Pediatric Psychology

Mental health is part of overall health. Pediatric psychology is the bridge that helps us take care of the whole child and family. The Pediatric Psychology team at Kentucky Children’s Hospital is uniquely trained to help children with the challenges of dealing with medical conditions.

Our team provides evidence-based care to help kids and their families on their medical journey. Pediatric psychologists focus on meeting the mental health needs of children and teens/adolescents who have an illness, injury or other medical condition. We also provide care for families who have babies in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) or Neonatal Abstinence Care Unit (NACU). Our team works to promote all aspects of health: physical, social and mental.

Our services

Pediatric Psychology is different from many mental health providers. We provide therapy services that focus on the effects of medical conditions, significant illnesses and medical traumatic stress.

Our Pediatric Psychology team specializes in providing mental health services in the context of your child’s medical journey:

  • We are part of your child's or teen's medical care team. We take a holistic approach to your child’s care.
  • We offer psychological assessments specific to how your child’s or teen's/adolescent's medical condition and treatment may be impacting their mental health, and vice versa.
  • We offer evidence-based treatments such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy, non-pharmacological pain management strategies, and other strategies to support children, teens, adolescents and families.
  • We can help the whole family navigate medical conditions and care, including siblings, parents and other caregivers.
  • The Pediatric Psychology team provides services to patients throughout UK HealthCare, including Kentucky Children’s Hospital and our outpatient clinics.

Reasons to meet with a pediatric psychologist

General pediatric care

We can address:

  • Strategies to help with pain (without medicine or to use with medicines that your doctor prescribes)
  • Difficulty adjusting to a new diagnosis of a chronic health condition
  • Distress related to being in the hospital
  • Mood concerns related to medical conditions
  • Previous mental health concerns impacting medical treatment
  • Trauma symptoms related to a medical event or medical condition or treatment
  • Difficulty complying with medical care 
  • Assistance communicating and working with your healthcare team

Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU)/ Neonatal Abstinence Care Unit (NACU)

We can address:

  • Attachment and bonding
  • Support with stress, mental health reactions, or general coping related to having a baby being cared for in the NICU or NACU
  • Support with complex medical decision-making
  • Assistance navigating having a baby in the NICU or NACU and other responsibilities (for example: work, siblings at home)
  • Assistance communicating and working with your health care team

What to expect in the hospital (General Pediatrics & NICU/NACU)

You can ask your healthcare team/providers for a pediatric psychology consult, if you think your child or family would benefit. Also, at times, your healthcare team might introduce you and your family to the Pediatric Psychology team’s services, if they feel your family could benefit.

Someone from our team will come by your child’s room to meet with you and your child.

During our first meeting, we will:

  • Review confidentiality and get a short history of your child and your family
  • Discuss common challenges and concerns families experience while in the NICU
  • Explore how Pediatric Psychology can support your family

We will partner with you and your child to learn how we can provide support during your child’s medical journey. Our goal is to support you and your family through the hospital stay and any medical challenges.

Pediatric Psychology will work with you to determine frequency of care visits. Pediatric psychologists will use a wide range of evidence-based interventions to help you navigate the challenges of a hospital stay. Common interventions include:

  • Offering cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) strategies to challenge negative thinking patterns
  • Learning new ways to manage difficult emotions
  • Building healthy, sustainable coping patterns

As part of your child’s healthcare team, Pediatric Psychology may be present at family care conferences. We can support and encourage the best use of your family’s time when you meet with providers.

In some cases, after your child’s hospital stay, it may be helpful to meet with Pediatric Psychology or another mental health provider. We will work with your family to create a personalized plan for your child’s needs.

What to expect at our outpatient clinic

You should consider pediatric psychology if your child has any of the following:

  • Fear of needles
  • Struggles to take medicine as directed or to follow doctor’s instructions
  • Worries or fears related to doctors’ visits or medical procedures
  • Trouble coping with chronic health conditions
  • Anxiety/depression related to a medical condition
  • Chronic pain
  • Challenges adjusting to a new medical condition or a change in a medical condition

We will set up an intake appointment with you and your child. This usually lasts about 50 minutes. During this visit, we ask about your child’s medical condition and treatment and the challenges your child or family is having. We also ask questions about school, peers and family to help us get to know your child and your family.

We will work with you and your child to tailor a treatment plan. This will include:

  • Finding the best path of treatment for your child
  • Setting goals
  • Setting frequency of sessions
  • Deciding whether telehealth follow-up is an option for your family.

Most follow-up sessions last about 45 minutes. Depending on the needs and age of your child, they may meet alone with the psychologist for the full session, or a caregiver may be present. You will be able to discuss this with your child’s therapist.

Sometimes, we are able to coordinate our therapy appointments with medical visits or treatment, if it is a part of our treatment plan.

We offer evidence-based treatments such as:

  • Cognitive-behavioral therapy
  • Trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Non-pharmacological pain management strategies
  • Other strategies to support children, teens and families

If you are interested in therapy services to help your child or teen/adolescent cope with their medical journey, please call our clinic at 859-562-2597 for more information. You can also ask your child’s medical team to place a referral.