Living Well

#ChildrensMentalHealthWeek: Pediatric Health Psychology

#ChildrensMentalHealthWeek: Pediatric Health Psychology

Children's Mental Health Week

Day 6

What is Pediatric Health Psychology?

“My child was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Why does he need to see a psychologist?”

“My daughter has migraines. She needs a different medicine, not a psychologist!”

“Our doctor is running tests for my son’s stomach pain. I’m not sure how psychotherapy can help with that.”

These statements are commonly heard within the field of pediatric health psychology. Health psychology is a subspecialty practice where psychologists apply psychological principles in medical settings. While most people think about psychotherapy as taking place in a therapy office with a couch and warm lighting, health psychologists typically work in the settings where patients with medical conditions are seen – most often medical clinics or hospitals.

A health psychologist can be found any place where medical professionals are located. You might see one of us darting from room to room on our consultation service in the hospital. Others may be stationed in specialty clinics, working with kids struggling with stomach pain or migraines. Many are working one-on-one with families who are coping with serious medical diagnoses.

Health psychologists are trained to address typical psychological difficulties like depression and anxiety, but also have knowledge of medical conditions and understand the complex medical regimens that many families have to follow. These psychologists usually work as a part of a team, alongside physicians, nurses, and the many allied health professionals who families interact in the course of their child’s health care.

Health psychologists exist because we know two primary things. Having a medical condition is not typical of most childhoods and can make it hard to feel “normal.” Also, stress, anxiety, and other emotions can make it harder for your child to manage their condition and make symptoms worse. A health psychologist’s role is to explore how your child’s condition affects their life and teach you and your child ways to manage their condition, stress, and function as best they can.

Initially conceptualized by Health Psychologists Bryan Carter and Renee von Weiss, the “5 C’s of Health Psychology Consultation and Liaison” can be helpful in understanding the role of a psychologist embedded within medical settings. These include:

  1. Crisis – working with families and medical professionals during intense medical and psychological emergencies
  2. Coping – helping families manage acute and chronic stress, improving psychological problems such as anxiety and depression that may result from medical conditions and treatment
  3. Compliance (Adherence) – improving quality of life and medical outcomes using psychological principles to increase family acceptance and adherence to complex medical regimens
  4. Communication – serving as a liaison between families and their medical teams, assisting with communication between groups
  5. Collaboration – working closely with medical teams and different systems within a medical setting to improve health outcomes for families

If your child is undergoing treatment for a medical condition, consider involving our team of health psychologists. We are ready and able to provide our CHNOLA families and medical teams psychological services in a variety of settings!

Dr. Amy Hanke

Dr. Amy Henke is a licensed clinical psychologist at Children’s Hospital New Orleans. She earned her doctoral degree in clinical psychology from Nova Southeastern University with a specialization in child and family psychology. She completed her internship at Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center in infant and child psychology, followed by post-doctoral fellowship at Children's Hospital New Orleans in pediatric health psychology. With more than 10 years of experience, Dr. Henke values the opportunity to provide specialty psychological services and improve access to psychological care for children and families across the gulf coast.

Fun Facts

-Board Chair of the Louisiana State Board of Examiners of Psychologists

-Yoga teacher for CHNOLA employees every Wednesday night

-Believes 50% of all meetings could be emails

-Runs a food booth outside Jazz Fest and was named by Rolling Stone magazine as "Best Food Outside the Fest"

Dr. Rebecca Wallace

Rebecca Wallace, PsyD is a pediatric psychologist at the Children’s Hospital New Orleans Behavioral Health Center. Dr. Wallace earned her doctorate from Nova Southeastern University, then completed a residency at Broward Health Medical Center, and a fellowship at the University of Arkansas Medical Sciences Center.

Dr. Wallace chose to practice psychology because she loves helping children and families identify their strengths and ability to overcome their life obstacles. Her little something extra is that she is a child at heart and is passionate about what she does.