Pediatric Mental Health Care

Our University of Chicago of Medicine Comer Children's Hospital child and adolescent psychiatry program is recognized as a leader in research, training and clinical care. Many firsts in child and adolescent psychiatry have happened here. For example, our staff discovered the first genes ever identified for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism. We also helped establish one of the world's most successful approaches to eating disorders.

Outstanding Inpatient & Outpatient Care

Every day, our patients and their families benefit from the research conducted here on leading-edge medications and therapies.

Our experts treat infants, children and teens with most types of mental health problems — from schizophrenia and depression to bulimia nervosa. These clinics include:

  • Eating Disorders Clinic: For children and teens with signs of anorexia nervosa or bulimia nervosa
  • General Child & Adolescent Psychiatry Clinic: For children ages three to 18 who have symptoms of depression, anxiety and other problems not seen in our other specialty clinics
  • General Pediatric Psychopharmacology Clinics: For children with a wide range of emotional and behavioral disorders
  • Neurodevelopmental Disorders Program: For patients with autistic disorder or other pervasive developmental disorders 
  • Parent-Child Interaction Therapy (PCIT): For parents and children together to reduce disruptive, aggressive, non-compliant and oppositional behaviors in young children
  • Parent-Infant Development Clinic: For infants and toddlers up to age two who have behavior problems, mother-child interaction difficulties, sleep or eating problems and other developmental issues
  • Pediatric Emergency Psychiatry
  • Pediatric Forensic Psychiatry Program: Expert evaluation for civil and criminal cases
  • Pediatric Mood & Anxiety Disorders Clinic: For patients with primary mood and anxiety disorders such as depression, bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorders
  • Pediatric Neuropsychology Service: For infants, toddlers, school-age children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental, learning, emotion regulation and medical disorders and conditions 
  • Pediatric Psychosomatic Medicine Program: For children and adolescents with complex and co-occurring medical and psychiatric disorders 
  • Pediatric Trauma Program: For pediatric patients who have experienced traumatic experiences, ranging from natural disasters to violence in the home or community 
  • Preschool Behavior Problems Clinic: For children ages two to four who are living exhibiting disruptive behavior, aggressiveness, self-abuse and other severe behavior problems
  • Refractory ADHD Program: For complex presentations of ADHD

Expert Pediatric Psychiatric Diagnosis & Testing

An accurate diagnosis is vital in providing the best possible treatment. Because our psychiatrists and psychologists have taken care of so many children with various types of disorders, they are experts at diagnosing even rare and unusual problems. They are adept at identifying issues in the very young — even infants — as well as older children and teens.

Our psychiatry service offers all of the latest approaches for diagnosing and clarifying psychiatric, psychological and neurological diseases in children — from autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) to head trauma and learning disorders. Our group of specially-trained pediatric psychologists are skilled at determining how various diseases and disorders affects a child's thinking. They use the latest tests to assess a child's intellectual functioning, language skills, motor abilities, and other cognitive and behavioral functions.

State-of-the-Art Therapies

We provide the most advanced treatment approaches including:

  • Recent advances in psychopharmacology that can reduce or minimize symptoms associated with all types of problems, such as depression and anxiety
  • The latest approaches in cognitive and behavioral therapy, which can help children change destructive behaviors and thoughts
  • Proven family therapies, which involve a child's parents, siblings and other loved ones
  • Psychotherapy or "talk" therapy aimed at helping children work through difficult issues
  • Behavior therapy for the treatment of persistently dysfunctional or disruptive behaviors
  • Coordinated treatment of psychiatric illnesses associated with complex medical problems such as brain injury and seizure disorders

We design each treatment plan around a child's particular individual needs. What works best for your child may be different than what works for another child. Many children benefit from a combination of treatment approaches — for example, behavior therapy plus medication.

Why Choose Us?

We have a long and distinguished reputation of helping children of all ages — from infancy through late teens — with almost all types of mental health problems. Because most of our clinicians are also researchers, they are on top of the most recent diagnostic and treatment advances and pass these on to our patients as quickly as possible.

Our experts know about new treatments months before they are reported in the media. As a result, they can provide balanced advice on whether a new treatment will work for your child. Very often, our clinicians are involved in leading-edge advances.
Many of our child and adolescent psychiatrists and psychologists have won numerous awards for their expertise and empathy. Their research has been published in major medical and psychiatric journals, and they have been asked to speak at many national and international conferences.

However, the awards that mean the most to us are the ones that have come from our patients and their families  — the cards, letters and pictures telling us we made a difference in their lives. All of our staff believe that a vital part of effective care is the ability to communicate well with patients and their families.

Our psychiatrists and psychologists respond quickly to calls from children's pediatricians and other clinicians who want to confer on a child's symptoms or treatment.

Our psychiatrists commonly help clinicians in the community determine the best medication or dosage for uncomplicated problems, such as straightforward ADHD and depression. Whenever possible, it is best for a child to be treated in a familiar setting and by familiar caregivers. If the problem is serious, our specialists can arrange to see a child as soon as needed.

All of our treatment plans are carried out in collaboration with the family's local schools, pediatrician and social service agencies. A major part of our job is reaching out to community organizations to help ensure that children get the help they need. This may mean sitting down with a child's teacher to discuss effective classroom approaches. Or it might involve helping parents find specialized daycare, art therapy, biofeedback or other needed services close to home.

One unique aspect of our program is our long history of seeing children throughout their lifespan. Our youngest patients are infants who show problems with attachment, eating, sleeping and other behaviors.

Our oldest patients are adolescents with behavioral problems, attention problems, depression, anxiety and other concerns that interfere with functioning.

Our job is to help children and adolescents. To do this successfully, we need to work very closely with each patient's family. We view a child's parents as key members of our clinical team. Without the parents’ help, our treatment plans could not be successful. In fact, many of our treatment plans involve parents and siblings in therapy sessions.
Our clinicians have been awarded countless grants from the National Institutes of Health and other organizations to test new treatment approaches for many disorders. As a result, our patients often have access to new therapies before they are commonly available elsewhere.