Many adults face difficulties in life that cause deep emotional and mental stress or other related mental illnesses. Some might even need medical intervention to deal with stress and regulate moods. Pediatric psychiatrists can help. But what about mental illnesses in children? That’s where pediatric psychiatrists can help.

Pediatric psychiatrists are medical doctors who diagnose and treat psychological problems in children and adolescents. As the patients they treat may be too young to understand problems or have difficulty communicating, pediatric psychiatrists are specifically trained to communicate with children and make them feel safe in expressing their feelings. Pediatric psychiatrists deal with children who display symptoms of anxiety and depression, antisocial behaviours, or those born with pre-existing conditions, such as autism or attention deficit disorder (ADHD).

Let’s understand the field of pediatric psychiatry further.

What Do Pediatric Psychiatrists Do?

Child and adolescent pediatric psychiatrists diagnose and treat developmental, behavioural, emotional, and mental illnesses in teens and young children. They focus on the biological, psychological and social angles to these problems and provide treatment using psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, hospitalisation, and medication. In addition, they help children and their families deal with relationships, learning, socialising, trauma, and difficulties with regulating emotions.

A pediatric psychiatrist’s job description involves: 

  • Evaluating a child’s mental, emotional, behavioural and developmental health.
  • Performing psychiatric examinations and administering psychotherapy.
  • Prescribing and analysing laboratory tests and diagnostic imaging exams.
  • Prescribing medications.
  • Diagnosing and treating depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dementia, developmental disorders, eating disorders, and substance abuse problems.

What Kind Of Training Do Pediatric Psychiatrists Receive?

To become a pediatric psychiatrist, you will have to complete four years of pre-med and four years of medical school. In addition, you will need to complete one year of internship and four years of residency training in general psychiatry. During your education, you will study various topics, including medicine, neurology, and general psychiatry, and receive training in diagnosing patients accurately.

After graduating from medical school, you will need to work towards earning a license to practice medicine. Psychiatrists need to take the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination to become licensed physicians, irrespective of their specialisation.

After completing a residency in general psychiatry, you must complete two years of specialised accredited child and adolescent psychiatry training.

You will then need to pass the child and adolescent psychiatry certification examination, administered by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology (ABPN). This board certification must be renewed every 10 years.

To remain licensed and certified practitioners, pediatric psychiatrists must keep updating their knowledge and skills throughout their careers.

What Else Do You Need To Know About Pediatric Psychiatrists?

A good pediatric psychiatrist needs to have strong listening and communication skills. You will be working with many other specialists and dealing with patients who have difficulty expressing their emotions. In addition, critical thinking skills are needed to evaluate clients and analyse why they behave differently. While a major part of your job description involves spending time with clients and their parents, you will also likely be required to perform administrative duties, teaching, or assisting with research needs.

On average, a pediatric psychiatrist can expect to work between 40 to 60 hours per week. You can work in hospitals, in-patient care centres, or run your private practice. Working in 24-hour care centres may involve irregular hours, including evenings and weekends. In a private practice scenario, you have more control over your schedules.

This field of psychiatry can be very emotionally challenging, but since it involves children and adolescents, you have the opportunity to make a huge difference in children’s lives. In addition, many children with mental illnesses can grow up to be mentally healthy adults with the help they receive from psychiatrists, making this an enriching career.