Childhood chronic illness is a significant health concern. As medical treatments improve, more children are living longer with chronic illnesses. It has been estimated that 15 to 18% of children in the US are living with a chronic illness. Of these, about half experience a restriction in their ability to participate in typical activities. Medically fragile children and their families experience a wide range of unique stressors, yet many do not have access to quality mental health services. Uniquely tailored psychological services, such as specialized assessments, psychosocial support, more intensive psychotherapy, and consultation with medical teams can have a very positive effect on quality of life for children and their families. In recognition of these positive effects, children’s hospitals and clinics are increasingly working closely with psychologists and other mental health professionals to provide comprehensive services to their patients. The psychology postdoctoral fellowships at CHOC Children’s seek to train psychologists to work effectively with medically fragile children and their families within the context of hospital-based inpatient, clinic, and outpatient services. This is a particularly exciting time to be a part of pediatric psychology as the medical field increasingly understands the critical role of psychological factors in overall health and thus is increasingly involving psychology services into standard health care services. Fellows will apply their knowledge of child development and their skills as a child therapist to children affected by medical illness through a wide variety of experiences, such as inpatient consultation-liaison services to a variety of medical specialty units, more intensive experiences with specific medical specialty teams, and outpatient therapy. In addition to the intensive experiences with children with medical diagnoses, fellows will work with more traditional child outpatient therapy and/or psychological and neuropsychological assessment cases.
In order for the fellow to take a leadership role in program, our fellowships are designed to focus in a primary area. This focus allows fellows opportunities to work with teams over a year long period and to develop mastery of these skills.
Three of the clinical fellowships will primarily work with the CHOC consultation and liaison team with the possibility of working with a specialty team such as oncology program or the eating disorders program, and three of the fellowships will work with our pediatric psychology integrated care co-occurring clinic offering mental health services to children with co-occurring medical and mental health conditions. One fellowship will work with neurology, with a focus on neuropsychological assessment. One fellowship will work with our acute services within the Cherese Mari Laulhere Mental Health Inpatient Center, emergency department, and intensive outpatient program. An additional fellowship with work within our Thompson Autism Center providing assessment and intervention services.
Fellows will coordinate with the respective medical teams throughout the year, participating in clinical work, program development and clinical research activities within the teams. Fellows will see more complex cases and be responsible for further developing clinical services with the medical teams. They will participate in outpatient clinics with the multi-disciplinary medical teams, provide inpatient consultation services to patients followed by the medical team, and potentially submit a poster and/ or write a paper within their area of specialization.
Pediatric Psychology Postdoctoral Fellowship – Clinical Focus (up to 9 positions)
I. Consultation and Liaison Track (1-3 positions):
One to three fellows will work with the consultation and liaison team which provides inpatient consultation to the medical units at CHOC Children’s. Common consults include ruling out psychosomatic causes of medical symptoms, assessing depression and anxiety and providing referrals and/or treatment, teaching children and families non-pharmacologic pain control strategies, neurologic complications, acute stress reactions, and adjusting to a new medical diagnosis. The fellows will work with interdisciplinary psychosocial teams (social workers and child life specialists) as well as with nurses, medical attendings and house staff (medical residents and fellows, medical students), and case managers. Depending on the diagnosis, physical and/or occupational therapists, dietitians, pharmacists, and other specialists might also be involved. Fellows will attend medical rounds on several floors to provide information to medical professionals. The fellow will have the opportunity to run consultation-liaison rounds for pediatric psychology and child and adolescent psychiatry services on a weekly basis. The fellow will also have an opportunity to work closely with the CHOC pediatric intensive care unit (PICU). The PICU team consists of attendings, fellows, medical residents, social work, child life, psychology, nutrition, pharmacists and physical and occupational therapists.
Consultation-liaison fellows also may have the opportunity to work with a specialty program, including our oncology medical team at CHOC Children’s, Orange and our medical stabilization of children or adolescents with eating disorders team at our CHOC Children’s Mission Hospital campus in Mission Viejo. Both teams consist of interdisciplinary team members (which includes physicians, psychologists, social workers, child life specialists, dietitians, teachers, and chaplain) to provide coordinated services to children, adolescents, and their families.
