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Together is a new resource for anyone affected by pediatric cancer - patients and their parents, family members, and friends.

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Psychology and Mental Health Services

Patients and families face many challenges throughout the childhood cancer experience. Most children with cancer adjust well to diagnosis and treatment. However, patients and families have a variety of emotional, social, cognitive, behavioral, and physical health needs to consider. Psychologists and other mental health providers help people cope with problems and better manage stress and navigate periods of adjustment.

Psychology and behavioral health resources can help in a variety of ways such as:

  • Dealing with emotions and adjusting to illness and life changes
  • Coping with treatments and side effects
  • Managing pain
  • Following medical plans such as taking medicines, wearing masks, or doing rehabilitation exercises
  • Reducing distress during medical procedures
  • Managing sleep problems
  • Identifying and treating depression and anxiety
  • Addressing developmental delays and cognitive function
  • Providing academic testing and support
  • Assisting with end of treatment transitions
  • Supporting families and relationships
  • Helping families cope with grief and loss
  • Supporting survivors
 

Psychological Assessments

Psychological tests help providers better understand problems and identify needs for care. As part of the assessment, a psychologist or other trained specialist will meet with the child and caregivers. Questionnaires may be used to learn more about thoughts, feelings and/or behaviors. The psychologist will also review medical records and talk with other members of the child’s care team. Psychologists can also provide reports and recommendations for academic support and accommodations

Depending on the specific concerns, tests may measure:

  • Attention
  • Learning and Intelligence
  • Memory
  • Skills and preferences in school and work
  • Language and verbal skills
  • Mood and emotions
  • Behaviors
  • Developmental milestones
  • Personality

Psychological Treatments

Psychotherapy (counseling, talk therapy), behavioral interventions, and other treatments such as relaxation and biofeedback are used to address specific needs. In hospital settings, psychologists and mental health providers work with other care services including child life, social work, rehabilitation therapy, and psychiatry to provide psychosocial support for patients and families. Some issues can be addressed with a brief session or short-term therapy. In other cases, therapy may be ongoing for long-term or more complex concerns. Treatment may also include family counseling, group therapy, or peer support groups.

Finding a Psychologist or Other Mental Health Provider

Mental health professionals offer care to support cognitive, emotional, behavioral, and other psychosocial needs. Providers who offer psychological treatments include:

  • Psychiatrists
  • Psychologists/Neuropsychologists
  • Mental health nurses
  • Clinical social workers
  • Counselors
  • Pastoral counselors

Often, psychological services are offered to patients and families as part of a multidisciplinary care team in clinical settings. In other cases, patients and families may seek care from community mental health providers. The care team can help families find resources in their local communities.

Clinical psychologists are licensed health professionals who specialize in psychological assessment, psychotherapy and related care in areas of behavior, mental health, and psychosocial functioning. They hold a doctoral degree in psychology (PhD, PsyD, EdD) and have extensive training in counseling and clinical assessment. Psychologists work in a variety of settings including hospitals, clinics, schools, and private practice.


Reviewed: June 2018

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