Mental Health Treatment Choices for Children

Does my child need treatment?

Mental health treatment can help children who have behavior problems such as:

  • Abusing alcohol or drugs
  • Bullying others at home, school, or work
  • Destroying property, stealing, or breaking the law
  • Repeatedly running away from home
  • Self-harm (such as cutting or burning themselves on purpose)

Children and teens may also need treatment if they show signs of:

  • Anxiety or depression
  • Eating disorders
  • Learning disabilities
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Schizophrenia

If problems have lasted more than a few months, talk with your child’s healthcare provider or a mental health therapist. Sometimes you just can’t solve your child’s problems by yourself. There are many treatment choices that can help you and your child.

What are the treatment choices?

Seeing a therapist

Seeing a therapist is often a good first step. Children who go to therapy continue to live at home and attend school. This kind of therapy can work well if your child does not need constant supervision.

Day treatment

Day treatment is a special kind of school where your child goes to classes as well as therapy. It is helpful when your child’s behavior is so out of control that he or she can no longer be in a regular school setting.

Your child can return to a regular school once his behavior improves and he is willing to follow rules. Your child will live at home while attending day treatment.

Home-based therapy

In home-based therapy, mental health specialists come to your home each week. They work with the whole family to find healthy ways to deal with problems. This type of therapy helps families with problems such as major illness or abuse. The goal is to keep the family together and keep your child from needing to be treated in a hospital.

Out-of-home care

Sometimes your child may need to be placed in a foster home, group home, or residential treatment center. Residential treatment centers provide 24-hour medical and mental health care, as well as schooling. Residential treatment may be helpful if your child has problems with substance abuse or destructive behavior. Families are usually involved in treatment. This helps you prepare for when your child is able to return home.

Inpatient treatment

Inpatient treatment means that your child needs to be in a hospital. Usually your child gets 24-hour care from mental health and medical professionals.

Your child may need to be in a hospital if he is:

  • Addicted to drugs and needs medical care
  • Not able to eat, sleep, or go to school
  • Not able to do his normal activities because he is hearing or seeing things that are not there
  • A danger to himself or others,

Sometimes parents make this decision, or it may be ordered by a court.

How long your child needs to be in the hospital depends on how severe your child’s behaviors and symptoms are and how he responds to treatment. Your child may only need to be in the hospital for 2 or 3 days. Some children need to stay longer if they have very severe problems.

Which treatment is best for my child?

If you are concerned about your child’s behavior, talk with your child’s healthcare provider or a mental health therapist. They can help you find the best treatment choice for your child.

For more information, contact:

Developed by RelayHealth.
Pediatric Advisor 2015.1 published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2014-08-28
Last reviewed: 2014-04-03
This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a healthcare professional.
Copyright ©1986-2015 McKesson Corporation and/or one of its subsidiaries. All rights reserved.

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