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Pitching Integrative Therapies to Pediatric Patients

May 10, 2015

When a child is sick in the hospital, finding ways to help families participate in the healing process can be transforming. However, introducing integrative therapies to children and families in ways that 

are accessible and fun can be challenging given different learning styles, varying ages, degrees of illness, and time constraints. PITCH — Pediatric Integrative Therapies in Children’s Hospitals — is a series of teaching videos that introduces families to integrative therapies. This idea grew out of a need for cost-effective, sustainable resources that could help children cope with the physical, mental, and emotional side effects of serious and prolonged illness. The first video in the series featured the ‘M’ Technique, a guided method of touch similar to massage. Unlike massage, however, it is simple to learn, and gentle enough for the sickest child.

The 'M' Technique.

The idea for a video project began when Megan Voss, DNP, Integrative Therapy Program Manger for Pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, reached out to ‘M’ Technique creator, Jane Buckle, PhD, RN. Voss and Buckle began to discuss opportunities to work with the Center for Spirituality & Healing to create a video that would benefit the pediatric population.

Together, Voss and Lynn Gershan, MD, Medical Director of Pediatric Integrative Health and Wellbeing at The University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, enlisted the help of John Hallberg, CEO of Children’s Cancer Research Fund, to create PITCH. Hallberg’s dedication to bringing integrative therapies to children with cancer had resulted in many important connections with community leaders, including the ADS Group, and Karl Demer, owner of Atomic K Records & Productions. These partners donated time and resources to produce the first volume in the PITCH video series, which was completed in January 2015.

“We are delighted to be a part of the PITCH initiative,” says Hallberg. “The integrative therapies program is an important new effort at the University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, and we believe it will improve outcomes for these young patients and enhance their care experience. We look forward to participating in future projects with the integrative therapies team.”

Already, the impact of this video is being felt by patients, caregivers, and children who are experiencing ‘M’ Technique and other integrative therapies together. “I am delighted that this collaborative venture will allow the ‘M’ Technique to help soothe children in hospitals,” says Buckle. “I hope this DVD can be made available to as many hospitals as possible. As an ex-nurse (and now a doting granny) taking care of children is very close to my heart.” The second video of the PITCH series, which will focus on Yoga Calm, is being developed in collaboration with the Center and Kathy Flaminio, owner of 1,000 Petals, LLC. The work is made possible with generous support from Julie and Ken Riff, friends and advisors of the Center, as well as teachers of yoga.

“Yoga Calm connects mind to body through movement and breath in a way that is simple yet effective. It can help children and adolescents cope with stress, gain confidence, and build resiliency,” says Flaminio, who has worked extensively with children who suffer from various forms of trauma in schools and hospitals. Yoga Calm is a child and adolescent-specific yoga program that focuses on five core principles: strength, stillness, grounding, listening, and community. 

The goal for PITCH is to create a full collection of pediatric-focused instructional videos that empower children and their families to engage in healing practices in hospitals and at home. Several evidence-based integrative therapies that soothe pain, worry, isolation, and sadness in children and their families have been selected as future PITCH video topics. Patients and their families, including the hospital’s Parent Advisory Board and KidCouncil, have also offered suggestions based on their own experiences, and have been important collaborators in this process.Social workers, clinicians, chaplains, nurses, physicians, and other staff at Children’s Hospital have all PITCHed in to provide guidance and support for this important initiative. 

This project is a wonderful example of collaboration between the hospital, clinicians, the university. academics, and several community members. 


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