Monday, May 2, 2011

Mental Health Interview Series: Dr. Bruce Vermeer, Neuropsychological Assessments

Dr. Bruce H. Vermeer, PsyD is a licensed psychologist with a specialty in neuropsychological assessments. He received his postdoctoral training in this specialty area at Pine Rest Christian Hospital’s psychiatric medical unit located at St. Mary Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He also worked in Pine Rest’s outpatient department, counseling individuals and couples. Since 2001, Dr. Vermeer has been in private practice where he continues to spend approximately 50 percent of his time completing neuropsychological assessments. His office is located at 2093 Health Drive, Suite 200, Wyoming, Michigan 49519.


Kerry:
Dr Vermeer, thank you for taking time to describe your specialty area. What is a neuropsychological assessment?

Dr. Vermeer:
A neuropsychological evaluation is a paper-based examination which provides a current picture or a “snapshot” of an individual’s cognitive functioning. It is like a road map of a person’s mental functioning level. It shows what is working and not working well. This information can be helpful when someone has undergone a noticeable psychological change, such as experiencing memory loss or displaying impaired judgment. A neuropsychological evaluation can be a useful tool, when combined with a good medical history, to help a primary care physician make an appropriate diagnosis of individual’s cognitive and functional problems.

Kerry:
What should one expect a typical neuropsychological evaluation experience to be like?

Dr. Vermeer:
Each person’s testing is individualized. Depending on the presenting symptoms and the client’s age, testing can varying from two to 12 hours long. The usual duration, however, is about 3 hours and includes several different kinds of tests, all of which evaluate various cognitive functioning. Most clients find the testing experience engaging, and even fun, since it is a bit like a game.

Kerry:
When should someone seek this kind of testing?

Dr. Vermeer:
Clients are most often referred by their primary care physician or their psychiatrist for testing. Usually there has been a change in the individual’s overall level of cognitive (mental) functioning and the physician is looking for a diagnostic understanding of this difficulty.

Kerry:
How are the results helpful to clients and their families?

Dr. Vermeer:
Neuropsychological testing can be helpful in at least two ways.

First, neuropsychological evaluation can help shape a client’s medical assessment and treatment planning process. It can assist physicians in clarifying an individual’s diagnostic picture, and it can help identify additional diagnostic options (if any are needed). It can also provide practical suggestions on how the individual might more adaptively cope with their cognitive deficits. This is accomplished by identifying rehabilitative interventions and/or therapies that might be useful in helping individuals adjust to their current mental deficits. In some cases it is even possible to “train” the brain to overcome compromised functions. Different regions of the brain can be taught to handle previously weak or lost skills. Finally, a neurological assessment can help the physician decide if and when to prescribe cognitive enhancing medication.

Secondly, neuropsychological evaluations are often used in legal situations. For example, evaluation results are sometimes used in the process of determining one’s competency to stand trial. More frequently, however, evaluation results are instrumental in determining whether a person can independently engage in making significant medical, financial, and legal decisions. The results are also used for the purpose of determining whether formal activation of an individual’s power of attorney needs to occur. In the state of Michigan, formal power of attorney is activated by the signature of two physicians, or by one physician and a licensed psychologist.

Kerry:
Is a neuropsychological assessment covered by insurance and Medicare?

Dr. Vermeer:
Yes, it is covered by Medicare and most types of insurance plans. Neuropsychological assessments are considered a medical procedure and are covered under an individual’s medical coverage plan.

Kerry:
Is any special kind of training or experience necessary to be qualified to perform neuropsychological assessments?

Dr. Vermeer:
Presently, you must be a licensed psychologist and have completed two years of specialized postdoctoral training and supervision in neuropsychological evaluations.

Kerry:
If someone would like to seek this kind of assessment and they don’t live in the greater Grand Rapids, Michigan area, how do they go about finding a specialist in their area?

Dr. Vermeer:
I would recommend contacting your insurance carrier for names of providers in this discipline. Primary care doctors also often have contacts of specialists in your area. On-line research can also be helpful.

Kerry:
Thank you, Dr. Vermeer, for this helpful information. If you would like more information about Dr. Vermeer or his practice, you can contact him at 616-742-1960.

1 comment:

  1. How does the use of medicinal marijuana influence test results?

    ReplyDelete