A photo of Sara Williams.

Sara E. Williams, PhD

  • Pediatric Psychologist, Clinical, Behavioral Medicine & Clinical Psychology
  • Professor, UC Department of Pediatrics
In my practice, I use a patient-centered approach that helps children understand their pain condition and learn strategies to help them become independent and functional.



As a pediatric pain psychologist, I specialize in the assessment and treatment of pediatric chronic pain. I help outpatients with pain management and inpatients with chronic pain rehabilitation. I am the clinical director of the Functional Independence Restoration Program, and I also practice as a pain psychologist in the Headache Center and Pain Management Clinic.

I was inspired to be a pediatric psychologist when I volunteered in a children's hospital playroom as a college undergraduate and realized how many fun and unique ways there are to support children undergoing medical treatment.

In my practice, I use a patient-centered approach that helps children understand their pain condition and learn strategies to help them become independent and functional. I find that my patients and their families appreciate my balance of calmness with humor.

In addition to my practice, I love teaching our residents and fellows about psychology. I was honored to receive the Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology’s Teaching Award in 2017. I’m also involved in research into how to improve pain management techniques for children, teens and their families.

When I’m not at work, I enjoy spending time with my pets, traveling and writing books!

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Establishing the Content Validity of a Modified Bank of School Anxiety Inventory Items for Use Among Adolescents With Chronic Pain. Gibler, RC; Abelson, E; Williams, SE; Lynch-Jordan, AM; Kashikar-Zuck, S; Jastrowski Mano, KE. Journal of Pediatric Psychology. 2022; 47:1044-1056.

Design and implementation of a novel patient-centered empowerment approach for pain optimisation in children undergoing major surgery. Chidambaran, V; Simpson, B; Brower, L; Hanke, R; Mecoli, M; Lane, B; Williams, S; McKenna, E; Bates, C; Kraemer, A; et al. BMJ Open Quality. 2022; 11.

Signature for Pain Recovery IN Teens (SPRINT): protocol for a multisite prospective signature study in chronic musculoskeletal pain. Simons, L; Moayedi, M; Coghill, RC; Stinson, J; Angst, MS; Aghaeepour, N; Gaudilliere, B; King, CD; López-Solà, M; Hoeppli, ME; et al. BMJ Open. 2022; 12.

Tools to enhance education about pain and emotional distress for pediatric patients with chronic pain. Gamwell, K; Homan, K; Williams, S. 2022; 24:12-16.

Healthcare utilization among youth with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome hypermobile type. Williams, SE; Tran, ST; Lynch-Jordan, A; Goldschneider, KR; Ting, TV; Kashikar-Zuck, S; Neilson, D. American Journal of Medical Genetics, Part A. 2022; 188:1109-1117.

Transient Reductions in Postoperative Pain and Anxiety with the Use of Virtual Reality in Children. Olbrecht, VA; O'conor, KT; Williams, SE; Boehmer, CO; Marchant, GW; Glynn, SM; Geisler, KJ; Pickerill, HM; Ding, L; Yang, G; et al. Pain Medicine. 2021; 22:2426-2435.

Guided Relaxation-Based Virtual Reality for Acute Postoperative Pain and Anxiety in a Pediatric Population: Pilot Observational Study. Olbrecht, VA; O'Conor, KT; Williams, SE; Boehmer, CO; Marchant, GW; Glynn, SM; Geisler, KJ; Ding, L; Yang, G; King, CD. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2021; 23.

A novel behavioral health program for family caregivers of children admitted to a transitional chronic ventilator unit. Borschuk, AP; Williams, SE; McClure, JM; Kendall, M; Mack, L; Coleman, M; Gurbani, N; Benscoter, D; Amin, R; Stark, LJ. Pediatric Pulmonology. 2021; 56:1635-1643.

Improvements in Sleep Correlate With Improvements in Clinical Outcomes Among Adolescents Undergoing Intensive Interdisciplinary Pain Treatment. Boggero, IA; Krietsch, KN; Pickerill, HM; Byars, KC; Homan, KJ; Williams, SE; King, CD. Clinical Journal of Pain. 2021; 37:443-453.

Leveraging Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality to Combat Chronic Pain in Youth: Position Paper From the Interdisciplinary Network on Virtual and Augmented Technologies for Pain Management. Logan, DE; Simons, LE; Caruso, TJ; Gold, JI; Greenleaf, W; Griffin, A; King, CD; Menendez, M; Olbrecht, VA; Rodriguez, S; et al. Journal of Medical Internet Research. 2021; 23.

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