Background

Neuropsychology in Finland in the New Millennium

An article published in french in A.N.A.E Oct 2002
by Taina Nybo and Erja Poutiainen

History

The Finnish Neuropsychological Society was founded in 1979 to act as a link between clinical psychologists in Finland and to promote international co-operation in this field. However, great interest in neuropsychology had begun already after World War II and there had been many noted clinical neuropsychologists (eg. prof. Niilo Mäki) before the time our society was founded. Today the society has about 300 members (neuropsychologists, psychologists or psychology students, and MDs as associate members).

In the 70's the Finnish neuropsychologists started inviting well-known foreign lecturers (eg. A. Benton, M. Maruzewski, the student of Luria) and the Society continued regularly to arrange courses in clinical neuropsychology with noted lecturers from Europe and from the United States (eg. P. Satz, B. Rourke, G. Hynd, E. Kaplan, Y. Ben-Yishay, G. Prigatano, M. Lezak). In the early 80's the Society started the first post-graduate specialisation program in neuropsychology in Finland and organised three 4-year programs before the Network University of Psychology, Psykonet, by six Finnish departments of psychology was founded in 1996. Psykonet took over the post-graduate specialisation in 5 fields of psychology (neuropsychology, health psychology, psychotherapy, developmental and educational psychology, work and organisation psychology) after 1996. The Society still has 2 representatives in the present board for specialisation in neuropsychology in Psykonet, standing for the clinical expertise in the planning of the program.

Specialisation training in neuropsychology

After earning the MA degree in psychology it is possible to apply to the specialisation training in neuropsychology. The specialisation studies correspond to 4 years studies (a total of 3200 hours of fulltime studies) including supervised working experience (90 hours supervision) in the area of neuropsychology and a licentiate research. Presently, the degree of licenciate and specialist in neuropsychology is confirmed by legal regulations concerning professional and university degrees. A professor in neuropsychology and a senior lecturer are responsible for the planning and organising the specialisation program. The professional studies (2000 h) include studies in clinical neuropsychology (600 h) neuroscience (160 h), neurology (160 h), psychiatry (160 h) and rehabilitation (320 h). In addition, methodological studies (400 h) and a licenciate research (800 h), which usually is an article in a peer reviewed journal, are included. The scientific demands of the training program have further increased the interest in clinical neuropsychological research in Finland.

Specific cultural issues

In Finland, a neuropsychologist is a highly educated expert in clinical teams. Nowadays, nearly all expert's opinions on working capacity of neurological patients and other patients with suspected cognitive problems include a neuropsychological assessment and report. Also in the psychiatric field there is a growing need for neuropsychological expertise. The role of a neuropsychologist is also crucial in the rehabilitation process of all neurological patients. For example the speech therapists in Finland are experts on assessment and rehabilitation of speech disorders, but the overall assessment of cognitive abilities is always performed by neuropsychologists. In Finland there are now about 130 specialised neuropsychologists. The amount does not meet the demands of the 5,2 million people in Finland.

Prospects for the future

Today, the Finnish Neuropsychological Society has an important role in promoting the clinical competence of its members in all fields of neuropsychology (child and adult) by organising advanced courses for senior members, and on the other hand, basic courses for all psychologists interested in neuropsychology in Finland. The 8th Nordic Meeting in Neuropsychology in 2004 will be organised by the Society. Recently, the co-operation with the Finnish Psychological Association has resulted in founding a special committee for neuropsychology which works in close collaboration with the Society. The interest in neuropsychology is growing all the time Finland. Too few psychologists can be taken in the specialisation program, eg. this year 16 out of 64 applicants could be accepted, although almost all the applicants fulfilled the criteria. In the future, one very important goal of the Society in collaboration with the Finnish Psychological Association is to try to influence the policymakers to increase the funding of the special training programme in order to have more study places for neuropsychology. In the beginning of the New Millennium, neuropsychology has established an eminent position both in clinical settings and scientific research in Finland.

This article has been published in french in A.N.A.E Oct 2002
by Taina Nybo and Erja Poutiainen