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The Informed Parent

Mental Health Treatment

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Jan. 21, 2008

Mental health checkups are a regular part of routine pediatric care during a child’s visits to his pediatrician or family doctor. Your child’s doctor will ask about his friendships, activities, family interactions, and school functioning. If there are concerns, this may prompt additional conversation about the child’s activities and its impact on his or her overall functioning. This may result in your child and family being referred to a mental health provider for further assessment and treatment.

There is occasionally some stigma associated with seeing a mental health provider.  “Facts for Families” published by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry is a good source of information to learn about referrals, psychiatric disorders, and their management.

There are many different types to mental health providers that may be of help to your child. Child psychiatrists these days usually only address diagnostic and medication management concerns, although some also provide therapy services as well. School consultation psychotherapy and other services are usually provided by an additional class of clinicians.

Many types of mental health providers offer psychotherapeutic services. There are psychologists (PhD or PsyD), social workers (LCSW or MSW), and clinicians and counselors trained at the bachelor’s degree level (BASW or LMFT). A person’s degree does not often convey his or her level of expertise, interest or temperament to work with children and adolescents. So be sure to ask your child‘s doctor if you have any specific questions. If your child has both a psychiatrist and a therapist working with him or her, it is optimal for them to work as a team for your child’s maximal benefit.

Ask questions and gather information so that you are well-informed regarding the options available for your child’s mental health treatment.

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