Magazine article Science News

Treatment Enigma for Disturbed Kids

Magazine article Science News

Treatment Enigma for Disturbed Kids

Article excerpt

In many health-care programs, clinicians who treat children's emotional and behavioral problems face mounting pressures to specify how much therapy kids really need.

Scant research has tracked youngsters receiving mental-health treatment outside university-based programs. Two new studies, both published in the February JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN ACADEMY OF CHILD AND ADOLESCENT PSYCHIATRY, venture into the real world of child mental-health services.

However, their clashing conclusions about what to expect from such treatment are sure to frustrate health-care insurers.

One investigation, directed by psychiatrist Adrian Angold of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., finds that seriously disturbed kids who attend at least eight sessions of psychotherapy or other mental-health care improve markedly and continue to progress as they get more treatment. The other study, led by psychologist Ana Regina Andrade of Vanderbilt University in Nashville, reveals comparable improvement in groups of children receiving either little or lots of psychotherapy.

Over 4 years, Angold's group conducted interviews and surveys with 1,422 children, ages 9 to 16, and their parents. Participants came from rural, largely low-income areas of North Carolina. As a large part of their sample, the researchers included children who, according to their parents, had behavior problems.

During the study, 365 children received some form of mental-health treatment. Most sought private psychotherapy or services at public mental-health centers. …

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