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Children with physical illness face all the medical challenges of their condition as well as the psychological trials that may arise as they cope with their illness. There may be emotional bumps during the child's many developmental stages for both the child and family.

Our Pediatric Behavioral Health Specialists are available to help children and families cope with the emotional and behavioral aspects of a child's physical illness.

Areas of Service:

  • Psychiatric Testing & Evaluation
  • Neuropsychological Evaluation
  • Medication Management
  • Individual Therapy

Specialties:

  • Residential Care (Adolescent and Latency Age)
    This 28-bed unit serves adolescents (14-18) and latency (6-14) ages with serious emotional, psychiatric, chemical dependency, and dual diagnosis disorders. The program includes accredited academic setting; group, individual and family therapy, recreation therapy, parent education and medication management.
  • Chemical Dependency Treatment
    We offer residential short-term and long-term treatment for substance abuse and detoxification. Outpatient and partial hospitalization/day treatment services are also available.
  • Day Treatment Services
    Serves adolescents (14-18) and latency (6-14) ages with serious emotional, psychiatric, chemical dependency, and dual diagnosis disorders. The program includes accredited academic setting; group, individual and family therapy, recreation therapy, parent education and medication management in a less restrictive setting Monday through Friday, from 8 am - 5 pm.
  • Outpatient Care
    This multidisciplinary outpatient clinic serves children ages 3-18 with a wide range of services Monday through Friday from 8 am - 8 pm. Intake evaluation, medication management, individual therapy, psychological testing and psycho-educational assessments are provided.
  • Specialty Outpatient Care for Patients with Co-Occurring Medical Illness
    This multidisciplinary outpatient clinic serves children ages 3-18 who are medically complex and have behavioral health-related issues. Services are provided Monday through Friday from 8 am - 8 pm. Intake evaluations, medication management, individual therapy, psychological and neuropsychological testing, and psycho-educational assessments are provided.
  • Eating Disorder Program
    Serves both adolescents and latency ages with eating disorders. Program offered in residential, inpatient and outpatient settings.

Examples of Care

Even in adults, it takes maturity, patience, and solid self-esteem to manage a physical illness or condition.  Children with physical illness often develop these characteristics at amazingly young ages. 

Every member of the family, however, may need help coping with challenges at times.  Our specialists provide support during these times of adjustment for the child and the family during the child’s short or long-term illness. 

Examples of support include:

  • At what age is a child with diabetes or PKU old enough to understand what he can and can’t eat?
  • How does a parent set boundaries and discipline a child who may not survive to be an adult?
  • How does a teenager with an organ transplant cope with the round face and thick hair growth from steroids?
  • How does the teen with diabetes balance medical compliance with peer pressure and the need to blend in?
  • At what age does the parent begin to step back and allow the child to be responsible for his own health decisions and consequences?
  • How can the child adjust emotionally to physical loss of a limb, of mobility, of mental capacity?
  • How can a parent handle guilt that may arise from realizing the child’s problems are the result of the parent’s genes?

Behavior Changes

A change in behavior may be one of the first signs of illness in a newborn. It's normal for a baby's activity, appetite, and cries to vary from day to day, even hour to hour. But a distinct change in any of these areas may signal illness.

Generally, if your baby is alert and active when awake, is feeding well, and can be comforted when crying, occasional differences in these areas are normal. Consult your baby's healthcare provider if you are worried about your baby's behavior. Some changes may mean an illness is present.

Listlessness or lethargy

Lethargic or listless babies appear to have little or no energy. They are drowsy or sluggish. They may also sleep longer than usual. They may be hard to wake for feedings and even when awake, are not alert or attentive to sounds and visual cues. Sometimes, this can develop slowly and a parent may not notice the gradual change. Lethargy may be a sign of infection or other condition, such as low sugar (blood glucose). Ask your baby's healthcare provider if your baby becomes lethargic or has a change in activity level.

Poor feeding

Some babies have trouble feeding due to a sucking problem. This may show up when a baby starts out at birth with a strong, vigorous suck and over time becomes less effective at feedings. Or it may show up when a baby starts out with a weak suck and does not eat effectively. This is especially common if he or she was born prematurely. Babies with a weak suck may not pull strongly or have a good latch while breastfeeding. You may not hear your baby swallowing or gulping during feedings. Your breasts may not feel full right before a feeding or you may not notice your breasts getting softer (emptying) after a feeding. If' you notice your baby is unable to empty the breast effectively or suck at the bottle effectively, or if feedings take longer than 30 minutes, you should ask your baby's healthcare provider.

