Amanda Suplee stands in front of pediatric psychology unit

This story first appeared in the Spring 2024 edition of Leaps & Bounds.

Pediatric Psychologist, Amanda Suplee, PhD, specializes in treating hospitalized children facing psychological concerns like anxiety and depression. Her expertise extends to working with children with diabetes, solid organ transplants, chronic pain, and conducting neurodevelopmental evaluations.

Suplee emphasizes the importance of parents listening to and observing their children for signs of mental distress, because they don’t always have the language to tell parents what’s wrong. She advocates for early intervention and the normalization of seeking mental health support, whether with their child’s school counselor, pediatrician, or a psychologist.

One of the most important tools psychologists use is validation, acknowledging children’s feelings and educating them about common emotional responses to help them feel less alone.

She measures treatment success not only by immediate behavioral changes in children but also in the eventual independence from psychological support.

“The long-term goal is for a child to have learned and use strategies to manage situations that previously made them stressed without my continued support,” Suplee said.

The COVID-19 pandemic brought unprecedented challenges to the field, notably the surge in anxiety and depression among children. She says the rates of anxiety and depression are two to three times more than before the pandemic, and more research is still needed to understand the full effect the pandemic had on mental health. “I believe we will see the effects of the pandemic for many years,” Suplee says. She adapted to these changes by offering virtual therapy sessions and getting creative by doing play therapy and art through a screen.

Suplee found her calling while volunteering at Loma Linda University Children's Hospital as a college student. "Visiting the children in the hospital was such a rewarding experience. Even in my short interactions, I felt like I was making a difference," Suplee says.

Later, she knew she wanted to work in a children's hospital and focused her education on a clinical doctorate.

In graduate school, most of her training was in Pediatric Psychology. Suplee attended Loma Linda University School of Behavioral Health for her doctorate.

“I even trained as a psychology student in the same rotation that I currently teach,” she says.

Since then, Suplee has worked at several children's hospitals across the country before returning to Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital. She says the most rewarding aspect of working in this field is helping children and families through some of the most challenging times in their lives.

"It is an honor that parents trust me with their child's mental health care, and I recognize how powerful that trust is."