Within the oncology team, fellows will be involved with the new diagnosis program, which includes initial coping assessments of all newly diagnosed patients and their families. After these individualized initial assessments, the fellow will provide ongoing therapeutic services as needed to each child/family (in both medical inpatient and outpatient settings). Therapeutic services include assisting children and families in the initial adjustment to a new cancer diagnosis and facilitating effective coping, helping parents and/or the medical team with behavioral management issues, psychotherapy to address pre-existing or secondary mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety), pain management assistance, and help in dealing with death and dying issues as well as with survivorship issues.
Within the Eating Disorders team, fellows will have the opportunity for an immersive training experience in eating disorders, using a family-based approach. The fellow will be involved in the assessment and delivery of evidence-based services to the patient and family with the goal of assisting with medical rescue and alleviating distress. Fellows will also be instrumental in disposition planning and linking patients and families to additional services and resources upon discharge from the medical stabilization inpatient hospitalization.
In addition to the experiences working with the medical teams described above, the fellow will participate in a range of other pediatric psychology experiences described below in the section, “Activities Common to All Tracks.”
II. Pediatric Psychology Track (3 positions):
Three fellowship positions are within our Pediatric Psychology Chronic Illness Integrated Care Track. One position will focus on outpatient mental health services in the pediatric psychology patient populations with an additional focus with the oncology service. One to two positions will focus on outpatient mental health services with pediatric psychology patient populations and include participation in the general inpatient medical consultation-liaison service. One to two 1-2 positions will focus on outpatient mental health services with pediatric psychology patient populations and consultation in an outpatient medical specialty clinic. All three fellowship positions will work with children and families with a broad range of medical disorders and co-occurring psychological/ psychiatric diagnoses.
The structure of the fellowship allows clinicians to follow families throughout their medical treatment and in a variety of settings. Common diagnoses include diabetes, cancer, cystic fibrosis, pain disorders, headaches, epilepsy and GI conditions. Fellows will work with the medical teams to coordinate psychological services with medical care. The fellows in these positions will provide continuity of care to patients through outpatient visits, medical subspecialty clinics and inpatient stays. Fellows will have the opportunity to work with providers from a variety of disciplines including psychologists, psychiatrists, licensed clinical social workers, physicians, and nurses/case managers. Fellows will also have the opportunity to participate in workshops and evidence-based training provided by Orange County Behavioral Health.
All three fellows will have the opportunity to work with interdisciplinary medical teams and provide pediatric inpatient consultation. Fellows will also have the opportunity to provide outpatient therapy for children with medical illnesses and general mental health conditions.
In addition to the experiences working with medical teams described above, the fellows will also participate in a range of other pediatric psychology experiences described below in the section, “Activities Common to All Tracks.”
III. Pediatric Neuropsychology Track (1 position, 2-year fellowship to meet Division 40 Houston Conference Guidelines, continent on funding):
The fellow in this position will work closely with our board-certified neuropsychologists in performing pediatric neuropsychological assessments, with a focus on pre-surgery epilepsy evaluations, oncology brain tumor and long-term survivorship evaluations, cardiac conditions and metabolic conditions. In addition, the fellow may have the opportunity to participate in a specialized neurology clinic with a focus on concussion, conduct psychological evaluations with patients in our Cherese Mari Laulhere Mental Health Inpatient Center, and provide assessments within the Thompson Autism Center. The fellow will work closely with the neurology, with a focus on patients with epilepsy. CHOC has a Level IV epilepsy program that also conducts epilepsy surgerie, and a busy EEG monitoring program. The fellow in this position will serve as a teaching assistant for the neuropsychological assessment seminar which is a weekly, year-long teaching seminar. Finally, the fellow in this position will participate in a biweekly journal club focused on neuropsychological literature.
In addition to the experiences working with medical teams described above, the fellows will also participate in a range of other pediatric psychology experiences described below in the section, “Activities Common to All Tracks.”
IV. Acute Mental Health Services Track (1 position):
One fellow will work with CHOC Children’s spectrum of acute mental health services over the course of the training year. This fellowship will provide the trainee with the opportunity for an immersive training experience in each of the following three acute mental health settings with multidisciplinary teams: inpatient psychiatric services, emergency room psychiatric evaluations and an intensive outpatient program for adolescents. Presenting problems range from suicidal ideation, suicide attempt, non-suicidal self-injury, psychosis, aggressive behavior/danger to others, altered mental status and severe psychopathology. In each setting, patients and families are experiencing some degree of a mental health crisis and the fellow will deliver evidence-based services to the family with the goal of reducing risk and alleviating distress. Activities in each setting are detailed below. Fellows will participate in a variety of seminars over the course of the training year. Fellows will have the opportunity to practice supervision competencies with predoctoral practicum students and/or interns.
