How, who, what, where?

What does the world of child and adolescent psychiatry look like exactly? That is pretty difficult to explain. It's not easy to compare it to situations you're familiar with, like school or your general practitioner.


How exactly do you end up at a child and adolescent psychiatric clinic? In any case, you have to have a 'referral': you are referred to the clinic by your general practitioner, another doctor (e.g. a paediatrician) or the Youth Care Agency.


The people who work there don't look like doctors. They wear normal clothes, not white coats. They are understanding and are used to talking with children, adolescents and parents about concerns and problems. Read more about treatment specialists.


The 'examinations' you undergo are usually interviews with you, with your parents and with the whole family. You often complete questionnaires or you might be asked to take a test. The help you receive usually entails meeting an adult who has learned to help children when they have problems. This is called 'therapy' or 'guidance'. These adults sometimes explain that medication (a pill or a drink) can also help you feel better. Medication has advantages and disadvantages: ask for a good explanation.


The child and adolescent psychiatric clinic is sometimes in a hospital, and sometimes in its own building. It may be in a city or more on the outskirts. It often looks like an office, with a waiting room and a hallway with meeting rooms. If your situation is pretty serious, you can also come for outpatient treatment (assistance and school during the day) or day and night treatment. There is a living room, consultation rooms and bedrooms, and your days will be more or less like they are at home. One advantage is that you get support from children your age who have similar problems. Of course, there are also disadvantages. Never be afraid to ask questions or voice your opinion when you are given advice. Depending on your situation, it may be that you might have to try more than one form of treatment, at the same time or one after the other.


The world of psychiatry, explained step-by-step:

  • Step 1 Referral: a suggestion or recommendation from a doctor or the Youth Care Agency (Bureau Jeugdzorg) for you to go to a child psychiatrist or a mental healthcare clinic for young people.
  • Step 2 Registration: You can do this by phone. You are often sent forms or questionnaires which you and your parents have to complete. This saves time during the appointment.
  • Step 3 First consultation/intake: This is an interview in which a social worker and you get to know each other. Topics include what your problems are, how long you have had these problems, what have you all gone through and what you have all already done to improve the situation.
  • Step 4 Examinations: These often include more than one interview, with different experts. You are asked to complete questionnaires and tests - sometimes alone, sometimes with your parents and sometimes with the whole family. These interviews can be quite in-depth.
  • Step 5 Advice: The different people with whom you have spoken and all other information from questionnaires and tests are brought together and considered. This results in an idea of what the problem is (i.e. a diagnosis) and what treatment is best in your situation. This idea is then presented to you and your parents.
  • Step 6 Therapy or training: Can be conducted in different ways. The basic idea is that an adult helps you take care of your problems, feel better and achieve your goals. This usually involves a number of sessions, either once a week or once every two weeks. It is often a fixed working method which is known to be helpful (see Formal Psychological Treatment Methods). Therapy or training can also take the form of group or family sessions.
  • Step 7 Evaluation: There will be regular check-ups during which you and your parents are asked whether things are going better, if the treatment should be changed in some way or if something should be added to the treatment. It may be necessary to try more than one method of treatment. If this is the case, additional examination may be necessary.
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