Finding the Right Child Psychiatrist to Treat ADHD

A few months ago, Natalie’s pediatrician Dr. Halbur told us that it was time. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew he was right. Treating Natalie’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) and co-existing conditions (anxiety, sensory processing disorder, prenatal exposure to alcohol) had become complex enough to necessitate seeing a child psychiatrist. I’m […]

A few months ago, Natalie’s pediatrician Dr. Halbur told us that it was time. I didn’t want to do it, but I knew he was right. Treating Natalie’s attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADD/ADHD) and co-existing conditions (anxiety, sensory processing disorder, prenatal exposure to alcohol) had become complex enough to necessitate seeing a child psychiatrist.

I’m not sure what my hesitation to take Natalie to a psychiatrist stemmed from. Was it the stigma associated with seeing a “shrink”? More proof of the severity of Natalie’s disorders? Fear of change — of starting over with someone who didn’t know Natalie and her background the way Dr. Halbur does? Or the fact that I’ve — honestly — never talked to a parent who’s satisfied with their ADD/ADHD child’s psychiatrist?

Maybe it was the picture I’d created in my mind: An arrogant, aged 60ish man, making instant, life-changing decisions during 10-minute appointments, six or more months apart, with phone calls being routed through a nurse, the main thrust of my concerns lost in translation, and no explanations to go with the resulting dictate from His Highness.

I couldn’t have been more wrong. Is that because the scenario I imagined is just not accurate — or did we get incredibly lucky?

I came away from our first appointment with a very good impression. The second appointment cemented my trust. Excited to share the good news with Dr. Halbur, I e-mailed:

“Just wanted to let you know that Natalie and I have met twice with Dr. Mishra, the new child psychiatrist at Blank Children’s Hospital [in Des Moines, Iowa]. I like her very, very much. Long appointments — plenty of time to ask and answer questions. She seems bright, thorough and careful, but also realistic. We’re meeting every 3 weeks or so right now — pretty unusual for a psychiatrist, huh? She and Dr. Warren Phillips [Nat’s psychologist] have already talked on the phone to coordinate too. I thought you and your colleagues might be interested in a parent’s feedback in case you have someone to refer in the future.”

Natalie is one of her first patients and I hope she can maintain this level of service as her caseload grows. (Shhh! Let’s keep this too-good-to-be-true-seeming secret between us!)

Was it silly of me to be hesitant to put Natalie’s care in the hands of a psychiatrist? Has your family physician or pediatrician been able to treat your child’s ADD/ADHD, or does your child see a psychiatrist? Is it difficult to find child psychiatrists in the area where you live, or do you have choices? Please share your experiences in the comment section below.

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