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What kind of treatments are available?

A treatment, a chance 

Following an evaluation, a mental health professional can make a recommendation about the type of treatment that is most appropriate for a child. 

Trauma informed care 

Shared from the National Center for Trauma Informed Care website 

"Trauma-informed care is an approach to engaging people with histories of trauma that recognizes the presence of trauma symptoms and acknowledges the role that trauma has played in their lives. NCTIC facilitates the adoption of trauma-informed environments in the delivery of a broad range of services including mental health, substance use, housing, vocational or employment support, domestic violence and victim assistance, and peer support. In all of these environments, NCTIC seeks to change the paradigm from one that asks, "What's wrong with you?" to one that asks, "What has happened to you?" 

Trauma-informed organizations, programs, and services are based on an understanding of the vulnerabilities or triggers of trauma survivors so as to be more supportive and avoid re-traumatization. SAMHSA has framed its concept for trauma around three "E's": event(s), experience of the event, and effect. According to SAMHSA's conceptual framework, "Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or life threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual's functioning and mental, physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being." 

Most individuals seeking public behavioral health and other public services, such as homeless and domestic violence services, have histories of physical and sexual abuse and other types of trauma-inducing experiences. These experiences often lead to mental health and co-occurring disorders such as chronic health conditions, substance abuse, eating disorders, and HIV/AIDS, as well as contact with the criminal justice system." 

For more information about trauma informed approaches to mental health care, check out the SAMHSA website. 

Levels of care 

Communities offer different levels of mental health care for children. They range from short-term and more supportive services for children experiencing mild problems to more intensive and specialized services for children with severe mental health issues. These different programs vary in terms of their intensity, comprehensiveness, frequency and duration. They also differ in terms of where the services are provided. Some are provided in more protective and structured environments such as psychiatric hospitals; others may be offered in a clinic or office in the community. 

The level of care that a child receives is generally adjusted as their level of need changes. 

Levels of care 

  • Office-based or outpatient services 
  • Family support services 
  • Intensive case management 
  • Home-based treatment services 
  • Day treatment program 
  • Crisis Stabilization Unit (CSU) 
  • Partial hospitalization (day hospital) 
  • Emergency/crisis services* 
  • Inpatient hospital treatment 
  • Therapeutic Group Home 
  • Residential treatment facility 

These services are often available without cost to the family. Most other services can be paid for using Medicaid or other private insurances. If a family does not have insurance for a child, there may be free or low-cost options available through FAMIS. 

Voluntary vs. involuntary hospitalization 

In some instances, a child or adolescent may not be willing to go into the hospital for treatment. In these cases, a designated mental health professional can evaluate the child and then, if appropriate, ask a judge or magistrate to issue a temporary detention order (TDO), which can mandate that a child or adolescent receive inpatient care. 

Types of therapy 

A number of different types of therapy are used to treat mental, emotional and behavioral problems among children and adolescents. Some therapies may work better than others for a particular child or situation. It is important for parents and caregivers to educate themselves about the various therapies, and to be actively involved in developing a treatment plan. A treatment plan is a written document that outlines how therapy should ideally proceed. 

  • Psychotherapy 
  • Individual therapy 
  • Family Therapy 
  • Group Therapy 
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) 
  • Cognitive Therapy 
  • Behavioral Therapy 
  • Interpersonal Therapy 
  • Dialectical Behavior Therapy 
  • Multisystemic Therapy 
  • Play therapy 
  • Art/Music Therapy 


Medication is sometimes used in the treatment of mental health problems among children and adolescents. Research has shown medication to be effective in reducing or eliminating the symptoms of a variety of problems including: 

  • Anxiety 
  • Depression 
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) 
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) 
  • Eating Disorders 
  • Bipolar Disorder 
  • Psychosis (though disorders) 
  • Severe Aggression 
  • Sleep problems 

Medication can only be prescribed by a medical doctor, usually a pediatrician or child psychiatrist. Before a doctor recommends medication as part of treatment, they will complete a comprehensive evaluation to gain a complete understanding of a child's problems. Although medication can have a significant impact on mental health symptoms, it is often only one part of a larger treatment plan for a child. 



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