The Whole Child Program at The Guidance Center is dedicated to improving the psychological, behavioral, emotional and social well-being of children, adolescents and young adults with chronic health conditions, medical complexity and special health care needs. The program specializes in assessing and treating the unique emotional and behavioral needs of children and adolescents who are receiving medical treatment for one or more health conditions. In this blog, read an update from Program Manager, Amy Bullock Morse, PsyD.
Each year in the United States, 35 out of 10,000 youth under 21 are diagnosed with diabetes. For some children and adolescents, diabetes treatment can be very challenging. Youth must adjust to daily lifestyle changes that may include, but are not limited to, blood glucose monitoring and insulin injections several times per day, dietary changes, and planned physical activity. Some youth wear monitors to more efficiently manage blood glucose levels and to avoid the negative health and psychological outcomes of hyperglycemia (high blood glucose) and hypoglycemia (low blood glucose). Others use a pump to help with insulin management. Daily management of diabetes treatment impacts the whole family and has been shown to have a significant impact on the mental health of youth. Nationally, 1 in 5 youth experience clinically significant mental health symptoms. Youth with chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes, experience even higher rates of depression and anxiety in comparison to their healthy peers.
The Whole Child is a program offered through The Guidance Center that specializes in the psychosocial care of children and adolescents with complex medical conditions and special healthcare needs. Through a collaborative partnership with Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital, pediatric psychologists and other mental health professionals provide behavioral health assessments and therapy for marginalized youth in the hospital, schools, and community who are receiving treatment for one or more health conditions. In addition, through the generous support of the Larry and Helen Hoag Foundation, The Whole Child recently expanded services to several specialty outpatient clinics to address the rising mental health needs of youth. These services are now available in the Diabetes Clinic in the Outpatient Pediatric Specialty Center at Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital.
Psychosocial support for youth with diabetes begins with education and early identification. The Whole Child uses research-based screening measures to identify mental health symptoms which impact medical treatment. Working in partnership with children, adolescents, and their caregivers, The Whole Child helps to develop an age-appropriate psychosocial care plan. These care plans include identification of a child’s diabetes support network and perceived strengths and weaknesses associated with diabetes management. It is important for youth to identify supportive individuals across social contexts as members of their diabetes support network. It can be just as important to have the support of a caregiver with carbohydrate counting as it is to have a good friend to talk to when a peer suggests that diagnosis could have been avoided through better nutrition. Each care plan is focused on the unique strengths of the child and family and aims to increase confidence in diabetes self-management while also reducing the emotional burden of the disease. In doing so, The Whole Child is better able to support youth as they make incremental changes which improve their mood, treatment adherence, and overall health.
For some youth, the emotional distress associated with diabetes management is overwhelming. A fair number of youth are fearful of needle sticks or may become scared about their blood sugar level going too low. In other cases, youth may develop symptoms of treatment burnout and feel depressed as well as a sense of isolation with their disease. The Whole Child works with youth and their families to recognize these symptoms and offer coping strategies to reduce the distress associated with the burden of disease. Youth who experience symptoms of anxiety and depression associated with diabetes treatment are offered outpatient therapy services through The Whole Child. Through education, behavioral health assessments, and therapy services, The Whole Child works collaboratively with youth, caregivers and medical staff to improve the lives of disadvantaged youth with diabetes.
Amy Bullock Morse is a licensed psychologist who is thrilled to be a new addition to The Guidance Center team. In her role as the Manager of The Whole Child, Dr. Morse oversees pediatric psychology services at Miller Children’s and Women’s Hospital in the inpatient and outpatient pediatric specialty clinics. Through the generous support from the Hoag Foundation, Dr. Morse provides psychology services in select pediatric clinics. Dr. Morse is committed to training and the professional development of psychology students and looks forward to expanding pediatric psychology training opportunities through The Guidance Center.
Dr. Morse was previously a Child Life Specialist and later Program Director at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA before returning to graduate school to pursue a career in pediatric psychology. Dr. Morse received her doctoral degree with dual emphasis in child and health psychology from the American School of Professional Psychology. She specializes in the treatment of children and adolescents with medical and comorbid mental health concerns. Her areas of clinical interest include the treatment of anxiety, depression and treatment nonadherence. Dr. Morse’s clinical research is focused on reducing barriers with access to mental health services. Dr. Morse has presented to local, national and international audiences on topics related to children’s mental health.