What is Child and Adolescent Psychiatry?

Adolescence is referred to as the transitional stage between childhood and adulthood. It is also known as “the age of risk” regarding brain development, stress and depression.

Developmental disorders are rare but common among children and adolescents. Whatever the cause, there are great benefits to diagnosing early and treating appropriately. Child and adolescent psychiatry aim to improve the lives of youths and their families through medical, educational, social-psychological, and psychotherapeutic interventions.

What is Child and Adolescent Psychiatry?

Child and adolescent psychiatry is a branch of medicine dedicated to diagnosing and treating mental health disorders in children, adolescents, and their families. The field is often referred to as “child psychiatry” or “pediatric psychiatry.”

The medical field includes the social, emotional, behavioral, learning, and mental health issues specific to the developmental period of childhood and adolescence.

Child psychiatrists are medical doctors who have specialized training in child psychiatry. They receive extensive training in diagnosing and treating emotional, behavioral, developmental, and social problems in children.

Child psychiatrists are also involved in research into the causes, prevention, treatment, and early detection of mental health problems in children. Child psychiatrists may also work to educate other professionals about improving childhood mental health care.

How does a Child Psychiatrist work?

Child Psychiatry is also called Pediatric Psychiatry. Child psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing, treating, and preventing mental disorders in children and adolescents.

Child psychiatrists provide assessments and treatment for various emotional, behavioral, and developmental problems such as depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, ADHD, substance abuse, and autism spectrum disorders.

They also treat mental health problems affecting children’s physical health, such as eating disorders, anxiety disorders, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

In addition to prescribing medications, child psychiatrists can provide or work in conjunction with a therapist to help children cope with life’s challenges by talking through their emotions and helping them develop positive coping and social skills.

Common Psychiatric Conditions Among Children and Adolescents

Childhood and adolescence are a time of great transition, with children developing new skills, experiencing the world around them, and learning how to interact with others. These can be difficult for many children and adolescents, and some may struggle with specific problems that interfere with their ability to learn and socialize in school or other settings. Others may develop more serious mental health conditions that impact their everyday lives.

In 2015, approximately 10% of children between ages 6-17 were diagnosed with a mental health condition, according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). While these numbers may seem high, they are lower than previous estimates because they were based on diagnostic criteria that were not as stringent as those used today.

The most common children and adolescent psychiatric conditions include:

  1. ADHD
  2. Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD)
  3. Conduct disorder (CD)
  4. Anxiety
  5. Depression
  6. Tourette syndrome 
  7. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  8. Oppositional defiant disorder (ODD)
  9. Learning Disorders 

How to Find a Child or Adolescent Psychiatrist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors who specialize in diagnosing and treating mental health disorders. Psychiatrists are trained to treat adults and children, though they may have more experience with adults.

Finding a psychiatrist can be challenging, as there are many factors to consider when choosing one. To find a pediatric psychiatrist, you can use the following resources:

  • Ask your child’s pediatrician or primary care physician for a referral or recommendation
  • Visit the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry’s (AACAP) Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist Finder 
  • For free or low-cost services, check the community health clinics in your area
  • Check the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics site
  • Visit the American Psychiatric Association database and use the filter to search for child and adolescent psychiatrists.


Whether you are a parent of a child suffering from an emotional or mental illness or if you have an adolescent questioning their identity, a visit to a pediatric psychiatry specialist can be highly beneficial. Even if you don’t understand what your child is going through warrants seeing a psychiatric professional, it’s still worth making the appointment to explore treatment options.


What does a Psychiatrist do?

A psychiatrist is a medical doctor (M.D. or D.O.) specializing in mental health. The psychiatrist assesses both the psychological, physical and neurological aspects of psychological problems.

What is the difference between a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist?

A Psychiatrist is a medical doctor MD (completed medical school and residency) with additional years of training in psychiatry. A psychiatrist can prescribe medications and other medical treatments. A psychologist usually has an advanced degree, most commonly a doctorate (Ph.D.) in clinical psychology, and often has extensive research or clinical practice training. Psychologists treat mental and behavioral disorders with various types of talk therapy, and some specialize in psychological testing and evaluation. If you are interested in meeting with our psychologist or a counselor, request an appointment.

Should my child see a therapist?

Counseling can be helpful by allowing children to process their feelings and develop healthy coping skills to adapt to current stressors successfully. Additionally, parents can learn how to support their children outside of therapy to foster improvement in symptoms.

How long will my child need counseling?

The frequency and duration of counseling are individual and based on the intensity of symptoms and underlying concerns. As the therapy progresses and symptoms improve, you might gradually reduce the frequency of sessions or until the child no longer needs counseling.

Are psychiatric medications addictive?

Most medicines are not addictive. Only some medications come with a risk of addiction, and effective medication management addresses this concern. The patient and doctor find the right balance for the patient, monitoring progress over time.


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