What exactly does a neuropsychologist do

Neuropsychologist

Katharina Kiele (31) is a neuropsychologist in a rehab clinic and treats people with severe brain damage. Through empathy and special exercises, she tries to train lost skills again.

While studying psychology, Katharina Kiele gained her first experience as a research assistant in neuropsychology. “I was very interested in clinical psychology, and I also wanted to help people,” recalls the 31-year-old. After completing her diploma and parental leave, Katharina Kiele is now working in the neurological early rehabilitation department at the Center for Serious Skull and Brain Injuries at Vivantes Hospital in Spandau. Here, people are treated as inpatients in the intensive care unit immediately after acute treatment.

The clinical pictures and the degree of their neurological impairment are very different. "In addition to patients with a heart attack, we also have patients with cerebral haemorrhage or severe traumatic brain injury," explains Katharina Kiele. “The cognitive disorders that result from the injury are also very different. These can be disorders of wakefulness, visual perception or the action planning and control function, as well as severe attention or memory disorders. Depression or severe drive disorders as a result of the brain injury are also common. "

Make diagnoses

What exactly is the patient missing? What are the cognitive or psychological impairments? “Sometimes the patients are in a state of minimal responsiveness, that is, the patient has open eyes and can focus on objects. Otherwise, however, he is unable to participate in neurological tests. That makes the diagnosis very difficult, ”says the neuropsychologist. In such cases, family work in particular plays an important role. “Here, a high level of empathy is required in order to advise partners or family in the new life situation.” Katharina Kiele can flexibly divide her 20-hour week and thus also take part in individual counseling discussions with relatives.

Once the disorder has been identified, specific training of the disrupted functions can begin on this basis. In individual sessions of 30 to 45 minutes, Katharina Kiele tries to train the cognitive disorders, to activate the patient in general or to increase his psychological well-being. If the patient is too restricted, he is cognitively stimulated and activated even before the diagnosis. The therapeutic methods are as varied as the disorder patterns. "I use computer-based training or paper-pencil methods to practice with the patients."

Interdisciplinary team

In addition to the therapy sessions, the psychologist regularly consults with colleagues from other disciplines. In addition to neuropsychologists, doctors, a nursing team, physical and occupational therapists and speech therapists also treat the patients in their clinic. “We take a holistic approach,” says Katharina Kiele. "Everyone pulls together to improve the patient's condition." <<