Counseling for Children with Chronic Health Conditions

Having a child with a chronic health condition can be very difficult. The condition impacts all areas of your family and your child's life.

It is important to support the child’s emotional and behavioral needs, as well as the needs of your family. Counseling services can be a valuable part of your child’s treatment plan.

Why seek counseling or therapy?

There is no standard approach to working with an ill child and his/her family. We will work in partnership with you, your child, and family members to respond to your needs. All counseling services are confidential. We discuss with others only with your consent or in situations required by law. We map out the focus for the counseling at the first session.

Counselors and psychotherapists can help families:

  • Assess the needs of your family in meeting the challenges of the health condition
  • Assess and treat academic difficulties
  • Consult with your child's doctors and help with communication
  • Consult with your child’s school to help with educational planning
  • Deal with pain your child may experience
  • Develop coping skills, which are how people think, behave, and feel when reacting to stress. We can work with you and your family to develop healthy coping strategies.
  • Enhance communication skills. The counselor can help family members talk to one another, to friends, and to employers about chronic health conditions.
  • Facilitate social support and skills. Remember that your counselor can offer ongoing support throughout the course of the condition as needs and adjustments change.
  • Promote positive family interaction to ensure healthy relationships and reinforce family strengths
  • Treat emotional, behavioral, or social difficulties

Possible adjustment difficulties

Every situation is different, but there are similarities in how people respond when facing the stressors of a chronic health condition.

Adjustment difficulties commonly observed in children with chronic health conditions and in their parents and siblings include the following:

  • Behavior difficulties: Temper outbursts, aggressive/delinquent behavior, refusal to comply with procedures or taking of medication, difficulty concentrating, change in activity or energy level
  • Disturbance of mood: Feelings of anxiety or fear, sadness and depression, hopelessness, irritation, anger, disinterest or lack of pleasure in activities formerly of interest, emptiness, guilt
  • Family issues: Increased strain in relationships, different perceptions of issues, blame, communication difficulties
  • Parent issues: Time-management difficulties, financial worries, marital stress, guilt, self-blame and/or blame of others, discipline problems
  • Physical issues: Changes in eating, sleep disturbance, stomachaches or headaches, tiredness, overactivity
  • School: Academic problems, change in school performance
  • Self-esteem issues: Sense of being different, low self-confidence
  • Social issues: Decreased interest in peers, increased isolation from peers, increased feelings of not being able to "connect" with people
  • Work: Change in job performance

Guidelines for seeking support

Tips to keep in mind when looking for counseling or therapy

  • Support can be sought at any time. You do not need to wait for a crisis.
  • Everyone is better served when support is sought sooner rather than later.
  • You may experience the need for support at some times and not at other times. This is an ever-changing process. Aspects of the situation will influence what families need and how they adapt.

Parents and caregivers should seek support when

  • You feel in need of more support
  • You wonder if you and your family are adjusting as well as you feel you should be or could be
  • You want to build on your existing strengths and resources
  • You are experiencing a specific problem
  • There is a change in the emotional, behavioral, or social functioning in your child or a family member