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ADAPT | Overview

Our team of expert psychiatrists, nurse practitioners, psychologists, social workers, and other health professionals at Boston Children's Hospital work closely with you and your child to devise a comprehensive treatment plan that:

  • takes into account the particular circumstances of your child’s situation
  • helps your child feel and function better while adapting new coping skills for the future
  • involves you and your family at every stage of care, honoring the “bill of rights” for children with mental health disorders
  • perhaps most importantly, listens to your child’s voice

Treatment glossary

Outpatient Psychiatry Service clinicians use a combination of tools to treat children and adolescents in individual, family, or group settings, including:

  • psychoeducation, which helps children and families understand a specific mental illness, its possible causes, and treatments and course
  • cognitive-behavioral therapy and other evidence based therapies, which can include setting specific goals for patients to overcome fears, anxieties, and sources of negative thinking by changing thought patterns, behaviors, and emotional responses, as well as examining underlying causes and motivations of behavior and emotions
  • medication, which may be prescribed alone or in combination with therapy, and which is used to target the presumed biological factors of the disorder


Medications can be started before, alongside with, or after therapy/educational interventions, depending on the clinical needs of the child.

The current recommendations of medication use in children are based upon clinical research which supports the safety and effectiveness of psychiatric medications in children with mental health disorders. The prescription of medications for children is based upon this clinical research, as well as guidelines for practice from national organizations, including the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Numerous medications are now U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved for childhood psychiatric disorders, including treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bipolar disorder, major depressive disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and schizophrenia, as well as irritability associated with autism spectrum disorders. For many disorders (e.g., depression, obsessive-compulsive disorder), clinical research supports the combination of medication and therapy to be the most effective treatment available.