Child life specialists and creative arts therapists are healthcare professionals whose work addresses psychosocial issues related to illness and healthcare interactions for infants, children, adolescents, and their families. A child life specialist/creative arts therapist is an expert in child development, who promotes effective coping through play, psychological preparation, and self expression. This clinician provides patient and family-centered interventions to emotionally help the child with medical procedures and hospital visits.
Creative arts therapy, art, music, drama, and dance/movement are distinct health professions that incorporate creative expression of feelings within a therapeutic relationship. Creative arts therapies provide a universal form of communication, which is not limited or restricted by age, language, and cognitive abilities.
Child life and creative arts utilize play and the arts for developmentally appropriate interventions to support coping, decrease stress, and optimize development while pediatric patients are hospitalized or dealing with an illness or injury. These supportive therapeutic services meet the emotional, social, and developmental needs of patients and siblings through a patient and family-centered care approach.
The therapeutic relationship established by child life specialists and creative arts therapists provides consistent support and creative opportunities to resolve any issues of loss, separation, anger, and anxiety related to illness and hospitalization. This relationship promotes healing and comfort.
The therapists focus on pediatric patient’s strengths and resilience. They foster a safe environment in which a child can experience the hospital with mastery and a sense of well being. Child life specialists and creative arts therapists encourage the development of positive coping skills through stress reduction techniques, play, creative arts therapies, and verbal interactions.
At the Joseph M. Sanzari Children’s Hospital, our child life/creative arts therapists provide:
safe and child-friendly playrooms where children and their families can participate in non-medical activities
safe and friendly teen rooms for adolescents
medical play to alleviate fears and clarify misconceptions
psychological preparation for medical procedures
psychosocial education about illness and diagnosis
rehearsal of coping strategies to maximize ability to manage medical experience
accompaniment of child or adolescent at the time of procedures
appropriate non-pharmacological techniques to reduce pain and distress
creative arts interventions to encourage communication, empowerment, and to promote healing
play opportunities to meet and maintain developmental goals
events and special guest visits for optimal hospital experience
group activities for socialization and normalization
ongoing therapeutic relationships with patient and siblings
advanced stage illness support
patient and family-centered care based upon specific needs
Ways to Keep Your Child’s Hospital Experience Positive
Keep Your Child Active
Bring favorite things from home: toys, DVDs, music, etc.
Ask your Child Life Specialist for appropriate activities, so your child can be active and engaged. When possible go to the playroom or teen room for a change in environment.
Provide Developmentally Appropriate Comforting Techniques
Holding and rocking your baby
Speaking in a soft voice
Playing soft music
Soothers that provide sound and light
Picture and sound books
Speaking in a reassuring voice
Holding/touching your child
Electronic game systems
Arts and Crafts
Talking about favorite place or thing
Electronic game systems
Talking about favorite thing or place
Encourage peer support
Be honest about what is happening. Describe what your child will see, hear, and feel. Use developmentally appropriate language to describe the medical experience. The Child Life Specialist will guide you on how and what to say.
Internships are available for undergraduate Child Life students and graduate students in music/art/drama/dance therapy. The interns are able to experience a wide variety of pediatric settings, including the pediatric emergency room, the pediatric intensive care unit, and the inpatient units. Interns receive weekly individual supervision by professionally trained and credentialed staff members. Group supervision is provided weekly, which also includes in-services by staff.
The internship training includes a myriad of clinical experiences within the pediatric units including bedside sessions and playroom activities. Students learn to integrate play, creative expression, emotional support, and education within a patient and family-centered environment.
Internship training opportunities are offered three times a year: January, May/June, and September. Students interested in applying for the child life internship may apply for an interview. A limited number of applicants are invited to interview. An interview does not guarantee placement acceptance. Child Life internships adhere to the schedule set by the Child Life Council.
All interns must be contracted with their educational institution.
To apply for the Child Life/Creative Arts Therapy internship, please contact Stephanie Omens, MA-RDT, CCLS, at 551-996-5342.