September – December: Cherese Mari Laulhere Mental Health Inpatient Center (MHIC)
The fellow will engage in training opportunities at the Cherese Mari Laulhere Mental Health Inpatient Center with children and adolescents (ages 3-17) experiencing acute psychiatric crises that warrant hospitalization, such as suicidality, non-suicidal self-harm, aggression and psychosis. Clinical training opportunities include following individual cases, co-facilitating DBT-oriented group therapy and conducting brief psychological assessments. Individual cases involve conducting brief, targeted individual and family therapy, safety planning, and discharge planning with the goal of increasing safety and linkage to appropriate aftercare services. Fellow will become proficient in the following areas: developing targeted treatment plans to address acute psychiatric presentation, developing patient- and family-centered aftercare plans, assessing for appropriate level of care post-discharge, working in tandem with psychiatrists and nurses, and conducting psychological testing with children/adolescents presenting with wide range of mental health concerns.
Must be available for multidisciplinary rounds Monday through Friday at 9:30 am when not in conflict with seminars required by psychology training program.
January – April: Mental Health Emergency Service (MHES)
The fellow will engage in a training opportunity with the mental health emergency service with children and adolescents who present to the Julia and George Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital, Orange due to concern for suicidal ideation and all suicide attempts, violent behavior and/or injury to self or others, marked changes in behavior, and psychosis or altered mental status. Training opportunities include conducting mental health evaluations, using evidence-based measures (e.g., Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale [C-SSRS]), using evidence-based crisis intervention (Family Based Crisis Intervention [FBCI]), completing safety and coping planning with patients and families, and linking patients to appropriate services.
Must be available for MHES weekly meeting on Tuesday at 9:00 am when not in conflict with seminars required by psychology training program.
May – August: The Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s
The fellow will engage in training opportunity with the CHOC IOP for high school students. The IOP is an 8-week structured curriculum based on a DBT framework and serves teens experiencing suicidal ideation, non-suicidal self-injury, significant impairments in daily functioning, and/or emotional, behavioral, and interpersonal dysregulation. Teens attend program 4 days per week for 3 hours each afternoon and parents attend two one-hour groups. Fellow will co-facilitate skills groups, lead mindfulness exercises, coach active skill use throughout group programming, conduct individual, family, and parent skills coaching as needed, conduct risk assessments, and complete safety plans. Additionally, the fellow will participate in treatment team and consult team, components of DBT to address patient care, clinician care, and adherence to the DBT model. Fellow will become proficient in the following areas: DBT skills training, functional analysis of self-harm and other risk-related behaviors, use of mindfulness to adaptively regulate emotions in treatment, determine appropriate level of care for high-risk teens, and managing effective self-care to promote clinician well-being and delivery of optimal services.
Must work 10:30am-7:00pm Monday through Friday while on IOP rotation.
Top candidates will have clinical experience with children and adolescents, fluent knowledge of risk and protective factors for suicide in children and adolescents, strong grasp of severe psychopathology as it presents in children and adolescents, and training in fast-paced settings requiring flexible response. Experience with evidence-based therapies is heavily preferred. Training in DBT is not required.
In addition to the experiences described above, the fellows will also participate in a range of other child/adolescent psychology experiences described below in the section, “Activities Common to All Tracks.”
V. Autism Spectrum Disorders Track (1 position):
The autism spectrum disorders fellow at the Thompson Autism Center at CHOC Children’s will gain experience and skills in providing psychodiagnostic assessments and treatment for patients with autism spectrum disorder and other mental health needs. During the assessment rotation, the fellow will conduct psychological assessment and testing for diagnostic purposes, including test administration, scoring, and comprehensive report writing. During the intervention rotation, the fellow will identify preliminary issues for treatment focus, develop treatment plans under supervision, and deliver individual and/or group therapy in multiple settings including the center, the home or community. The fellow will gain experience in providing care to patients and their families in a multidisciplinary setting and will coordinate closely with the medical team and other members of the team (e.g., social work, behavioral analysts, occupational therapist, physical therapists).
Duration: Six months in assessment and six months in intervention.
