Outpatient Psychiatry Services | General Clinical Services

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Contact the Outpatient Psychiatry Service

  • 1-617-355-6680

Our team of expert psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, psychologists, social workers and other health professionals at Boston Children's Hospital work closely with you and your child to devise a comprehensive treatment plan that:

  • takes into account the particular circumstances of your child’s situation
  • helps your child feel and function better while adapting new coping skills for the future
  • involves you and your family at every stage of care, honoring the “Bill of Rights” for children with mental health disorders, which includes effort to support and/or direct care in home/community based settings
  • perhaps most importantly, listens to your child’s voice

Treatment Glossary

Outpatient Psychiatry Service clinicians use a combination of tools to treat children and adolescents in individual, family or group settings, including:

  • psychoeducation, which helps children and families understand a specific mental illness, its possible causes, treatments and course
  • behavioral therapy, which teaches patients to reinforce healthy behaviors while learning to eliminate unwanted behaviors
  • cognitive-behavioral therapy, which sets specific short-term goals for patients to overcome their fears, anxieties and sources of negative thinking, by changing thought patterns, behaviors, and emotional responses
  • dynamic therapy, which examines and addresses the underlying causes and motivations of children's behavior and emotional reactions
  • psychiatric medication, which may be prescribed alone or combined with therapy, and which is used to target the presumed biological factors of the disorder

Psychiatric medication

Medication can be an effective part of a comprehensive treatment plan for psychiatric disorders of childhood and adolescence. Treatment recommendations, including medication, occur following the completion of a diagnostic psychiatric evaluation of your child.

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When prescribed appropriately and taken as prescribed, psychiatric medication may lessen or eliminate the concerning symptoms your child is experiencing (such as anxiety, depression, hyperactivity) and improve the day to day functioning of your child.

The current recommendations of medication use in children are based upon clinical research which supports the safety and effectiveness of psychiatric medications in children with mental health disorders. The prescription of medications for children is based upon this clinical research, as well as guidelines for practice from national organizations, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).

Numerous medications are now FDA approved for childhood psychiatric disorders, including treating Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), Bipolar Mania, Major Depressive Disorder, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Schizophrenia, as well as irritability associated with Autistic Disorder.

Medications can be started before, alongside with, or after therapy/educational treatments, depending on the clinical research and the needs of the child. Traditionally, therapies are recommended before medication. This is most typical for children with relatively milder mental health problems, or at families choosing.

However, when the severity of the child’s problem is such that the disorder is interfering with day to day functioning and/or prevents active participation in therapy (e.g., high degree of depression preventing school attendance and/or coping skill development), beginning with medication may be a reasonable approach. Also, at present, many communities lack experienced pediatric mental health providers. Therefore, starting medication may be the only science-based intervention practically available.

Often times medication treatment occurs alongside therapy. For many disorders (e.g., Depression; OCD), clinical research supports the combination of medication and therapy to be the most effective treatment available, based upon the following assumptions:

  • therapy addresses the psychological aspects of mental illness, while medications target what we believe to be the biological factors of the disorder
  • medication may reduce the intensity of emotional states (e.g., Depression; Anxiety) or improve behavioral control (e.g, hyperactivity)
  • therapy may instill important lifelong skills and strategies, accessible to the child in any setting, home, school or with peers

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We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital 300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115 617-355-6000 | 800-355-7944

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