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Pediatric Health Psychology

In the Pediatric Health Psychology Service, we work with children and adolescents with acute and chronic medical difficulties by helping them cope with the assessment or treatment of illness. 

How we help

Youth are referred to us for a number of different reasons, including preparing for medical procedures or examinations, taking medication, and adhering to complex daily regimens. We also work with youth with medical problems for which the treatment involves behavioural changes, as in the case of enuresis (daytime urine accidents and bedwetting) and constipation. We also help to support youth with the broader aspects of coping with illness, such as managing symptoms and coping with limitations related to a medical condition. We use evidence-based approaches, which means that the strategies we discuss have been shown to be beneficial through research. We most often work with both the youth and their caregivers, sometimes together and sometimes independently.

What to expect

Children and adolescents can be referred directly to Pediatric Health Psychology by their health care provider.  Once we receive a referral, you'll be contacted (by letter or phone) to schedule a 30-minute intake call with one of our clinicians. The purposes of the call are to confirm that you're in agreement with the referral, to determine that Pediatric Health Psychology service is the best service to meet your treatment goals, and to obtain information that would be helpful for treatment planning. In some cases, we may be able to share resources that would be useful while you’re waiting for an appointment, or information about other services that may also be able to meet your needs. Please note that we'll make every effort to schedule your child as soon as possible, but in some cases, it may take several months before an appointment can be scheduled. At this time, we are able to offer appointments virtually and in person (IWK Health on University Avenue, Halifax). When families are travelling long distances to Halifax, we make every effort to coordinate appointments with other clinic visits.  

Outpatient visits take place on the 4th floor of the Link Building (Green Elevators). Please come 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time to register. We make every effort to start appointments at their scheduled time, so most families experience no wait or a minimal wait. There’s a waiting room with a television, and an assortment of children’s DVDs, but no toys—you’re welcome to bring toys or books of your own.   

Please bring your child’s health card and your appointment letter along with you to your appointment.
An initial outpatient appointment is usually 60-90 minutes long. We make every effort to provide an inclusive environment. We focus on a thorough assessment of the difficulties the child or youth is experiencing, and on coming up with a treatment plan. Youth and their caregivers will be asked a lot of questions, and may be asked to complete a questionnaire. Youth and their caregivers have the option to meet separately. By the end of the appointment, the psychology team member and family will discuss a plan for follow-up, if needed. Subsequent visits are typically 60 minutes long, although appointments can vary in length depending on each youth’s specific needs.

Who you’ll meet

At your visit, you will meet with a psychologist, a psychology practicum student, a psychology resident, or a combination of these individuals.  

Dr. Joanne Gillespie, Dr. Elizabeth McLaughlin, and Dr. Ena Vukatana are all Registered Psychologists. They each have a PhD in Clinical Psychology and specific training and experience working with children and youth with a variety of medical challenges. They also have experience working with children and youth with developmental challenges surrounding aspects of coping with medical issues. 

Residents and PhD students
A PhD student in Clinical Psychology or a Pre-doctoral Resident in Clinical Psychology working under the supervision of a psychologist, may also participate in your appointment—either together with the psychologist or on their own. Please contact the clinic in advance of your appointment if you have any questions or concerns about having a student or resident participate in your appointment.

Administrative Support
Mary Lynn Lalonde is the Administrative Assistant for the Pediatric Health Psychology Service. She will arrange your appointment time and may be able to answer any questions that you have in advance of your appointment. Please contact Ms. Lalonde at 902-470-8406 if you need to change or cancel your appointment.

Accessing this Clinic, Program or Service

Link Building - IWK Health Centre

The Pediatric Health Psychology Service is located on the 4th floor of the IWK Health Link Building. Take the Green Elevators (Link Building) up to the 4th floor. The registration desk and waiting room are located close to the elevators. 

5850/5980 University Avenue
Halifax, Nova Scotia