For the second time in as many weeks, I’ve heard about “a good friend who’s a psychologist who says that their reports never take more than 2 weeks.” While my knee-jerk reaction is “Wow, I wish I could do that!” my more measured response is this: I’m perfectly OK with the fact that while I typically provide reports within the timelines I promise at the outset, my reports take longer. There are reasons for that.
As a neuropsychologist, my expertise is in brain-behavior relationships, which are also informed by my expertise as a school psychologist and my life experiences as a mother and student. I administer all tests myself, including as much historical and collateral reporting as I can gather, and don’t rely on testing support from a trainee, psychometrist, or other in-office staff. This enables me – and my clients — to reap the benefits of all of the qualitative, diagnostic and interpretive observations that go into my reports, though other methods are more efficient.
Synthesizing, interpreting, and reconciling all of these sources of data within the context of what we know about the brain, learning, and diagnostic formulations, just takes time… not just the number of hours logged writing up my findings, but also in the time it takes to ruminate on what I’ve found, to question, test hypotheses, confer and collaborate with colleagues, and ruminate some more. Then, there’s the time it takes to extract the information I consider most relevant for this child, those questions, that context, at this particular point in time. I don’t use canned templates and test-by-test descriptions. Nor do I cut and paste the impressions of employees. That’s why my reports take longer, but it’s also why they are comparatively long, detailed and highly individualized.
I don’t start to write reports until all records are received, irrespective of the extent to which families may think they are relevant. After all, how can I evaluate the nature of each individual’s history and look for patterns over time with pieces missing? Even the most seemingly innocuous of teacher comments and grade reports can yield significant value to me in my qualitative approach, and I don’t presume to have all the answers until I’ve been able to systematically review and evaluate everything as a whole.
Is that time-consuming and sometimes tedious? You bet. If report-writing speed is a priority for someone, I’m probably not the best fit for them. But if parents want the value of a fully informed, deep and integrated understanding of their child’s unique strengths, weaknesses, challenges and opportunities, this is what it takes.