Dr Debbie Snell

Dr Debbie Snell

Areas of specialty

  • Adult (16 years +) clinical neuropsychology
  • Concussion or mild traumatic brain injury
  • Rehabilitation after stroke, traumatic brain injury, dementia

Academic Qualifications

BSc (Psychology) (University of Canterbury).
MSc (1st Class Hons in Psychology) (University of Canterbury).
Postgraduate Diploma in Clinical Psychology (University of Canterbury).
Post Graduate Diploma in Rehabilitation (Distinction) (University of Otago).
PhD (University of Otago).

Professional Qualification

I am registered with the New Zealand Psychologists Board in the Clinical Scope of Practice

Professional Affiliations

New Zealand College of Clinical Psychologists (MNZCCP).
International Neuropsychological Society (MINS).
New Zealand Rehabilitation Association (MNZRA).

Experience and current work environments

I work jointly within the public health system and in private practice and have been working in psychology for more than 20 years.

In my public health system role I work at Burwood Hospital at the Brain Injury Rehabilitation Service (BIRS) and have worked at BIRS variously in part time and full time roles since 1993. My work at BIRS is now mostly with outpatients, that is with adults who have sustained brain injuries resulting from a range of different causes such as accidents, stroke, brain tumors, and other neurological conditions, but who do not now need to be in hospital. As part of my BIRS role I also co-ordinate the Burwood Concussion Clinic which is an ACC funded outpatient clinic assessing and treating people who have sustained concussion or mild traumatic brain injury. I also spent some years working at the Burwood Spinal Unit and for the Psychiatric Consultation Service at Christchurch Hospital which is a hospital based service that provides assistance to people with psychological and psychiatric complications associated with medical conditions such as various neurological disorders and cancers.

In my private work I see adults who have sustained brain injuries and accept referrals from GPs and hospital specialists, various government agencies such as WINZ and New Zealand Police, insurance companies, lawyers and other organizations and professional bodies such as the Medical Council of New Zealand, Nurses Council and the New Zealand Rugby Union.

I am also involved in research activities in Christchurch and have close affiliations with research based organizations such as the Burwood Academy for Independent Living (BAIL); Van Der Veer Institute; the Signet Research Group based at Southern Cross Hospital; the Rehabilitation Teaching and Research Unit, Department of Medicine, University of Otago, Wellington; and the Department of Psychological Medicine, University of Otago, Christchurch.

I have been a lecturer in neuropsychology at the University of Canterbury on and off and in 2010 I was invited to present some of my research findings at Kings College London which was a highlight for me last year. I have a number of publications in academic journals in the area of mild traumatic brain injury.

I enjoy providing clinical supervision for colleagues and from time to time provide supervision to clinical psychology students training at the University of Canterbury.
I am a board member of the Brain Injury Association (Canterbury Branch).

Approach to the work

I have a strong commitment to the principles of rehabilitation. This means that I try to take a wholistic perspective in my work and while identification of neuropsychological impairments associated with disability is important I am much more interested in identifying how a person’s disability affects them across all parts of their functioning from activities of daily living right through to social and community integration.

Accordingly my assessment model involves assessing broad areas of functioning (e.g., physical, cognitive, social, emotional, vocational) with an overall focus on how a person is functioning within their home and community. I enjoy working in a team environment which I believe is an essential part of working in rehabilitation. This means I work closely with a person’s medical practitioners, occupational therapists, physiotherapists, speech language therapists, and vocational therapists to assist achievement of an individual’s goals and recovery.

As clinical psychology is an ever-evolving science, I regularly attend professional development and training courses in my areas of special interest, both here in New Zealand and overseas.

Fees and services

Please enquire about fees at the time of first contact.
Neuropsychological assessment is a complex process that usually involves a series of appointments followed by interpretation of findings and compilation of a detailed report.

The assessment involves a clinical interview that is usually about 90 minutes in duration where a person’s medical history, presenting problems and concerns, and personal history will be reviewed. A number of testing sessions of usually around 60 minutes are then conducted where a person’s intellectual and cognitive skills and abilities are assessed using a range of neuropsychological tests that may be pencil and paper or computer based.

The number of sessions required varies, depending on the assessment questions/ purpose and how the person being assessed is coping with the process. Fatigue is a common symptom of many neurological conditions and so, often testing sessions need to be paced to help the person being assessed manage the process successfully.

These issues would all be discussed at the beginning of the assessment process. The person being assessed can bring a support person with them but this support person would not normally sit in on the testing part of the process. This is because the presence of another person can be very distracting. This can also be discussed and negotiated though so that the person being assessed is as comfortable as possible with the process.

Articles of interest written for The Press newspaper recently

The Myths of Concussion
Is Optimism helpful?
An identity lost: the social consequences of acquired brain injury
The Christchurch Earthquakes and Ongoing Stress
Disability and Family Coping
What’s up with concussion?
Is rest really the best medicine?
Fatigue after Brain Injury
Does mindfulness meditation improve brain function?

Contact details

Dr Debbie Snell
P O Box 25 287 (for all postal mail)
Victoria Street Post Office
Christchurch 8011

Tel: +64 03 3776141 messages only
Email: d.snell@xtra.co.nz