Activities Common to All Tracks:
The fellows in the co-occurring track will see a larger outpatient caseload (see types of cases described above in the co-occurring clinic description), while the fellows in the acute services, autism and consultation-liaison tracks will see a limited number of child outpatient cases. Fellows within the neuropsychoogy focus on neuropsychological assessment rther than outpatient therapy. The focus will be more on children with medical diagnoses and many cases may be referred from the primary medical team placement (oncology, eating disorders or consultation and liaison). Referrals may include children and families coping with a medical diagnosis, noncompliance with medical treatment recommendations, and pain control. Fellows may also follow children with more traditional outpatient referrals, including depression, attention and behavior problems, anxiety, and family conflict.
Postdoctoral Fellowship Project:
All fellows will have the opportunity to generate a postdoctoral fellowship project that is clinical or research oriented. Projects have included formal research questions, quality improvement initiatives, needs assessments, generation of individual or group manualized treatments, and development of psychoeducational materials. In addition to the core pediatric psychology faculty listed below, many of whom have ongoing programs of clinical research, fellows may have the opportunity to participate in the research activities of the UCI Center on Stress & Health. The UCI Center on Stress & Health is part of the UCI Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Care and the psychology department at CHOC Children’s. The Center on Stress & Health is a collaborative group from diverse areas in medicine, nursing and psychology. Under the direction of Dr. Zeev Kain, and Dr. Michelle Fortier, the center conducts cutting edge research on children’s health with particular interests in medical anxiety and pain. The Center on Stress & Health was first established by Dr. Kain under the name of the Center for the Advancement of Perioperative Health (CAPH) which relocated from Yale University to UCI/CHOC in July 2008. The multidisciplinary research team has a number of ongoing federally funded projects examining perioperative pain and anxiety as well as procedural pain and anxiety.
Upon completion of the postdoctoral fellowship project, fellows will have an opportunity to present their results as presentations, posters or papers within local, regional and national forums.
Behavioral Emergencies On Call:
A distinctive feature of our program is that all trainees receive training in managing behavioral emergencies through the provision of consultation services to the Julie and Geoprge Argyros Emergency Department at CHOC Children’s Hospital, Orange and hospital inpatient medical units. Interns and postdoctoral fellows rotate taking after-hours call throughout the year for high-risk consults. Trainees are always paired with a faculty member for this coverage. High-risk consults include assessment of suicide risk or acute mental status changes. Trainees will conduct a brief clinical interview, provide crisis intervention and immediate disposition plans for the suicidal patient, the potentially aggressive patient, and the psychotic patient. The postdoctoral fellows will participate in no more than 10 weeks of call per year.
Postdoctoral fellows will be provided with an opportunity to supervise interns and/or practicum students. Training in the provision of supervision will be provided. Supervision and responsibility for the patients will ultimately be the responsibility of a licensed clinical psychologist on staff. Depending on the specialty track, fellows will either supervise therapy cases, assessments, or inpatient consult cases.
Fellows receive a combination of individual and group supervision (a minimum of four hours) per week. Supervision occurs on an individual basis, during group rounds, within clinic settings and within the training program seminars. All supervision is performed by departmental staff who meet the California Board of Psychology requirements and CHOC Children’s Medical Staff qualifications.
Fellows are offered at least two hours of individual supervision per week for ongoing therapy cases and rotational experiences. Supervision of consults is handled with both individual supervision and via group supervision (rounds). Rounds are co-led by a board-certified child and adolescent psychiatrist or pediatrician and a licensed psychologist. The amount and frequency of this supervision will vary depending on the complexity and number of consults received. Typically, consultation supervision occurs for one to two hours weekly. Additionally, consultation services are often provided using co-therapy, especially for high-risk and complex consults. Therefore, fellows are able to observe their supervisors providing psychological services. They are also able to do co-therapy and receive immediate feedback based on direct observation of clinical skills. Supervision is also provided informally during medical rounds. Fellows will be assigned one outpatient therapy or assessment supervisor who will work with them throughout the year on long-term outpatient therapy cases.
