Shortage of Child and Adolescent Psychiatrists

There has long been a shortage of board certified child psychiatrists in the United States, which is now reaching a critical level.  According to the Surgeon General, there are presently 74181 board certified child psychiatrists practicing in a country with 73, 675,6002 children and adolescents.  These numbers are very concerning when we consider that the Surgeon General further reports that about 20 percent of children and adolescents have a mental disorder with at least mild functional impairment.

Only an average of 300 child and adolescent psychiatrists complete training each year, so you might not be surprised to learn that there are only a few certified child psychiatrist’s in all of Loudoun County. Parents often ask us, “What’s the difference between a board certified child psychiatrist and a general psychiatrist?”  Our response is simply that board certified child psychiatrist’s are better trained and credentialed to be prescribing psychiatric medications to toddlers, children and teens when warranted.  More specifically, child and adolescent psychiatry is the only medical specialty that comprehensively trains physicians to assess and treat children and adolescents’ mental illnesses.

As reported in Medical News Today, most children and adolescents who receive treatment do so by their primary care physicians, who identify about 19 percent of the children they see as having behavioral and emotional disorders.  Pediatricians and family physicians are able, with appropriate training and consultation, to initiate mental health interventions to children with behavioral problems and common mental health disorders.  However, some children do not improve with initial intervention and may require the specialized treatment of a child and adolescent psychiatrist.

Medical News Today goes on to point out that children and adolescents who do not receive treatment for mental illnesses are at a higher risk for school failure, problems at home, substance abuse, and entrance into the juvenile justice system.  Early treatment by a trained professional, such as a board certified child and adolescent psychiatrist is critical to the development of a child with mental illness.

The first question to ask a psychiatrist’s office when calling for your child or teen then is whether or not they are board certified to treat children. If the answer is “no” then keep looking until you find one who is.  Should your child require psychiatric medication, he or she should receive it from the best trained and credentialed physician.

Please call our office manager, Laura Cusumano, at: (703) 723-2999.  You can also visit us at to review our team bios and to learn more about Ashburn Psychological and Psychiatric Services.