Child and adolescent psychiatry

Child and family/adolescent psychiatry is the branch of psychiatry that deals specifically with the younger age group.

Emotional and behavioural difficulties arise in children that are unique to their developmental stage, some of which continue over adolescence to become conditions that are also recognised and treated in adults, such as depression. This requires specific training and child psychiatrists train for 4 years in addition to their basic adult psychiatric training.

Generally drug approaches to treatment play a less prominent role than in adults although there is a role for these: one of the benefits of seeing a child psychiatrist as opposed to a child psychologist is that because the psychiatrist is medically trained all aspects of the problem can be considered and treated including medication, by one professional.

Family psychiatry is less recognised as a distinct entity in the UK than say the USA – it has tended to 'hang off' child psychiatry because most children come with a family attached. Some child psychiatrists and psychologists may be additionally specifically trained in Family Therapy (see under treatments), whilst others may use their generic skills in dealing with children and families as appropriate. Not all children's problems arise because of family circumstances and dynamics, but some may be contributed to by them and the difficulties themselves often have an impact on the family or siblings that can be usefully thought about and helped in a family (sometimes called 'systemic') frame. If you think this may be the case it is worth asking if your psychiatrist is trained in this treatment mode or at least uses the thinking it offers, or has a good family therapy colleague they work with when necessary.

The kinds of problems child psychiatry deals with may include:

  • Educational attainment problems
  • Emotional difficulties of childhood and adolescence
  • Behavioural problems
  • Questions concerning possible diagnoses of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity)
  • Questions concerning possible diagnoses of Asperger's and Autistic Spectrum Disorders
  • Eating difficulties
  • Anxiety and phobias
  • Depression and self-harming behaviours
  • Anger difficulties
  • Dyspraxic/dyslexic spectrum issues

The treatments used include:

  • Cognitive behavioural therapy
  • Psychodynamic therapy
  • Interpersonal therapy
  • Solution focussed therapy
  • Family Therapy
  • Trauma resolution
  • Environmental manipulation
  • Medication

Family psychiatry/therapy is also used for adults, couples and older families and more details about this can be found under treatments.

Want to look at other treatments? or find it on the A-Z list.