What is Orthopsychiatry?

Instructor: Mandy Gerhard

Mandy has taught a variety of age groups, from early childhood through adult learners. Mandy has a master’s degree in education.

In this lesson you'll learn what orthopsychiatry is and where it began. You'll also learn where to get more information in the field of orthopsychiatry.

What Is Orthopsychiatry?

Imagine you are waiting in line to check out in the grocery store and you see a mother struggling to keep her child from yelling at the top of his lungs. The people waiting in line are quick to judge the parenting ability since the child is seemingly out of control. However, things are not always as they seem. There is a growing population of children and adolescents who are struggling with behavioral disorders and emotional health needs.

Due to this growing need, behavioral health, specifically in children and youth, has been getting a great deal of attention. Schools are implementing positive behavior strategies to prevent challenging behaviors, pediatricians are referring children out to behavioral health services, and waiting lists to see developmental pediatricians for challenging behaviors are growing. Although the concern for the behavioral and emotional health in children and adolescents seems to be a fairly recent development, research actually began some time ago in the field of orthopsychiatry.

Orthopsychiatry's Multidisciplinary Approach

The study of behavioral health in children is directly linked to the definition of orthopsychiatry. Orthopsychiatry is a multidisciplinary approach to the study of behavior, specifically that of children and adolescents. This field focuses on the study, prevention, and treatment of emotional illnesses and mental health, specifically in youth. As stated before, orthopsychiatry is an approach that builds on the expertise of multiple professions, including psychology, psychiatry, sociology, pediatrics, and nursing.

The field of orthopsychiatry promotes positive mental health practices that will have a lasting impact for children and adolescents into adulthood. The research and growth that has happened in this field may help parents in the type of situation mentioned earlier. The parent in the example might now be able to find supports, strategies, and/or treatment for her child. This may allow her to go to the store without the worry of judgment for her and her child.

The Beginning of Orthopsychiatry in the United States

When did orthopsychiatry begin? The focused study of orthopsychiatry began in the 1920s in the United States with Herman Adler and Karl Menninger. In 1924, these individuals came together informally at the Institute for Juvenile Research in Chicago. They formed a group focused on behavior studies, which is today known as the American Orthopsychiatry Association (Ortho), initially limiting membership to physicians. However, in 1926 Ortho redefined its membership to be multidisciplinary. At this time the focus of the group was to study and determine treatment for conduct disorders.

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