  • After the first day or so, most newborns are ready to eat every 2 to 4 hours. They will show signs of hunger by sucking on fingers or a hand, crying, and making rooting motions. A sick baby may refuse feedings. A baby who sleeps continuously and shows little interest in feeding may be ill.

  • Spitting up and dribbling milk with burps or after feedings is fairly common in newborns. This is because the sphincter muscle is weak and immature. The sphincter muscle is between the stomach and the tube from the mouth to the stomach (the esophagus). However, forceful or projectile vomiting, or spitting up large amounts of milk after most feedings, can indicate a problem. Formula-fed babies may vomit after overfeeding, or because of an intolerance to formula. In breastfed or formula-fed babies, a physical condition that prevents normal digestion may cause vomiting. Discolored or green-tinged vomit may mean the baby has a blocked intestine.

  • Weight loss up to about 10% of birthweight is normal in the first 2 to 3 days after birth. However, the baby should reach his or her birthweight by 10 or 11 days old. Signs a baby is not gaining weight may include a thin, drawn face, loose skin, and fewer wet or soiled diapers. Newborns should have at least 3 wet diapers a day. By 1 week of age a baby should have at least 5 wet diapers a day. Most healthcare providers want to see a newborn in the office at the end of the first week to check his or her weight. Lack of weight gain or continued weight loss in a young baby may be a sign of illness or other conditions that need to be treated.

Feeding problems can be a sign of other conditions and may lead to serious illness if untreated. Consult your baby's healthcare provider if your baby has any trouble taking or digesting feedings.

Persistent crying or irritability

All babies cry. This is their only way of communicating their needs to you. Babies also develop different types of cries for different needs, including:

  • Hunger

  • Sleepiness

  • Loneliness

  • Needing a diaper change

  • Pain

At first, parents may not know how to interpret cries. But they usually can comfort their baby by meeting those needs. However, a baby who is always fretful and fussy, or cries for long periods, may be ill. Also, a baby may be very irritable if he or she is hurting. Jitteriness or trembling may also be signs of illness. Colic is crying that starts around 2 weeks of age, occurs in spells, lasts for a total of 2 to 3 or more hours daily, several times a week, and is difficult to stop. There are many theories and plenty of expert opinions, but no one is really sure about the causes of colic.


Check your baby carefully to make sure there isn’t a physical problem, such as clothing pinching the baby, or a diaper pin sticking the baby. There may be a thread or even a hair tightly wound on a finger or toe. Look at your baby's belly for signs of swelling. Check to make sure your baby isn't too warm or cool. Call your baby's healthcare provider promptly if your baby is crying for longer than usual or has other signs of illness.

Laura M. Bennett-Murphy, Ph.D.

Dr. Laura Murphy received her Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Duke University and completed a Pediatric Psychology fellowship at Ohio State University. She recently joined the Division of Pediatric Psychiatry and Behavioral Health and is an Associate Professor on the clinical track. Dr. Murphy’s primary clinical care focus is medically ill chil... Read More

Specialties:

Clinical Psychology, Pediatric Behavioral Health, Pediatric Medical Psychology

Locations:

Eccles Primary Children’s Outpatient Services Building (801) 313-7711
Primary Children's Hospital (801) 313-7711

Celestia H. Buckley, Psy.D.

Dr. Celestia Buckley received her Psy.D. in Clinical Psychology from the School of Professional Psychology at Wright State University where she also completed  her internship at Dayton Children's Hospital and Wright  State University  Counseling and Wellness Services. She completed a postdoctoral fellowship at Primary Children's Hospital where she ... Read More

Deirdre A. Caplin, Ph.D., M.S.

Deirdre Caplin, MS, PhD received her Master’s Degree in Rehabilitation Counseling from Purdue University School of Science, her PhD in Clinical Child Psychology from Ohio University, and her clinical internship in Pediatric Psychology at the University of Louisville Medical Center. She has been with the Department of Pediatrics since 2001 and join... Read More

Specialties:

Pediatric Behavioral Health, Pediatric Medical Psychology, Psychology, Clinical

Locations:

Eccles Primary Children’s Outpatient Services Building (801) 313-7711
Primary Children's Hospital (801) 313-7711

Specialties:

Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Behavioral Health

Locations:

Eccles Primary Children’s Outpatient Services Building (801) 313-7711
Primary Children's Hospital (801) 313-7711

John B. Fulton, Ph.D., ABPP-CN

John B. Fulton, Ph.D., ABPP/CN is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine.  Dr. Fulton completed a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology from Brigham Young University, where he completed specialty training tracks in both Clinical Neuropsychology and Child, Adolescent, and Family Psychology.  Dr. Fulton completed a p... Read More

Lisa L. Giles, M.D.

