A Psychological Intervention for Families in Pediatric Palliative Care

  • End date
    May 8, 2023
  • participants needed
  • sponsor
    Danish Cancer Society
Updated on 8 July 2021


Families of children receiving pediatric palliative care report unmet needs that require support. The objective of this pilot study is to develop and evaluate a psychological intervention (SOFUS) that targets the whole family (i.e. parents, the ill child and siblings) before and after bereavement. The aim of the intervention is to improve coping skills and reduce symptoms of complicated grief, depression, anxiety and sleep disorders in families. Feasibility and acceptability of the intervention manual and study materials will be evaluated, and the preliminary efficacy of the intervention will be assessed.


Having a child in palliative care is a traumatic experience and families of children receiving pediatric palliative care report unmet needs that require support. Parents who experience the death of a child often experience severe grief reactions, which may develop into long-term impaired functioning or psychiatric illness, with a detrimental impact on the whole family. Furthermore, parents and siblings of a child in palliative care may already prior to death experience grief and loss. This indicates the need for a family-based intervention that can support the family before and after the death of a child.

SOFUS is a psychological intervention for families of children receiving pediatric palliative care team. The preliminary/pilot program has been manualized and consists of a pre-loss program (Program 1) and a post-loss program (Program 2) consisting of six sessions each designed for the whole family. Sessions 1 and 6 includes the whole family, sessions 2 and 3 focus on the parents, while sessions 4 and 5 target the children (with parents if the child is under 10 years old). The six sessions range from 1 to 1.5 hours in length and are to be delivered over a 3 month period. The intervention will be carried out by trained psychologists. Feasibility and fidelity will assessed by evaluation forms filled out by the therapist after each session.

At the end of the intervention, semi-structured interviews will be carried out with each family to evaluate the components of the intervention, participant materials and assess acceptability. A semi-structured interview will also be carried out with the psychologists to evaluate the components of the intervention, the intervention manual and to assess therapist acceptability of the intervention. This pilot study will also include questionnaires for the parents assessing the outcomes of coping, anxiety, depression, sleep quality, family functioning and family caregiving burden at baseline, 3, 6 and 12 months. Age-adapted questionnaires will be given to the children to assess a subset of the outcomes.

Condition Grief, Distress, Emotional
Treatment SOFUS pilot program
Clinical Study IdentifierNCT04883151
SponsorDanish Cancer Society
Last Modified on8 July 2021


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Inclusion Criteria

Parents of a child age between 6 months and 18 years referred to the palliative team for children and adolescents
At least one parent > 18 years
Able to understand and speak Danish wish to participate
Informed consent by at least one parent, and by both parents on behalf of any children participating

Exclusion Criteria

Any untreated psychiatric disorder or substance abuse in the family that may hinder participation in the program
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If you are confirmed eligible after full screening, you will be required to understand and sign the informed consent if you decide to enroll in the study. Once enrolled you may be asked to make scheduled visits over a period of time.

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Complete your scheduled study participation activities and then you are done. You may receive summary of study results if provided by the sponsor.

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