Psychosocial Services & Support
Psychology: Therapeutic Approaches
The psychosocial team at Winthrop’s Cancer Center for Kids fosters a sense of hope and healing through a variety of fun, after-hours activities and therapeutic programs for patients and their families.
Psychotherapy, Assessment & Initial Treatment
The psychologist works very closely with the medical staff to create specific therapeutic and supportive interventions for each patient and his/her family. Individualized treatment plans, created at the time of diagnosis, are designed to address specific needs in an environment of comfort and hope. These usually involve conversation and play at the Center, the patient’s bedside, or in the hospital playroom. Social workers, child life specialists and psychologists employ storytelling, guided imagery, “medical play,” hypnotic suggestions, relaxation techniques, and supportive therapy in an effort to comfort and empower patient and family.
Testing and Academic Services
Neuropsychological Evaluations, Psycho-educational and Personality Testing, and School Advocacy are offered by the Center’s psychologist to map present and future concerns that may arise in the home, school, or work environment. Tests are intended to achieve a baseline for each child’s cognitive, memory or learning skills; they can be administered at school re-entry and maintenance levels, and once the child is off-treatment for two years. Testing, reporting, and feedback, are provided.
In a collaborative effort with psychology and child life, Social Work at the Cancer Center for Kids provides the following services to patients and families faced with social, emotional, and financial difficulties:
- Psychosocial assessment, casework, community organization methodologies, therapeutic interventions, and counseling and support services to help integrate the medical, social, emotional and family dynamics of the disease/treatment into the current context of each individual’s life situation – and to empower patients and families throughout the continuum of cancer therapy.
- Collaboration and consultation with schools, parent groups, professional and financial institutions regarding childhood cancer and its impact on patients and families.
- Advocacy for patients and families to obtain appropriate internal and external services, including knowledge and compliance with Social Services Department policies.
- Coordination of academic services for children requiring prolonged hospitalizations.
The Child Life Program has expanded dramatically as the Center continues to address the psychosocial issues accompanying healthcare situations unique to pediatric cancer patients.
Child Life therapy interventions and coping techniques such as medical play, distraction techniques, relaxation and visualization, offer children a great sense of familiarity, understanding and emotional mastery of a potentially threatening and frightening situation. Age-appropriate education and therapeutic play are essential for young children who may be unable to communicate their feelings through words and dialogue.
Art instruction offered by a professional graphic designer, and horticultural therapy provided by a licensed horticultural therapist help relieve anxiety and frustration, and children are able to take away their own art work or potted plant.
Creative Arts/Music Therapy
Creative Arts/Music Therapy promotes the physical and emotional well-being of patients through the universal languages of music, art, dance/movement, and drama/play therapy. It introduces laughter, hope, and joy into a difficult experience. Led by our licensed Creative Arts/Music Therapist, the program promotes the integration of physical, emotional, cognitive, and social functioning.
The program’s objectives include:
- Reducing physical and emotional stress.
- Enhancing coping mechanisms during invasive medical procedures.
- Sparking a child’s imagination, promoting self-expression and creative play.
- Providing an environment in which fears can be dealt with metaphorically.
A professional music video has been created and produced by our patients reflecting their cancer journey.
Programs and Support Groups
The Center’s program and support group objectives are as varied as our patients and their individual needs and situations. Our services—facilitated by the psychosocial team—normalize feelings about diagnosis and care; help patients address fears about upcoming treatments, procedures, relapse, school re-entry, and end of treatment and palliative care issues; and offer outreach and support to family and community.
Project SOAR (School re-entry and Ongoing Academic Resources): School is a world that belongs to children. When cancer takes them away from that world, CCFK’s skilled psychosocial team shepherds its patients on their journey back to the classroom with compassionate care and a collaborative approach to healing. Project SOAR, funded by the Michael Magro Foundation, is designed to increase each child's chances for a successful academic experience during treatment for his or her disease, and for years after treatment has ended. For children to thrive in the classroom, they not only need a smooth transition or "re-entry," but they often require ongoing assistance, sometimes through their college years. Project SOAR nurtures the pediatric cancer patient, the family, and the academic community, empowering the success of their collaborative efforts.
