Child psychiatry makes up a very small percentage of psychiatrists, but these doctors have specific work that takes place in a variety of settings. The child psychiatrist may treat young children and adolescents. In this capacity, he or she performs many different types of work with kids under the age of 18 that assist in treating an array of mental health issues.
Work setting of the child psychiatrist may partly inform type of work. Psychiatrists may have a private practice in a community or they could work for agencies meant to assist families or children in crisis like child protective services. Some psychiatrists also have training in forensics and might work in the justice system, either on behalf of children or for the state. There are mental health wards that serve children specifically, and many professionals get work in one of these facilities to help kids that need acute treatment or that have chronic mental problems.
In any of these capacities the child psychiatrist can begin work as a diagnostician, determining the exact nature of mental health issue/s. These practitioners may then derive a treatment plan, which frequently includes administration of appropriate medications. Once treatment is in place, the patient very often needs medication adjustment, and the child psychiatrist may determine med changes or dosage based on behavior of the client and often in conjunction with speaking to family members or guardians. Finding the right medication and dose may then lead to having follow-up sessions with children as time goes on to make certain treatment is still appropriate; as children grow and change, they may routinely require dosage changes and they usually need careful following.
Especially in any form of private practice, interacting with parents/guardians becomes some of the work of the child psychiatrist. Children can’t always articulate their problems or issues, so establishing rapport with watchful parents can help guide treatment. On the other hand, sometimes parents are not a good resource or are unavailable, and this would mean the child psychiatrist might gather data about response to treatment from personal observation. In hospital settings part of this observation might be the responsibility of other health care workers.
Treatment observation may be more extensive if the child psychiatrist not only prescribes medication, but also offers therapy. Not all of these specialists work as psychotherapists, but some do. In circumstances where child psychiatrists only prescribe medication, they may work with parents and other mental health professionals like marriage and family therapists, licensed clinical social workers, and psychologists, who are principal therapy sources for the child.
Other jobs for the child psychiatrist could include testifying in court about the mental fitness of a child. Alternately psychiatrists could examine and write reports and recommendations regarding custody placement of children who have previously been injured by parents or guardians. Some psychiatrists do research or work on developing new treatments for children, and they might not regularly treat patients.