What is a Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist?

Social Sharing:

So, your son or daughter is scheduled to see a child and adolescent psychiatrist. You probably have a lot of questions about what a child psychiatrist is and how they can help your child. There are a lot of misconceptions about the world of psychiatry that can be very confusing. Hopefully we can clear up some of those confusions here.

First of all, a child and adolescent psychiatrist is a physician. They have earned a bachelor’s degree, completed medical school, a general psychiatry residency and a fellowship specializing in child and adolescent psychiatry. This means they are either a DO or an MD and are fully licensed to practice medicine. Think of them like any other specialist, such as a cardiologist or a surgeon. The only difference is that they specialize in pediatric mental health. They are experts in diagnosing and treating problems like ADHD, depression, anxiety disorders, and oppositional defiant disorder.

With that in mind, many people confuse psychiatrists with psychologists. The two specialties usually work together very closely, however they have very different training. A psychologist has a PhD in psychology and is not a physician. Their training focuses on therapy techniques. So, their role in the mental health field generally involves providing talk therapy for a child and their family. While psychiatrists also learn therapy techniques, their training is more focused on the medical side of things. Their expertise is in looking for medical causes of behavioral and mood disturbances and in the proper use of medications to treat mental illness. Therefore, a child will often see both a psychiatrist and a psychologist. Since they have such different perspectives, the two providers generally talk with each other frequently about the child’s case through notes and phone calls. This way, your child will receive the well-rounded care that he or she deserves.

You may also be wondering why your pediatrician or family doctor is sending your child to see a psychiatrist in the first place. Your primary doctor has probably been treating your child’s behavioral problems up until now, and you may feel like they are giving up on your child. Primary care doctors are extremely busy. They don’t have as much time to spend with your child at each visit, which makes it hard for them to really get to the root of the problem. Also, they treat everything from ear infections to broken bones. While they are very good at their jobs, it is impossible for them to be experts in everything. So, even though pediatricians and family doctors are capable of treating many mental health problems, they have to know when to ask for help. This is why specialists exist.

A child and adolescent psychiatrist will spend a great deal of time getting to know your son or daughter, much more than a busy pediatrician can. Typically the first two to three visits will last about forty-five minutes each. Usually there will be one visit spent with just the parents, another with only the child, and yet another with both the parents and their child to discuss the plan. The psychiatrist also spends time talking to teachers and school counselors, in addition to the initial office visits. Psychiatrists see fewer patients each day than a primary care doctor, which allows them to spend all this time with each patient. Your child’s psychiatrist will send consult notes to your child’s primary doctor so that everyone is on the same page.

Remember that seeing a psychiatrist is no different than seeing a heart doctor or an eye doctor. This referral is not the end of the world for your child. It doesn’t necessarily mean that your child is crazy or that they will never lead a normal life. In fact, putting together a treatment plan with a psychiatrist should only help your child to function better at home and at school. This means a better quality of life for the whole family. Hopefully, seeing a psychiatrist will be a positive experience for both you and your son or daughter.

Leave a Reply