Pediatric Psychology

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No one likes to watch their child struggle. When it’s with a fever and sore throat, you go to the doctor. But when they’re struggling with emotions, development, or behavior, many parents are unsure of what to do. A child psychologist can help you figure out next steps and answer the questions you have.

Child psychologists can help your child:

  • Understand and manage their emotions
  • Cope with stress
  • Identify and work through alternatives to unhealthy behaviors
  • Discover unhealthy patterns of thought

Child psychologists can also:

  • Diagnose developmental and mental health conditions
  • Develop treatment plans
  • Coach you on meeting your child’s needs
  • Work with your child’s school on accommodations

At UVA Health Children’s, child psychologists also help with children who have other medical conditions. Often, these create psychological needs, like anxiety.

Psychology at UVA Health Children’s

When your child is referred to UVA Health Children’s, a lot of what happens next depends on their age and unique concerns. We see children as early as infancy through their adolescent years.

Some of the common reasons people bring their children to UVA Health Children’s psychologists include:

Help Managing Complex Medical Conditions

Sometimes the treatment for medical concerns can cause trauma, anxiety, and behavioral problems. Kids who have overcome cancer may have emotional fallout, even after the immediate danger has passed.

Child psychologists can help kids manage their emotions and behaviors. This is as important as other parts of healing. That’s why psychologists are part of comprehensive care teams.  

Diagnosing & Creating Treatment Plans for Developmental Disorders

Conditions like ADHD and autism spectrum disorder can be tricky to diagnose. Child psychologists can work with you and your child to assess their developmental needs. From there, they can help develop a plan for home, school, and other important parts of your child’s life.

Social & Emotional Adjustment

Even the youngest children have complex social and emotional needs. They need to connect with their peers meaningfully, manage emotions that feel larger than them, and express their needs to teachers and parents.

These are the foundational blocks for their ongoing well-being. Figuring out their psychological needs and finding ways to meet them helps kids to thrive.

What Therapy Looks Like at UVA Health Children’s

Therapy can take many different forms, depending on the child and their needs. Sometimes it looks like coloring. Sometimes it looks like playing with a stuffed animal. And sometimes it looks like talking and brainstorming.

Therapies we offer include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy
  • Didactic therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Integrative health
  • Mindfulness
  • Play therapy
  • Parent-child interaction therapy

After meeting with you and your child, our psychologist will talk through these options with you.

Pediatric Psychology Frequently Asked Questions

Here are some of the questions parents often have before their child is seen for treatment.

How long will treatment take?

Unfortunately, there’s no way to know how long treatment will take. While some kids see immediate results, others need long-term treatment.

Is my child old enough for psychological treatment?

Yes. Our psychologists have even seen infants. Developmental psychologists specialize in the developing brain. This allows us to pinpoint and address problems while children are still very young.

What if I’m uncomfortable with medication?

Medicine is just one of the many treatment options available for your child. Psychologists specialize in non-medical management of behavioral and emotional concerns.

If your child would benefit from medicine, they’ll talk to you about it. They may refer you to a psychiatrist. Psychiatrists specialize in managing mental health concerns with medicine. They’ll talk through options, reasons, and address your concerns.

Will my child ever be okay?

Many children will struggle with a mental or behavioral health concern before they’re 18.  While many conditions are lifelong, so are the coping strategies your child will learn. While okay looks different for everyone, we can help them get there.

How can I help my child get through this?

Parents and guardians are incredibly important for successful treatment. By learning about your child’s condition, talking to their psychologist, and asking questions, you’re helping your child.

Other things you might consider:

  • Family therapy
  • Finding ways to deal with your own stress
  • Modeling healthy behaviors and emotions
  • Talking to your child’s school about accommodations as needed
  • Reducing stress at home

Your psychologist will have other suggestions based on your child.