UCLA Cultural Neuropsychology Initiative Practicum - Clinical


The Cultural Neuropsychology Initiative (CNI) at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience & Human Behavior and the UCLA Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital offers a unique training opportunity for pre-doctoral clinical students who are interested in the neurocognitive and neuropsychiatric assessment of individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds through the Culture and Neurocognition Assessment Service (CANAS). Since July 2010, the CNI offers a 12-month training rotation for graduate students enrolled in an APA approved Clinical Psychology doctoral program. Students in the CNI clinical practicum provide outpatient neuropsychological assessments to Spanish speaking and bilingual patients across the lifespan with a variety of diagnoses, including dementia, epilepsy, brain tumors, organ transplant, learning disabilities, and other conditions that impact neurocognitive functioning.

CNI practicum students are trained in the theory and practice of neuropsychological assessment with individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds in general, and also receive specialized training in the administration and interpretation of linguistically and culturally appropriate neuropsychological measures with Spanish dominant and bilingual individuals. Students are also taught to identify points of convergence and divergence between assessment instruments and practices available in English versus those that are available in Spanish. CNI practicum students are expected to participate in all aspects of the neuropsychological assessment within CANAS including the initial intake interview, test administration and scoring, report-writing, and feedback; however, each student´┐Ż<80><99>s level of professional development is taken into consideration in determining the extent to which they contribute to each of these phases of the neuropsychological assessment. As part of their neuropsychological training, students are also explicitly taught how to identify possible differences in establishing rapport with culturally and linguistically unique patient populations relative to patients from mainstream populations (e.g., different levels of acculturation, educational levels/quality, specific idioms of distress, country-specific presentations, etc.). As such, CNI practicum students are trained in best practices to actively engage their patients in culturally and linguistically informed ways in order to help them feel at ease and ensure meaningful assessments that are empirically grounded and generalizable.

Current position openings: We currently offer 2-3 positions each year.  This position requires a minimum time commitment in the CNI of 12 hours per week with a preference for 16 hours over 2 days. This does not include time spent in supervision or elective didactics.

Resource Allocation: Practicum students share office space on the Semel Institute C Floor. Appropriate office equipment, including desk, phone, computer, and office supplies, is provided. All essential materials, including psychological assessment instruments, are available and provided for all practicum students in both English and Spanish.

Please note: This track covers parking for one day per week for all trainees

Bilingual Clinical Supervisors: Xavier E. Cagigas, PhD, Paola A. Suarez, PhD, & Carlos Saucedo, PhD

Supervision: All practicum students receive weekly supervision from Drs. Cagigas and Suarez, as well as, other rotating bilingual/bicultural faculty, who are both neuropsychologists and licensed clinical psychologists. There is also a weekly case conference in which all CNI trainees, including interns and postdocs, present and discuss their cases. CNI practicum students participate in several didactic seminars that are part of the post-doctoral fellowship program in neuropsychology, including the Cultural Neuropsychology Seminar. In addition, informal supervision (phone calls, emails, etc.) is available when necessary, and all supervisors are available for consultation if an urgent situation arises. Practicum student evaluations are completed at the mid and end of year by the direct clinical supervisor. Orientation to the CNI occurs in mid-July and is conducted by supervisors and past practicum students.

One of the unique features of the CNI practicum is its immersion of students in a multilingual and multicultural clinic that spans patients from all walks of life and educational backgrounds.  CNI patients tend to come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and often have struggled in getting access to care.  There are also the trials and tribulations brought on by immigration status, trauma secondary to discrimination, occupational exposure to hazardous chemicals, and at times exposure to violence from foreign governments.  Confronting the complex needs of the diverse community in Los Angeles head-on can sometimes be a bit of a "shock to the system" for some trainees.  Coming face-to-face with patients who are pre-literate, un-acculturated, and maintain traditional folk beliefs about medicine and mental health requires a certain degree of cultural humility on the part of the clinician, as well as, a shrewd understanding of the strengths and limitations of various clinical assessment approaches.  To this end, Drs. Cagigas and Suarez begin each weekly group supervision with a "resilience building check-in (RBC)" that includes processing the emotional impact that working with our patient population might bring, as well as, the importance of self-care and network building as long-term coping strategies. Some of the skill building typically discussed during group supervision also includes facilitating rapport while securing clear boundaries, maintaining a flexible and open mind while staying on track, and so on. With regard to ongoing professional development, weekly RBCs also discuss the challenges of being underrepresented students in neuropsychology (URSN), and how to actively problem-solve as a community of practice. In sum, at CNI practicum students learn that building resilience is as important as building solid neuropsychological skills in order to ensure the type of long-term sustainability to meet the future needs of the exponentially growing multilingual Latina/o patient population in the United States.  

Diversity Training:  The CNI practicum is organized under the framework of "Socially Responsible Neuropsychology," and practices cultural neuropsychology grounded in the extant evidence-based literature.  Rather than merely focusing on trying to provide equal care for limited English proficiency patients, the clinical service focuses on providing equitable care that acknowledges that health disparities exist, and directly addresses them head-on.  By leveraging the educational academic medicine setting to systematically help trainees see how disparities in care emerge and how they can be remediated, the CNI provides trainees with a comprehensive model of neuropsychological assessment that will subsequently help them to be both more efficient and targeted in serving the unique needs of the historically underrepresented Latina/o population.  Specific didactic instruction is also facilitated through the Cultural Neuropsychology Seminar (CNS), which is offered in the Spring Quarter, and is required of all CNI practicum students. While the CNI does not require the use of interpreter mediated services given that our supervisors are bilingual and our patient population is either monolingual Spanish-speaking or bilingual (English/Spanish), we recognize the importance of specific training in interpreter mediated neuropsychological services. As such, this specialized training will be provided as part of the CNS, as well as in a workshop to take place during the academic year.


Director(s): Xavier E. Cagigas, Paola A. Suarez



Qualifications: Given the nature of the practicum program, all applicants are required to be fluent in Spanish and have some experience or coursework in neuropsychological assessment. Students must be enrolled in an APA approved Clinical Psychology doctoral program.

Application process:


Candidates will be required to submit a curriculum vitae, two letters of references, a self-statement of interest, a letter from the Clinical Director of the School attesting to the student's qualifications for the program, and evidence of professional liability coverage provided by the candidate's doctoral training program.


Please upload materials via new portal. (available here on 12/1/20)



Earlier applications/decisions: 12/1/20-1/22/21 (limit: one track)

General applications deadline: 2/1/21 (no limit on # of tracks)




UPDATED: 11/12/20