provide different types of treatment programs and services
for children and adolescents with mental illnesses. A complete
range of programs and services is called the continuum of
care. Not every community has every type of service or program
on the continuum. Some psychiatric hospitals and other organized
systems of care now provide many of the services on the continuum.
When several of the services are provided, the organization
may be called a health care system.
point for parents concerned about their child's behavior or
emotions should be an evaluation by a qualified mental health
professional such as a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
At the conclusion of the evaluation, the professional will
recommend a certain type of service(s) or program(s) from
the continuum available locally. The professional is then
usually required to obtain approval from the insurance company
or organization managing mental health benefits (e.g. managed
care organization). In the case of programs funded publicly,
a specific state agency must authorize the recommended program(s)
or service(s). If the program or service is not authorized,
it will not be paid. Many of the programs on the continuum
offer a variety of different treatments, such as individual
psychotherapy, family therapy, group therapy, and medications.
description of the different services or programs in a continuum
of care follows:
or outpatient clinic
are usually under one hour. The number of visits per week
depends on the youngster's needs.
trained individuals coordinate or provide psychiatric,
financial, legal, and medical services to help the child
or adolescent live successfully at home and in the community.
team of specially trained staff go into a home and develop
a treatment program to help the child and family.
to help families care for their child such as parent training,
parent support group, etc.
intensive treatment program provides psychiatric treatment
with special education. The child usually attends five
days per week.
hospitalization (day hospital)
provides all the treatment services of a psychiatric hospital,
but the patients go home each evening.
services for emergencies (for example, hospital emergency
room, mobile crisis team).
patient stays briefly away from home with specially trained
group home or community residence
therapeutic program usually includes 6 to 10 children
or adolescents per home, and may be linked with a day
treatment program or specialized educational program.
setting provides short-term (usually fewer than 15 days)
crisis intervention and treatment. Patients receive 24-hour-per-day
disturbed patients receive intensive and comprehensive
psychiatric treatment in a campus-like setting on a longer-term
receive comprehensive psychiatric treatment in a hospital.
Treatment programs should be specifically designed for
either children or adolescents. Length of treatment depends
on different variables.
should always ask questions when a professional recommends
psychiatric treatment for their child or adolescent. For instance,
which types of treatment are provided, and by whom? Parents
should also ask about the length of time? What is the cost?
How much of the cost is covered by insurance or public funding?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the recommended
service or program? Parents should always feel free to obtain
a second opinion about the best type of program for their
child or adolescent.
Facts for Families: #26 - Being Prepared: Know Your
Health Insurance Benefits, #32 - 11 Questions to Ask Before
Psychiatric Hospital Treatment of Children and Adolescents,
#41 - Making Decisions About Substance Abuse Treatment
#42 Updated 04/96
Family Resources wishes to thank the (AACAP) for giving
us permission to use this article.
American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP)
represents over 6,900 child and adolescent psychiatrists
who are physicians with at least five years of additional
training beyond medical school in general (adult) and child
and adolescent psychiatry.
for Families© is developed and distributed by the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP).
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