Lisa L. Giles, M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry at the University Of Utah School Of Medicine. Dr. Giles graduated from the University of Utah with a degree in chemistry and subsequently received her medical degree from the University Of Utah School Of Medicine. She completed a combined residency in Pediatrics, Adult Psy... Read More

Specialties:

Pediatric Behavioral Health, Psychiatry, Child & Adolescent

Locations:

Eccles Primary Children’s Outpatient Services Building (801) 313-7711
Primary Children's Hospital (801) 313-7711

D. Richard Martini, M.D.

D. Richard Martini, M.D. is Division Chief , Behavioral Health, Department of Pediatrics, University of Utah School of Medicine. He is also Director, Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health, Primary Children’s Medical Center. Dr. Martini graduated from John Hopkins University and received his medical degree from the University of Pittsburgh... Read More

Specialties:

Child & Adolescent Behavioral Health, Pediatric Behavioral Health, Psychiatry, Child & Adolescent

Locations:

Eccles Primary Children’s Outpatient Services Building (801) 313-7711
Primary Children's Hospital (801) 313-7711
Primary Children's at Wasatch Canyons Campus (801) 313-7711

Debra V. McQuade, M.D., Ph.D.

Debra V. McQuade, Ph.D., M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine, a member of the Division of Behavioral  Health and Pediatric Psychiatry.Dr. McQuade graduated from Albertus Magnus College; she attended the University of Connecticut in Storrs, CT, receiving a Ph.D. in Developmental  Psychology.  Lat... Read More

Specialties:

Pediatric Behavioral Health

Locations:

Primary Children's Hospital (801) 313-7711

Matthew R. Meek, M.D.

Matthew R. Meek, M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the University of Utah School of Medicine.Dr. Meek graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology.  He received his medical degree from The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus, Ohio.   Dr. Meek completed combined residency training in Ped... Read More

Specialties:

Pediatric Behavioral Health

Locations:

Primary Children's Hospital (801) 313-7711

Jodi Morstein, Ph.D., APRN

Dr. Morstein graduated from Oral Roberts University with a B.S. in nursing and received her MS with an emphasis on child psychiatric nursing from the University Of Oklahoma School of Nursing and her PhD in nursing from Oregon Health Sciences University . Dr. Morstein currently works as a Psychiatric Advanced Practice Registered Nurse at Primary... Read More

Specialties:

Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Behavioral Health

Locations:

Primary Children's at Wasatch Canyons Campus (801) 313-7711

Christopher C. Rich, M.D.

Chris Rich, M.D. is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the University Of Utah School Of Medicine. Dr. Rich graduated from the University of Utah with a B.A. in German and received his medical degree from the University Of Utah School Of Medicine. He completed his adult psychiatric residency at UC San Diego and his Fellowship in Child and Ad... Read More

Specialties:

Pediatric Behavioral Health, Psychiatry, Child & Adolescent

Locations:

Eccles Primary Children’s Outpatient Services Building (801) 313-7711
Primary Children's Hospital (801) 313-7711
Primary Children's at Wasatch Canyons Campus (801) 313-7711

Jessica M. Robnett, Psy.D.

Dr. Jessica Robnett received her PsyD in Clinical Psychology from the Georgia School of Professional Psychology at Argosy University with practicum training at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta. She completed her internship at Miami Children's Hospital and postdoctoral fellowship at Primary Children's Hospital, specializing in Pediatric Psychology.D... Read More

Specialties:

Pediatric Behavioral Health

Locations:

Primary Children's Hospital (801) 662-5594

Kyle M. Smith, M.D.

Kyle M. Smith, M.D. is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the University of Utah School of Medicine.Dr. Smith obtained a bachelor's degree in psychology from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. He subsequently received his medical degree from the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska. He completed a combined res... Read More

Specialties:

Pediatric Behavioral Health, Psychiatry, Child & Adolescent

Locations:

Primary Children's Hospital (801) 313-7711
Primary Children's at Wasatch Canyons Campus (801) 313-7711
Inpatient
Primary Children's Hospital (PCH)
100 North Mario Capecchi Dr.
Salt Lake City, UT 84113
Map
Appointments
(801) 313-7711
Outpatient
Eccles Primary Children's Outpatient Services
81 N. Mario Capecchi Dr.
Salt Lake City, UT 84113
Map
Appointments
(801) 313-7711
PCH's Wasatch Canyon Campus 5770 South 1500 West
Taylorsville, UT 84123
Appointments
(801) 313-7711