SOAR team members include a:
- Pediatric Hematologist/Oncologist
- Pediatric Psychologist
- Pediatric Oncology Nurse Coordinator
- Pediatric Oncology Nurse Practitioner
- Clinical Social Worker
- Child Life Specialist
- Educational Consultant and Patient Advocate
Kids Club, which is co-facilitated by the Center’s Social Worker and Child Life Specialist, is open to patients ages 9-16, whether they are on or off active treatment. The Club meets monthly for an evening of sharing and laughter, art, cooking, trips to Broadway shows, and other events that foster creative expression. The Club’s goal is to normalize feelings related to diagnosis and/or treatment. It also provides a fun outlet for teens to participate comfortably in peer activities and strengthen their social skills.
Powerful Me focuses on self-care--mind, spirit and body--and optimizes health for young women undergoing cancer treatment, cancer survivors, and their mothers. Scheduled to be offered four times a year, program components include: women’s health, yoga, nutritional counseling, and exercise as well as educational resources, massage therapy, and skin care treatment to enhance health, appearance and self-esteem.
Off-Treatment Program: Successfully completing cancer treatment can be a time of celebration as well as stress. Patients and their families in this group are invited to join structured family therapy sessions which help all family members honor the illness that has just ended and find ways to “put it in its place.”
Family Support Group meets monthly for a group dinner followed by break-out sessions with the Center’s psychosocial team. Children enjoy crafts, music, and other activities while parents meet separately to share their feelings of fear, sadness, anger, and hope.
Bereavement Groups are facilitated by the psychologist--at the Center and in the home--when the prognosis for recovery is so remote that the patient and family must face the fading belief in a physical cure. At this stage, therapy about difficult, end-of-life decisions is offered on a continuing basis, and parents and siblings are encouraged to share stories of their loved one during happier times.
Parent-to-Parent Outreach Support Groups reach out to newly diagnosed families who are in search of straight talk from veteran “off-treatment” families.
Music Appreciation Program (MAP) helps cancer patients and children with hematologic disorders, ages 3-16, ‘map’ their course to health and well-being through the healing power of compassionate care in an environment where music and camaraderie are encouraged.
Teen Support Group, is run in collaboration with the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, and provides an emotional and social support community for all of Long Island’s teens and young adults with cancer. It is an essential complement to our medical care, offering networking and support groups, workshops for young adults, ages 14-20, who have been diagnosed with cancer, whether or not they are on active treatment.
Groups and Lecture Series Organized on an “As-Needed” Basis
These wonderful programs, created on an ad-hoc basis, speak to the individualized, compassionate care which is the Center’s hallmark.
Been There, Done That, a lecture series for current patients and their families, led by pediatric cancer survivors, joyfully affirms that there is life after cancer treatment.
Caretaking the Caretaker incorporates relaxation and deep breathing exercises with various gentle movements to help parents develop a sense of well-being and connect with those who are going through similar experiences.
Mothers of Maintenance Support Groups are tailored to mothers of children in the “maintenance” or middle phase of treatment, and incorporates medical education with relaxation techniques and psychological support within a six-week timeframe.
Grandparent Support Groups reach out to grandparents in need of psychological comfort and support.
Sibling Support Groups, organized by age and gender, are made available when brothers and sisters of pediatric oncology patients need an opportunity to express fears, concerns, and frustrations with the changes cancer has made in their families.
Off-Treatment Parent Support Groups address parental concerns when a child’s treatment has ended, and emphasize the joy of living life without cancer.
Community Outreach is provided by the psychosocial team to schools, churches, PTA groups and mental health associations across Long Island and in Queens.