Pediatric Behavioral Health within the Division of Hematology/Oncology/Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT)

A child's chronic or life-limiting illness impacts the emotional health of the whole family.

Behavioral health providers integrated into the Division of Hematology/Oncology/BMT at UPMC Children’s Hospital provide collaborative care with you and your child’s medical team to provide support and intervention to improve health outcomes.

Our behavioral health experts work with your child's care team to help you:

  • Understand the impact of chronic illness on emotional health.
  • Ease the stress of doctors' appointments and hospital stays.
  • Reduce the long-term effect of disease on development.

To address your child's emotional and psychosocial needs, our team works with other children's health care experts such as:

  • Child life specialists.
  • Social workers.
  • Art and music therapists.
  • Supportive care providers.
  • Psychiatrists.

Behavioral Health Care for Children with Cancer

Cancer can cause fear and worry for children and their loved ones.

For some, these changes are mild and go away quickly. In others, they can be intense, long-lasting, and impact the quality of life.

Sometimes, emotional symptoms can even affect a child's care and treatment.

At UPMC Children's, all children with cancer have access to a psychologist and other behavioral health providers. Most children admitted to the hospital for cancer treatment or complications will meet with a psychologist.

How we work with your child to address their needs varies by age and the type of concern.

Our behavioral health providers can help children and families in many ways, such as:

  • Coping with being in the hospital.
  • Learning skills to help manage pain.
  • Dealing with the stress of medical trauma.
  • Improving behaviors such as sleep, appetite, and play.
  • Advancing child development, including parent-child attachment issues and infant emotional health.
  • Addressing emotional health concerns faced by parents of sick children.
  • Adhering to their cancer treatment plan.
  • Talking with your child's doctors and helping you with decision-making.

Behavioral Health Care for Children Who Require Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) and Cellular Therapies

Our behavioral health providers help families:

  • Cope with hospitalization.
  • Learn skills to help manage pain.
  • Deal with the stress of medical trauma.
  • Adhere to treatment recommendations.
  • Maintain positive parent-child attachment.
  • Improve daily behaviors such as sleep, play, and appetite.
  • Advance child development, including parent-child attachment and infant mental health.
  • Support parental mental health.
  • Talk with your child's doctors and helping you with decision-making.

Children needing BMT and cellular therapies may include those with:

  • Certain types of cancers.
  • Blood disorders.
  • Immune conditions.
  • Genetic conditions.

If doctors decide to use these treatments, your child and family have access to behavioral health care Many children and families will benefit from behavioral health support to address the stress that comes with having a life-limiting illness.

Behavioral Health Care for Children with Sickle Cell Disease

Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that can affect many systems in the body.

Growing up with sickle cell disease means learning to navigate childhood while also managing a chronic illness.

Bringing behavioral health providers into care from an early age is vital. They can help your child cope with medical processes that may later cause stress and worry when in the hospital.

Behavioral health providers are integral to the sickle cell team at UPMC Children's.

Based on your child's needs, we can provide:

  • Screening tools and testing for behaviors as they relate to chronic illness.
  • Education on the impact of chronic illness on mood and behavior.
  • Brief interventions related to coping with chronic illness and/or pain.
  • Family-based support surrounding stress and coping.
  • Inpatient and outpatient consults.

Sickle cell care paths

There are several care paths at the Sickle Cell Clinic to optimize a child's psychological well-being. Care is not limited to these paths.

Newborn or new sickle cell diagnosis consult

Our behavioral health providers meet with you and your family to:

  • Introduce psychology as a preventive tool and resource for long-term success.
  • Provide support and early discussions to help you cope with your child's sickle cell disease.

School entry

This path focuses on each child's needs as they enter or start schooling, such as:

  • Developmental processes.
  • Access to school resources, including IEPs or 504s.

Coping with sickle cell disease

This model of care:

  • Involves 6 to 8 therapy sessions where children can learn skills to better manage pain or other sickle cell symptoms.
  • Teaches non-drug-pharmacologic coping strategies and stress management through lifestyle changes.

Chronic pain

We tailor this path to each child and their needs. In most cases, it includes monthly clinic visits with the sickle cell team and behavioral health provider.

The goals of this path focus on reducing the need for pain drugs and improving function and mental health.

Learn more about pain in sickle cell disease (PDF).

Transition-age program

Starting at age 12, we start to focus on preparing your child for independently managing their sickle cell disease.

Our behavioral health team works with your child's care team to design a unique transition plan.

The goal is for your child to learn skills for success related to:

  • Their physical and emotional health and well being.
  • Being an advocate for their health care.

Learn more about the Transition-age program (PDF).

Virtual Comfort Ability Program

We offer group therapy through the Virtual Comfort Ability Program (VCAPS).

VCAPS is a partnership between UPMC Children's and Boston Children's Hospital.

This group helps young people ages 10 to 17+ manage chronic or recurring pain and improve their day-to-day life.

Through VCAPS, your child will:

  • Learn how pain functions in the body and techniques to help manage it.
  • Design their own plan to manage pain and pain-related stress.
  • Connect with other kids who have pain.

Parents and caregivers will learn:

  • Methods that promote your child's comfort.
  • How to support a child's improved function at home and school.
  • Where to find more pain management support.

To learn more about VCAPS at UPMC Children's, email