Training Program Seminars
Postdoctoral Fellow Seminar (weekly, year-long)
Professional Practice Seminar (weekly, year-long): includes diversity, ethics and supervision seminars
Pediatric Psychology Seminar (occurs weekly, fellows serve as a teaching assistants and assist in coordinating the seminar and fellows rotate attending the seminar throughout the year, attend at least 5 weekly sessions to address any training gaps and all trainee presentations)
Advanced Neuropsychology Seminar (weekly, year-long): required for neurology fellow, optional for other fellows
Neuropsychology Seminar (occurs weekly,the neurology fellow would serve as a teaching assistant, other fellows may attend any sessions to address any training gaps)
Pediatrics Grand Rounds (weekly)
Hematology Teaching Rounds (monthly)
Content of required seminars is biased in the direction of material needed for CHOC clinical activities. A didactic element is included in all seminars. Professional issues are addressed throughout the training year. Outside speakers with a particular area of expertise are invited to present several of the seminars. Trainees may also attend the CHOC Grand Rounds as time permits.
Postdoctoral Fellowship Seminar:
This seminar is held weekly throughout the year. The seminar focuses on professional development and also provides training in supervision. The seminar is informal in nature and covers topics relevant to your own training interests and needs.
Professional Practice Seminar:
This seminar consists of three main topic areas; diversity, ethics and supervision. It is designed to focus on learning and application to your clinical work that supports increased competency in these three areas. The diversity series within the seminar are interactive in nature and consists of self-exploration activities, exploration of the surrounding community (through research and an experiential activity), presentations from professionals as well as trainee case presentations. While we expect diversity awareness to permeate all of your work throughout the year, this seminar is designed to help you develop your model of learning and practice. (Coordinator: Mery Taylor, Ph.D.) The ethics series within the seminar focus on cases in medical settings that bring a multitude of ethical challenges, which can be complex and difficult to identify a clear path forward. In this seminar, faculty present cases they have worked on that have presented ethical challenges. In these interactive presentations, faculty and interns discuss systems and strategies to assess ethical dilemmas and determine courses of action. (Coordinator: Julie Moghal, Ph.D.) The supervision series within the seminar are focused on models and theories of supervision, roles of the supervisor and setting up supervisory relationships, assessing supervisee competency, and providing feedback, including evaluative feedback. (Coordinator: Marni Nagel, Ph.D.).
Pediatric Psychology Seminar:
This weekly seminar focuses on topics relevant to the practice of pediatric psychology. Presenters include physicians and other medical staff as well as psychologists experienced in particular areas. Topics include medical treatments for common medical problems, as well as psychological problems associated with those disorders. Special topics include issues such as pain control, acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicine, helping children and families cope with death and dying, feeding issues, etc. Postdoctoral fellows serve as teaching assistants for this seminar and help to coordinate the seminar. They alternate attending the seminar throughout the year and all fellows attend all trainee presentations at the end of the year.
Neuropsychological Assessment Seminar:
This weekly seminar focuses initially on learning assessment instruments commonly used at CHOC. From there the seminar reviews the areas of function assessed in the neuropsychological evaluation, and then focuses on specific illnesses and disorders that are typically seen at CHOC, including epilepsy, traumatic brain injuries and infant and developmental problems. The fellows may select to attend seminars with topics that address specific training needs.
Postdoctoral fellows make formal case presentations in the pediatric psychology seminar (one therapy case), as well as more information presentations/consultations in multicultural seminar (case presentation), postdoctoral fellowship seminar (supervision consultation), ethics (case presentation) and Chispa (case consultation).
Training Opportunities for Spanish-Speaking Fellows:
Our fellowship is dedicated to providing training opportunities for fellows who speak Spanish. These experiences include the ability to conduct evaluations, consultations and treatment in Spanish.
Fellows who speak Spanish also have the opportunity to participate in a monthly seminary, CHiSPA, led by several bilingual faculty and staff members. The seminar is designed to help increase skills in and comfort with conducting psychological interventions and assessments in Spanish. Activities include working on psychological vocabulary, practice in discussing cases, case conceptualizations in Spanish, and cultural modifications of interventions for Spanish-speaking populations. The goal of the seminar is to provide support and build on participants’ individual strengths. You will attend seminar monthly and have individual supervision in Spanish with a Spanish-speaking faculty member.
We currently have six full-time, licensed psychologists (Dr. Mery Taylor, Dr. Carlos Konishi, Dr. Adrienne Alpern, Dr. Wendy Gray, Dr. Micaela Thordarson, Dr. Katelyn Anderson), nine full-time social workers and one part-time licensed psychologist (Dr. Elisa Corrales) who are bilingual in Spanish.