A cancer diagnosis and treatment may cause children of all ages to experience emotions such as fear, confusion, and loneliness, and can trigger distress and anxiety in all family members.
The Psychosocial Services Program in the Division of Oncology at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia provides comprehensive psychosocial services for children with cancer and members of their families. Various services are offered for inpatients, outpatients, those on active treatment, and those whose treatment is completed, and are targeted to different age groups.
Services offered through Child Life, Education, and Creative Arts Therapy are examples of psychosocial support. Child life specialists provide opportunities for age-appropriate play and socialization in our child and teen spaces as well as at the bedside. They offer the child information about cancer and help during painful procedures to calm treatment-related anxiety. During supervised medical play sessions, patients may use real medical equipment on dolls, allowing kids to learn about treatment and express anger and other feelings related to their diagnosis and treatment. Child life specialists adapt a daily plan specific to each patient’s needs during every Hospital admission.
School is an important part of every child’s life. By participating in the Hospital School Program, school-age children can continue to achieve academic goals and interact with peers. Certified teachers collaborate with the student’s classroom and/or homebound teacher and other healthcare professionals involved with the patient’s care to provide appropriate educational services. In collaboration with social work, they lay the foundation for a smooth transition back to school at the appropriate time.
Art therapist and music therapists use creative expression to improve and enhance physical, mental, and emotional well being. The therapies help children develop coping skills, learn relaxation techniques, and express difficult thoughts and feelings.
The Cancer Center also partners with various community and nonprofit organizations to offer special programs and unique events that give inpatients a chance to participate in celebrations and create milestones. CHOP Prom, hosted by the Child Life Department and sponsored by the Joshua Kahan Fund, is open to all patients including those from oncology. Donated gowns and tuxedos are altered within minutes, followed by an evening of dancing and fun. “The CHOP Prom provides patients of all ages and their families an evening to get dressed up, briefly forget that they are in Hospital and have a night to remember. It’s truly a magical night,” says Stephanie Rogerwick, MS, CCLS, strategic operations manager, Child Life, Education and Creative Arts Therapy Department.
“All our psychosocial services, including those offered through Child Life, have the goal of addressing needs while building resiliencies to foster successful adaptation and growth for children and their families,” says Lamia P. Barakat, PhD, director
of Psychosocial Services, CHOP Cancer Center, and director, Section on Behavioral Oncology, Center for Childhood Cancer Research, Division of Oncology