

  • Anxiety

    • Panic disorder

    • Agoraphobia

    • Social Anxiety

    • Social anxiety secondary to medical condition

    • Generalized anxiety disorder

    • Health anxiety

    • Specific phobias

  • Depression

  • Obsessive compulsive disorder

  • PTSD/trauma

  • Somatic symptom disorder

  • Insomnia

  • Stress/Coping

 

Psychological therapy: Psychological therapy involves evidence-based therapeutic approaches (such as cognitive behavioural therapy) for mental health concerns or conditions such as:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Post-traumatic Stress Disorder

  • Chronic Pain

  • Life stressors

  • Obsessive-compulsive and related disorders

  • Coping with loss related to retirement, reduced health, driving privileges, and cognitive decline.

  • Caregiver stress

Rehabilitation Psychology: Rehabilitation Psychology is a subspecialty of psychology involving the assessment and treatment of individuals with impairments in their physical, emotional, cognitive, or occupational capacities as a result of injury, illness or trauma in order to promote maximum functioning and minimize disability.