Early intervention services can help mitigate potential problems with learning, reading and social interaction for children with developmental delays. Research shows brain connections are more adaptable to change during a child’s first three years.
Family psychiatry services involve joining with families to identify family strengths and challenges, build natural support and improve access to treatment services. These services may include clinical assessment, family-based therapy and medication management.
1. Early identification
In studies of children who would ultimately be diagnosed with a mental health problem, the first symptom usually preceded the full disorder by about two years. This means early identification is important, especially if it leads to intervention before the condition becomes severe.
School staff have the potential to spot early warning signs of a mental health problem, but the effectiveness of different methods for this remains under-researched. This qualitative study aimed to explore the views of parents and teachers at four primary schools on the acceptability and feasibility of a range of approaches to early identification.
The participants were asked to discuss their views of four possible approaches: staff training, universal screening, and a curriculum-based approach. Staff training was perceived as the most acceptable and feasible approach, but universal screening and a curriculum-based approach received mixed responses. The reason for this was the concern that teaching children about their mental health could frighten them, escalate their problems and put them at risk of harm.
2. Early intervention
Concerning children’s mental health, it is especially important to intervene early. Children’s mental health problems can have many negative consequences, including substance abuse and joblessness in adulthood. But with effective treatment, children can live more productive lives and overcome these problems.
Family members, medical professionals, school officials, or other community agencies may refer a child to the early intervention program. Once a referral is made, the child will undergo a screening process to determine whether or not they require an evaluation. Evaluations are only conducted with the consent of the family.
Once eligibility is determined, a meeting will be held to write an Individualized Family Service Plan (IFSP). This will outline what services and supports the child will receive and how they will be provided. The IFSP is based on federal law, specifically Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The program also provides services without regard to mental or physical disability, age, race, religion, ancestry, national origin, sexual orientation or gender identity or expression, or military status.
3. Early diagnosis
Psychiatrists can help families learn to cope with their struggles. They can also guide parents and children on how to develop healthy behaviors. Family therapy may include alternative treatment approaches, such as psychotherapy and hypnosis.
Identifying mental health problems early and providing intervention services can prevent these conditions from progressing into more severe, enduring difficulties. This is especially important because the experience of mental disorders in childhood “kindles” a series of events that makes recurrence more likely in adulthood.
The first step to receiving family psychiatric services is to make an appointment with your child’s physician. This can be done online or in person. You can ask the counselor about their approach and qualifications during this meeting. You can also find out if the counselor offers home visits or online sessions, which can be more convenient for your family. They can also help you determine whether or not your child is eligible for early intervention services.
4. Early treatment
Psychiatrists and other mental health professionals can work with families to improve communication, better express emotions, and build healthier relationships. They can also help family members learn skills to support them in times of crisis and stress.
Family-based interventions are typically utilized within child and adolescent psychiatry but be effective in other conditions, including adult depression, eating disorders, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, and substance use disorders. Additionally, family psychoeducation has been shown to enhance treatment outcomes for patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
When working with transition-age youth, it is often necessary to assess social contexts that may exacerbate family conflicts, such as poverty, racial/ethnic discrimination and community violence. Suppose the patient consents to interview family members. In that case, a strength-based approach should identify underlying issues that could interfere with treatment progress and provide insight into the family’s ability to support the individual.