The field of child and adolescent psychiatry, like general psychiatry, treats a range of mental health conditions. However, these psychiatrists focus on diagnosis and treatment during the developmental stages of childhood and adolescence.
How is child and adolescent psychiatry the same as general psychiatry? How is it different?
Children and teens may develop any of the psychiatric disorders that adults can develop – including mood disorders like depression, anxiety disorders such as phobias, eating disorders including anorexia and bulimia, and psychotic disorders. Some disorders, like schizophrenia, are less likely to affect juveniles than adults, especially young children, but it is possible for such disorders to start during these formative years. Also important to this field are diagnoses for developmental disorders (e.g., learning disorders, Asperger's disorder, etc.) and attention/behavioral disorders (e.g., oppositional defiant disorder, ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder], and conduct disorder).
What is training for a child and adolescent psychiatrist like?
To become a child and adolescent psychiatrist, a person must finish an undergraduate degree and four years of medical school. They next apply for and are matched into a residency program in general psychiatry; the residency may last only 3 years if the doctor fulfills all credits with the plan to enter a child and adolescent psychiatry fellowship or it may last as long as 5 years or longer if the person would like to do research as well. During the fellowship program, the physician learns the particulars of this psychiatric sub-specialty. To be certified to practice in this area, the doctor must pass a rigorous exam with the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology specifically related to psychiatric issues that affect children and adolescents.
What professional organizations might a child and adolescent psychiatrist belong to?
It is common for these practitioners to be affiliated with such groups as the American Psychiatric Association, the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, and the American Medical Association.