A photo of Nicole Zahka.

Nicole E. Zahka, PhD

  • Staff Psychologist III, Division of Behavioral Medicine and Clinical Psychology
At the end of treatment, I want patients to feel empowered, to have found their voice and to know they have all the skills they need to move forward.



As a pediatric psychologist, I specialize in helping children and teens who have somatic symptoms. Somatic symptoms are physical symptoms that are real, like pain, weakness, shortness of breath and sensory changes, but they are not due to a disease or injury in the body. I treat patients with conditions such as functional neurological symptom disorder, conversion disorder, nonepileptic seizures, dizziness and fainting (syncope). I also help children and teens cope with chronic illness, eosinophilic gastrointestinal disorders, food allergies and anxiety disorders.

I was inspired to pursue my career during a summer internship with a psychologist when I was in college. It was the first time I connected my psychology major with what it would be like to be a psychologist. I found that it was dynamic and different every hour, and I liked thinking on my feet and being able to solve problems together with patients and their families.

In my practice, I believe my patients have immense resilience and we can work as a team to uncover it. During this process, my job is to point out patterns, obstacles and resources along the way with the goal of helping patients learn to solve problems and manage difficult situations in their lives.

At the end of treatment, I want patients to feel empowered, to have found their voice and to know they have all the skills they need to move forward.

I practice cognitive behavioral therapy, which is an active, skills-based intervention. With this therapy we don’t just talk about symptoms, feelings or illness. We figure out what we can do about it together so the patient can use those skills in everyday life.

I am proud to have written a book with Dr. Sara Williams, Treating Somatic Symptoms in Children and Adolescents. It’s rewarding to know that the information in this book is available to help other psychologists learn about treating somatic symptoms, so that more kids can get access to scientifically supported interventions to help them cope with their symptoms.

My favorite hobbies are baking, traveling to different countries and taking walks with my dog.

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From the Blog

Somatic Symptoms in Children: The 5 Ws Explained
BlogChild Development and Behavior

Somatic Symptoms in Children: The 5 Ws Explained

By Nicole Zahka, PhD6/4/2018

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