For many families, the conversation about medication management to reduce mental health symptoms in children is off the table before the realities of this intervention can be explored. Medication can be a beneficial intervention, in tandem with therapy, to translate the skill development from the clinical setting into positive behavioral changes in the natural environment.
When is medication recommended to manage mental health symptoms in children?
Medication might be recommended as a therapeutic approach early on in treatment depending on the severity of the presented concerns and the impact of these symptoms on the child’s overall quality of life. For instance, if the child struggling with impulsivity and reduced focus/attention is doing poorly in school, if he has challenges reading social cues in peer relationships, and is he is internalizing negative feelings of self as the result, medication may be recommended sooner rather than later to improve client’s overall level of functioning.
The goal of social work intervention is to address the socio-emotional concerns through teaching client awareness into the triggers that precipitate the maladaptive behaviors (i.e. distracting thoughts/stimuli that reduce focus, decisions that elicit anger that snowballs into a meltdown, etc.) and the skills to modify their behavior. In some cases, the client can demonstrate and prove comprehension of the skills presented but in practice, have a hard time implementing the learned coping strategies in real-life scenarios. If the child’s quality of life and overall functioning remain to be negatively impacted despite intellectualization of how to handle their emotions or redirect their behavior, medication might serve as the glue to carry these compensatory strategies into reality.
To decide if a medication consultation is right for you, use this checklist:
- Does my child struggle with implementing the therapeutic skills they learn in treatment?
- Despite involvement in therapy, is my child’s quality of life negatively impacted socially, academically, personally?
- Has there been an increase in the frequency and duration of symptoms (i.e. more meltdowns per week, more redirections to re-regulate body to remain calm, etc.)?
- Does my (the parent) and my family’s quality of life continue to be negatively impacted with frequent impulsive reactions, mood dysregulation, or hyperactive nature of the child?
Consult with your pediatrician and therapist if you have any questions about if medication would be a right fit for your child. And remember, just because you may decide to try medication does not mean that it is a magic bullet fix or that it has to be a life sentence. Ongoing therapeutic intervention in addition to medication can be the right course of treatment for some children.