What is a Neuropsychologist?
How people engage with their social and educational challenges depends a great deal on life experience. Also, people have skills that are neurologically determined. Neuropsychologists are highly trained to consider the neurological side and there is increasing evidence that attention, learning and (some) behavior disabilities have a significant brain function component.
Our Neuropsychological Services consists of a group of licensed psychologists with extensive experience and expertise in evaluating learning, attention and behavior difficulties in children, adolescents and adults. The underlying premise of neuropsychology is that brain function affects learning, attention and behavior but we also consider the interaction of brain function with life experience.
Evaluations at the Neuropsychology Service typically include:
A Positive Approach
Our referrals come from a wide variety of sources: Parents, mental health professionals, schools and social service agencies. Most of the referred children/adolescents have learning, attention or behavior difficulties that need further clarification in order to provide a more comprehensive treatment plan.
Neuropsychological evaluations are diagnostic so that there is a better understanding of the causes of the learning, attention and behavior difficulties. School evaluations, in contrast, are not diagnostic (they are designed to determine if there is a need for special education services).
We also evaluate children/adolescents who have suffered some form of personal or physical trauma. For example, neuropsychological assessment might be useful if a child suffers a serious head injury or has witnessed a traumatic event.
Many adults initiate neuropsychological evaluation on their own or in consultation with a mental health professional or a physician. Many adults have concerns about relationship patterns or their work performance due to attention difficulties so they want clarification regarding the severity of the problem and its origin. When an adult has suffered a head injury or a stroke, it can be important to document changes in memory, attention and reasoning.
Neuropsychological testing can also assist in identifying patterns of strengths and weaknesses that help to differentiate Alzheimer’s disease, stroke and depression (and assist with treatment recommendations).
How Neuropsychological Evaluations Can Be Helpful
Neuropsychological evaluation can be helpful in understanding learning problems. Reading comprehension problems, for example, can stem from single-word decoding problems, language problems, and/or attention difficulties. Some attention and behavior difficulties require a clearer perspective. For example, although ADHD is the most common cause of attention difficulties, one can have attention problems due to anxiety, depression and learning problems also. Other common diagnostic puzzles include: (1) social anxiety versus an autism-spectrum disorder; (2) normal moodiness versus Bipolar Disorder; (3) general cognitive delay versus a learning disorder. It can be important to identify the child/adolescent’s strengths. Particularly in older adolescents (and young adults), this can be useful in college and vocational decisions. Neuropsychological testing can be useful in identifying forms of mental health treatment that can be most effective in dealing with a specific set of behavioral difficulties. Child psychiatrists, pediatric neurologists and pediatricians use test findings to help guide medication choice and management. Testing can help to establish a “baseline” so that the effects of education, mental health and medication interventions can be assessed.
Steps of the Evaluation
A comprehensive evaluation at our offices always begins with a parent or adult interview. At this interview, we discuss the presenting difficulties, the past history and what interventions have been attempted so far. We generally ask parents to complete behavioral questionnaires.
The testing schedule can depend on the complexity of the clinical questions that need to be answered (and the amount of testing required). A typical evaluation would consist of two 2½ hour sessions.
There is a feedback session to go over the report and this usually takes place about two weeks after the final testing appointment.
Our evaluations are flexible so the assessment focus can be determined by the referral questions. There are ten possible areas:
What to Tell Your Child/Adolescent
Information is power: the more one understands the landscape of their brain (the way they learn and process information), the better they are able to navigate their world and advocate for themselves. In addition, the evaluation will help the adults who are involved in their lives provide the appropriate type of support. For example, the evaluation will help teachers and parents understand his/her learning difficulty better, or the evaluation can guide the therapist to work more effectively.
The cost of your evaluation will be determined in the initial evaluation. Our evaluations typically cost between $1500 and $3200. We do not accept health insurance.
We do not accept health insurance. The major insurance plans do not cover the costs of extensive evaluation sufficiently for private practitioners. School systems contract for our services, so this is another way to cover the cost of an evaluation.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Do you help with reimbursement?
Yes. We encourage you to contact your health insurance company prior to the evaluation (some companies do not reimburse).
Do you help with obtaining services at school?
Yes. We routinely communicate with schools by telephone and email. We go to special education team meetings also.
I worry about my child being “labelled.”
Diagnosis is an important part of a neuropsychological evaluation. We are sensitive to the fact that the variations in people can be very significant, so we strive to make a diagnosis in a larger context. We also try to focus on the positive, not just psychopathology.
How to Contact Us
Dr. McHugh provides therapy, and specializes in neuropsychological evaluations of children, adolescents, and adults. Neuropsychological testing assesses intellectual functioning, learning disabilities, emotional functioning and personality style. Dr. McHugh has performed evaluations for local agencies and private practices on the North Shore. She also on staff at North Shore Children’s Hospital (Salem Hospital) in the Neurodevelopmental Center.
Dr. McHugh earned her B.A at Villanova University, M.A at Boston College in Counseling Psychology, and her doctorate at the Massachusetts School of Professional Psychology. She is a licensed psychologist in Massachusetts and Pennsylvania.
Depression, fear, and anxiety are some of the most common and uncomfortable emotions that we can experience at some point in our lives. Through therapy and treatment, we are able to help you recover motivation, perspective, and joy that you once had in your life.
By combining extensive experience and creative techniques, we offer highly individualized psychotherapy to address various emotional issues for adults, children and adolescents. These issues include, but are not limited to:
We have extensive experience in providing clinical services in outpatient settings for individuals, couples and families.
We offer highly individualized treatment to address various emotional issues to the following populations:
We offer highly individualized psychological treatment for a number of mental health issues. We combine extensive experience in the latest and most effective therapeutic techniques such as stress management and relaxation training, behavior modification, parenting education, conflict resolution, anger management, and group therapy. These techniques are offered through the following treatment modalities:
Katherine received her masters in Education from Cambridge College and is certified in EMDR and a related method called Gentle Reprocessing, and TAT (Tapas Acupressure Technique) . Katherine has over 25 years of experience and works with children, adolescents and adults.
Areas of Specialty
She can be reached directly at
(617) 547-7733 or send Katherine an email to:
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Need help getting started, organized, focused, staying on task, time management? Or, maybe you just want to feel less anxious about schoolwork or a particular subject in school? We're here to help you further recognize and develop your strengths and customize a plan to help build confidence where you need it. We work closely with you to customize a program designed for you and your particular needs.
We offer academic coaching for a range of services. We also offer enhancements to help your child get relaxed and in an optimal state for learning prior to coaching or tutoring.
Dianne received her undergraduate degree in accounting from University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and an MS degree in Computer Information Systems from Bentley University. After several years in public and private accounting and managerial positions in companies such as General Electric and Sybase Corporation, Dianne transitioned into the field of education. After receiving an M.Ed. in Elementary Education, she taught in independent elementary schools for eleven years, specializing in middle school math education and executive function support. Most recently, Dianne served as Faculty Administrator for a local independent elementary school, leading over twenty faculty and staff members in developing programs and supporting students and parents. Over the years, Dianne has been involved in several leadership and mentoring roles serving adults and children. She has a special interest in easing math anxiety, and is passionate about helping young people learn how to leverage their strengths, get beyond their struggles, and meet their potential to build a love of learning that lasts a lifetime.
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