Definition of a Child / Adolescent Psychiatrist
The child and adolescent psychiatrist is a Doctor of Medicine or Doctor of Osteopathy who specializes in the diagnosis and, if indicated, the treatment of disorders of thinking, feeling and/or behavior affecting children, adolescents, and their families. A child and adolescent psychiatrist offers families the advantages of a medical education, the medical traditions of professional ethics, and medical responsibility for providing comprehensive care.
The child and adolescent psychiatrist uses knowledge of biological, psychological, and social factors in working with patients. Initially, a comprehensive diagnostic examination is performed to evaluate the current problem with attention to its physical, genetic, developmental, emotional, cognitive, educational, family, peer, and social components.
The child and adolescent psychiatrist arrives at a diagnosis and diagnostic formulation, which is shared with the patient and family. The child and adolescent psychiatrist then designs a treatment plan, which considers all the components and discusses these recommendations with the child or adolescent and the responsible adults. An integrated approach may involve individual, group or family psychotherapy; medication or consultation with other physicians or professionals from schools, juvenile courts, social agencies or other community organizations. In addition, the child psychiatrist is prepared and expected to act as an advocate for the best interests of children and adolescents. Many child and adolescent psychiatrists perform consultations in a variety of settings (schools, juvenile courts, social agencies).
Child and adolescent psychiatric training requires 4 years of medical school, at least 3 years of approved residency training in medicine, neurology, and general psychiatry with adults, and 2 years of training in psychiatric work with children, adolescents, and their families in an accredited residency in child and adolescent psychiatry.
In the general psychiatry training years, the physician achieves competence in the fundamentals of the theory and practice of psychiatry. In the child and adolescent psychiatry training, the trainee acquires a thorough knowledge of normal child and family development, psychopathology, and treatment. Special importance is given to disorders that appear in childhood, such as pervasive developmental disorder, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), learning disabilities, mental retardation, mood disorders, depressive and anxiety disorders, drug dependency and delinquency (conduct disorder). The child psychiatric trainee applies and develops psychiatric skills by treating youngsters and their families.
The evaluation and treatment of inpatients and outpatients is important throughout the training, with a concentration on delivery of appropriate treatment within the family's financial and psychological means. An experience in consultation to other physicians, mental health professionals, schools, and community agencies is an important part of training.
Certification and Continuing Education
Having completed the child and adolescent psychiatry residency and successfully passing the certification examination in general psychiatry given by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN), the child and adolescent psychiatrist is eligible to take the additional certification examination in the subspecialty of child and adolescent psychiatry. Although the ABPN examinations are not required for practice, they are a further assurance that the child and adolescent psychiatrist with these certifications can be expected to diagnose and treat all psychiatric conditions in patients of any age and to contribute in many ways to serve the welfare and interests of children and their families.
The child and adolescent psychiatrist, as any other physician, continues to study and learn about the new advances in the specialty by reading scientific literature and attending conferences to be able to apply new knowledge effectively in daily diagnostic, therapeutic, and consultive work.