At Seattle Children’s, our Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine team works to diagnose, treat and prevent problems with emotions and behavior. We see children and teens up to age 18, and sometimes longer, if they still need care from mental health experts who treat young people.

We offer thorough diagnostic evaluations and recommendations for treatment in the community or at Seattle Children’s, if appropriate. Our aim is to evaluate your child’s needs to see where it would be most helpful to get care.

In our clinics, we provide short-term individual and group treatment using methods that have been shown to help. If your child needs longer-term care, we connect you with people and resources in the community who can meet your child’s needs. We also work closely with community providers, and offer consultation when needed.

Children with complex mental health problems may need to stay in the hospital at times. When this happens, we have the Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit (PBMU) with 25 beds. Our focus in the PBMU is to help your child during a mental health crisis and ensure their immediate safety. We work to resolve the crisis and to teach your child and family skills that can help after your child leaves the hospital. Most stays in the PBMU are seven to eight days. We will work closely with your child’s community providers to support the return home.

Conditions We Treat

We provide diagnosis and care for children and teens with many conditions, including:

  • Learn more about ADHD.

  • Autism can affect the way a child behaves, thinks, communicates and acts with others. Children with autism are not all affected the same way. Some have only mild symptoms and grow up to live on their own. Others have more severe symptoms and need support with the activities of daily living their entire life. For children with autism,  Seattle Children’s Autism Center provides comprehensive care.

  • Children, just like adults, can struggle with painful emotional problems. Young people may not know how to talk about feeling down or worried and may become withdrawn or less cooperative. Parents and caretakers need to act when signs of depression or anxiety begin to interfere with a child or teen’s ability to participate successfully in school, family and social activities. Fortunately, effective interventions are available. Learn more about depression (PDF) and anxiety (PDF).

  • Eating disorders are extremes in how your child eats. The most common eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia. There are others, too, like binge-eating disorders, body-image disorders and food phobias. The line between eating that’s normal and not normal is not always easy to draw. We can help you understand what’s going on with your child’s eating. We offer a number of services for eating disorders and will help your child and family find the services that best meet your needs. Our team also offers longer-term follow-up therapy. We have a therapy group to help your child learn coping skills and a class for parents to help you at mealtime. Our team works closely with experts in Adolescent Medicine to make sure your child receives complete care. Read more.

  • Children who have a serious illness or who are getting major treatment may have mental health concerns at the same time. These concerns may be caused by the child’s illness or a side effect of a medicine. They may take place because it is hard to live with a serious health problem. Whatever the cause, our team provides help with emotions, behaviors and coping skills. Pediatric psychologists, who are specially trained to help children and teens deal with serious illness, are part of the care team for the Cancer and Inflammatory Bowel Disease programs. They are also available to consult with patients in other programs as needed.

  • Learn more about ODD.

Outpatient Mental Health Services

The services we offer include:

  • Clinic-based (outpatient) care may include visits to assess your child’s mental health, feedback about the problem and options for getting treatment – either at our clinics or somewhere else. We offer short-term treatment that is solution-focused. We review treatment goals often and talk about ongoing treatment needs. If your family is seeking longer-term supportive care, or if your family may benefit from treatments we do not offer, we may refer you to community mental health providers who can help. Our team can provide services for Deaf and hard-of-hearing children and teens. Read more (PDF).

    For families with DSHS/Medicaid only: Medicaid requires patients to see a mental health provider who has a contract in the county where the patient lives. DSHS currently only contracts with Seattle Children's in King County. Look up providers by county.

  • The consultation is a single visit, lasting 45 to 60 minutes, with a master’s-level therapist or psychologist. The aim is to provide education, ideas to try at home and information about mental health resources in your community, and make referrals for diagnostic evaluation or group therapy in our clinic. The child must be less than 18 years old.

  • Our medical and psychology staff can meet with families already in treatment whose current provider would like a second opinion and consultation. In these cases, our staff works with the referring provider to answer questions about the direction for treatment.

  • Group therapy provides hands-on skills training and education to children and adolescents who struggle with their emotions and behaviors. Most groups run for eight to 12 weeks and repeat. Group treatment can be particularly helpful for parents and patients who are new to the mental health system or are early in treatment. Learn more about our groups.

    We offer group therapy sessions to help children and teens who are experiencing anxiety. The program teaches coping skills for children ages 9 to 15, and social skills/friendship skills for children ages 7 to 12.

  • Many children have a complex set of symptoms, and the best course of treatment is not clear at first. A full diagnostic evaluation (two or three visits) can clarify why a child is having emotional and behavioral problems and how a mental health or medical professional can help. Families may seek a diagnostic evaluation at our clinic and then plan to get ongoing mental health treatment in their local community.

  • Your primary care doctor or your community provider may refer your child for a consultation to discuss your child’s medicine plan. Your child will then be referred back to their provider for ongoing treatment. Sometimes patients will be seen for multiple visits until stable on the prescribed medicines.

  • We use tools such as cameras and videoconferencing to reach children and families outside the Seattle area. This way, we can consult with patients and providers through partner clinics in Longview, Olympia, Tri-Cities and Wenatchee, Washington; and in Ketchikan, Alaska.

Consultation Services for Patients with Medical and Surgical Needs

The services we offer include:

  • Our team members work closely with experts throughout Children’s to care for children who are staying in the hospital for any medical condition or surgery and who also have a mental health concern.

  • Dealing with an intense, ongoing illness can take a toll on a child or teen’s emotional and mental well-being, even if they don’t have an underlying mental illness. Our Cancer and Inflammatory Bowel Disease teams include pediatric psychologists who have special training in helping kids cope with chronic illness.

  • We see children who are referred to us by their provider at Seattle Children’s. The neuropsychological evaluation helps us better understand how a child’s brain is developing and working. We measure memory, attention, perception, coordination, language and personality.

    A child may be referred to us because of one or more problems, such as trouble with learning, attention, behavior, socialization or emotional control. Or, the referral may be related to a disease or developmental problem that affects the brain in some way, or a brain injury from an accident, medical treatment or other physical stress.

Inpatient Services for Patients with Mental Health Needs

The services we offer include:

  • The Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine Unit (PBMU) offers treatment for children and teens who need short-term, hospital-based (inpatient) care to stabilize them during a mental health crisis. When your child is ready to go home, we provide support for your child and family to make the return as supportive as possible. Read more.

Seattle Children’s does not currently offer the following services

  • In-home therapy. Many community mental health centers provide this service.
  • Long-term individual therapy
  • Long-term medicine management
  • Treatment for sexual abuse or sexual aggression. Contact the King County Sexual Assault Center at 888-998-6423 or Harborview’s Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress at 206-744-1600.
  • Treatment for abuse, trauma or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Call Harborview’s Center for Sexual Assault and Traumatic Stress at 206-744-1600.
  • Parenting evaluations for legal purposes, such as developing parenting plans. Contact the Parenting Evaluation Treatment Program (PETP) online or at 206-616-6220.
  • School evaluations after expulsion. Contact your child’s school for a list of providers who do “return to school” evaluations.

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