As a psychologist working with the entire oncology clinical treatment team at Children's Hospital, I provide inpatient and outpatient therapy for patients and families, primarily during diagnosis and treatment. I work with issues of anxiety, depression, stress, loss and grief, behavior difficulties, late effects of cancer, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and adjustment to the cancer experience. My goal is to be caring, thoughtful and respectful to the patient and family as they encounter the challenges of the childhood cancer experience.
When a patient is referred for psychology services, I first take time to understand the concerns of the patient and family as well as the concerns of the team. The next step is to develop a plan to address those concerns. The interventions I use with the patients and families rely on evidence-based practices, and I utilize strategies that have been shown to address specific concerns.
Our treatment team uses what we call a "systems perspective." When understanding patients, we take into account the multiple systems involved in their lives: family, school, culture, spirituality, the hospital environment and the broader community, plus their individual characteristics. In caring for our patient population, we consider not only those with the highest levels of emotional needs, but also the patients and families who may be coping relatively well. When possible, we spend time with families soon after diagnosis to review family education handouts that include general information and coping strategies –- the things patients and families can do to help take care of themselves.
My research focuses on the psychosocial adjustment of the siblings of children with cancer. The objective is to gain a better understanding of the struggles that these siblings experience when a brother or sister is diagnosed with cancer. This research will help us to provide more accurate information about the sibling experience to parents and families, medical teams and community providers. This would allow for more focused interventions for siblings such as individual support or group support.
The level of support and expertise we have here at Children's Hospital for children with cancer and their families is remarkable. The needs of the patients and families are attended to at every level: from the physical environment of the hospital to the medical, social and emotional needs of patients and their families.
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Bryn Mawr College, Bryn Mawr, Pa.
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