Children who are admitted into CHAMP get a diagnostic evaluation first. This usually means two sessions with a psychologist and one with a psychiatrist. After these sessions, a treatment plan within the clinic is developed, or we will give you a set of referrals for care outside CHAMP if we don’t think we can help.
As is true in most clinics in the U.S. that treat bipolar children, a variety of medications are employed to treat the disorder. It is common for mood stabilizing medications such as lithium, Depakote, or Lamictal; or “atypical antipsychotic” medications like Seroquel, Risperdal, Zyprexa, Abilify, or Geodon to be prescribed, though more research is needed to define the safe and optimal use of these agents. Some children also take antidepressant medications for depression, anxiety, or sleep. Some children require treatment with several of these medications at once. These medications require close monitoring and frequent check-ups of both behavior and possible side effects. If your child has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) as well, s/he may take a stimulant medication.
Children and families also benefit from family educational sessions or support groups. Therapy may help the family to learn more about the disorder, how to prevent relapses, how to monitor moods and sleep–wake cycles, and how to function better in the family and school environment. The CHAMP clinic specializes in one type of therapy that has been shown to be effective in pediatric bipolar disorder: family-focused treatment (FFT), which combines education about coping with bipolar disorder, communication enhancement training, and training in problem-solving skills.