Derek Phillips, Psy.D., has a passion for helping people and understanding how the brain and associated cognitive functions influence behavior.
He recently joined the medical staff at Sarah Bush Lincoln as a Clinical Neuropsychologist and uniquely adds a new dimension to the neurology team. “A neuropsychologist is someone who evaluates, diagnoses and treats any neurological condition that affects behavior or thinking skills,” Phillips explained. “There are several neurological conditions that fall under that category such as dementia, traumatic brain injury, epilepsy, ADHD and stroke.”
With a warm and compassionate approach, Phillips measures skills such as attention, memory, language, and problem- solving skills to get an overall picture of an individual’s cognitive function and determines what parts of the brain might be linked to certain problems. With this information, he can diagnose a disorder and provide targeted treatment to help that person recover or cope. He works in partnership with Neurologists Fatima Alao, MD, Anthony Collins, MD, and Nurse Practitioner Jill Thompson, APN, at Family Medical Center, Suite 3, in Mattoon.
“Neuropsychological evaluations can help differentiate between normal aging, mild cognitive impairment and dementia,” Phillips explained. Results from the evaluation can be helpful in understanding the causes of memory and related functional decline. Phillips is excited to offer this service for the first time at Sarah Bush Lincoln.
A native of Casey, Phillips said his interest in the study of the brain and human behavior evolved over time. He initially planned to major in music after traveling with a show choir and playing the trumpet and piano, and singing in high school. While he also considered medicine, he graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in psychology and social work from Olivet Nazarene University.
With a desire to work in direct patient care, Phillips earned a Master of Arts in counseling psychology in 2012, followed by a Doctor of Psychology in clinical psychology with a concentration in clinical neuropsychology in 2015 from Adler University in Chicago. Curious to learn more, Phillips completed formal training in clinical neuropsychology, including a one-year internship followed by a two-year fellowship at Psychological and Neurobehavioral Services, P.A., in Lakeland, Florida.
During fellowship training, Phillips gained experience performing neuropsychological evaluations on people of all ages, including prison inmates, to determine their competency to proceed with trial. “Those were some of the most challenging emotionally for me,” he said.
While Phillips plans to work with mostly adults at Sarah Bush Lincoln, he also offers testing services for children 12 and older. “I find working with all age groups rewarding in some ways, but the group that consistently grabs my heart is the seniors. I love hearing their stories. They have such rich and important things to say. I also know that many do not have anyone to talk to and they want someone to listen, say that they understand what is happening, and to find out if they are getting dementia,” he said.
Phillips hopes to make people feel comfortable by being open- minded and offering an alternative perspective.
For more information, or to make an appointment with Phillips for a neuropsychological evaluation, call the SBL Neurology Clinic at 217-234-7000.