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Mental health care is critical to their total wellbeing.
CHOC provides a variety of mental health resources so you can get your child the help they need.

Pediatric Mental Health Services

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Children’s mental health is as important as their physical health. It’s not always obvious when a child is struggling emotionally, but recognizing the symptoms and seeking early and effective mental health services are important for long-term health.

At CHOC, we believe pediatric mental health treatment should be fully integrated with physical health treatment. Our psychiatry and psychology specialists work closely together to attend to our patients’ emotional, behavioral and developmental needs through inpatient and intensive outpatient therapy programs.

If you are experiencing a life-threatening emergency, call 9-1-1.
To reach the Crisis Text Line, text HOME to 741-741 or visit
To reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, call 9-8-8 or visit

Multidisciplinary Pediatric Mental Healthcare

At CHOC, we have a skilled multidisciplinary team of specialists for children and teens that includes psychiatrists, psychologists, nurses and social workers. We specialize in providing a full continuum of pediatric mental healthcare, including inpatient, intensive outpatient and outpatient program services. The team of pediatric mental health specialists provides:
  • Psychiatric evaluation
  • Medication management
  • Psychotherapy
  • Pediatric psychological testing
  • Play therapy
  • Neuropsychological evaluations
  • Parent education and more
We also work with schools so that an appropriate educational program is in place to meet your child’s needs.

Our Pediatric Psychologists Are Part of Your Child’s Healthcare Specialists Team

Many health conditions, like epilepsy, cancer, diabetes or a rare disease, can affect a child’s mental health in addition to their physical health. Our pediatric psychologists are part of the care teams for CHOC’s many treatment programs, both inpatient and outpatient. That means both a child’s physical and mental health needs are always being met. Patients and families can turn to our expert psychologists while receiving care anywhere at CHOC. If your child is hospitalized or has an appointment, and you would like to request a visit from a children’s psychologist, please let your nurse or doctor know. Our specialists team will develop a plan to care for your child. Our pediatric psychologists can help patients of all ages and their families:
  • Cope and understand an illness
  • Manage pain
  • Adhere to medication plans
  • Deal with stress, anxiety, depression, grief, trauma and other psychosocial needs.
They use expert techniques ranging from “talk” therapy, to medical play, to alternative coping methods such as biofeedback. Our pediatric psychologists tailor treatments to each patient’s age, comfort level and unique needs.

Mental Health Conditions We Treat


See our Mental Health Guides, curated by the experts at CHOC, to learn more about these and other pediatric mental health conditions.

Psychology Therapy Techniques for Children and Teens

Our psychologists are trained in pediatrics and know the best ways to help children and adolescents address pediatric mental health issues. These therapy methods, which can be different from the methods used for adults, give children and teens tools to deal with stress and unhealthy thoughts and behaviors. Our children’s and teens’ psychologists use a range of therapy techniques depending on a patient’s age, comfort level and unique needs. We may use “talk” therapy, medical play, art or games to encourage expression, family therapy and coping skills like hypnotherapy, biofeedback therapy and relaxation.

We start therapy with a thorough evaluation to help diagnose and better understand your child’s condition before treatment begins. We evaluate children and adolescents by taking a history of the child’s thoughts, emotions and behaviors in different settings, including home, school and social environments. Therapy often works best when parents and families are involved. Your child’s therapist will discuss the best ways you can help your child get better.

Young boy at therapy session with a pediatric psychologist

Frequently Asked Questions About Pediatric Mental Health

Yes. Research shows that one out of five children has a diagnosable mental health condition, and more than one-third of visits to a pediatrician are for purely psychological reasons. In fact, signs of depression can appear as early as age five. The good news is that the earlier mental illness is treated, the better chance a child has to prevent long-term effects on his or her health and well-being.
Children can have mental health disorders that interfere with the way they think, feel and act. Although some behavior problems can be attributed to normal child development, some require professional help. Mental health problems deserve attention when they are severe, persistent and affect daily activities. Seek help if your child:

  • Is often sad, worried or fearful
  • Has dramatic changes in appetite or sleep needs
  • Is spending most of his or her time alone instead of with friends or family
  • Has declining grades or interest in school
  • Is hyperactive, impulsive or has trouble concentrating
  • Is self-destructive or overly aggressive toward others
  • Is no longer interested in activities they used to enjoy.
When untreated, mental health disorders can lead to school failure, drug abuse, violence and even suicide. Most children who receive the right kind of help go on to live full and healthy lives. Seeking help early is key to a positive outcome.
Mental health therapy, sometimes called psychotherapy, can be very successful in helping children and adolescents address mental health issues. Therapy sessions generally last 45 minutes and are often scheduled weekly or every other week, although sessions can be more or less frequent depending on a child’s needs. Sessions can include:

  • Talking one-on-one with a pediatric psychologist, either individually or with family members
  • Art activities and therapeutic games to encourage expression
  • Role playing, sometimes with dolls or toys for younger children, to build new interpersonal skills
  • Practicing relaxation techniques to build coping skills.
Supplemental reading material or homework may be provided to the child and/or parents between sessions and is reviewed in the next session. Homework can include activities like journaling or logging events between sessions, practicing new skills or engaging in an activity together as a family.
Kids and teens need therapy when they have problems they can't cope with alone. Or they need help when problems affect how well they do, feel, or act. If things don't get better on their own, kids may need therapy so things can improve. Sometimes, entire families need support while trying to communicate, learn, and create boundaries.
CHOC has many different mental health specialists available, including:

  • Psychologists: Psychologists for children and teens work to meet the emotional, behavioral and psychological needs of the patient and family. They are not medical doctors, but have earned a doctorate degree.
  • Neuropsychologists: Neuropsychologists are doctoral-trained pediatric psychologists who specialize in how diseases, injuries and disorders of the nervous system affect emotions and behaviors.
  • Psychiatrists: Psychiatrists are medical doctors who treat mental health issues. They can prescribe medications, but may also use a number of counseling techniques.
  • Social Workers: Social workers may provide counseling, advocate on a family’s behalf and assist with any psychosocial needs.
CHOC is a teaching hospital, which means that advanced-training students may also be involved in your child's care. You will always be informed if a student is part of your care team. Learn more about what to expect at a teaching hospital.
Sometimes, psychotherapies, behavioral strategies and family support may be all a child needs. In other cases, medications are needed to help the child cope. If medication is prescribed, the child should be monitored and evaluated regularly. Your child’s doctor or psychologist will discuss the treatment options with you.
At CHOC, we have many health care professionals who can help you. You can call us at 714-509-8481. We may recommend that you visit your child's pediatrician or primary care doctor to be sure there isn't a medical cause for your child's condition.

In the first few appointments, you and your clinician can both decide if he or she is the best person to provide the services you need in order to meet your child’s needs. If you have questions about therapy procedures, it is important that you discuss them whenever they arise. We will be happy to help you set up a meeting with another mental health professional for a second opinion.
CHOC offers two doctoral-level training programs to train future generations of pediatric psychologists. Learn more about the following programs:

Our Partner Programs for Pediatric Mental Health

CHOC partners with a number of organizations to make sure all of our patients’ and families’ needs are met.

The Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders provides services for children from birth to 22 years of age with autism, attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and other conditions. The center offers individual consultations, treatment recommendations, parent training, behavior intervention, speech and language therapy, psychology services and referrals to community resources. Learn more about the Center for Autism & Neurodevelopmental Disorders.
Child Behavior Pathways, formerly known as CUIDAR, provides quality services to Orange County families and providers and promotes the social, emotional and cognitive development of children ages 0-5. The program helps children succeed in their home and school environments by placing an emphasis on parent/teacher education, prevention and early intervention and cultural needs throughout the community. Learn more about Child Behavior Pathways.
Through a partnership between CHOC and the University of California, Irvine, the Help Me Grow program connects families with additional developmental resources for children up to age five. Care coordinators work one-on-one with families to find appropriate community services, including screenings, in-home training and parenting classes and support groups. Learn more about Help Me Grow.
CHOC works closely with the Regional Center of Orange County (RCOC), a private, nonprofit organization that coordinates services and support for individuals with developmental disabilities and their families. Learn more about Regional Center of Orange County.
Children and Youth Behavioral Health (CYBH) provides a broad range of services for behaviorally, emotionally or mentally disordered children and adolescents which include evaluation, therapy, medication management, crisis intervention and collateral services to parents and families. Referral for hospitalization or residential treatment, consultation to schools and other agencies, coordination with private and public services and case management for those placed in hospitals or other 24-hour settings are also provided. CYBH services are provided through outpatient clinics, residential programs, crisis services, full service partnerships (FSP), and specialized services. Learn more about Children and Youth Behavioral Health.

If you would like to learn more about services available through the Orange County Health Care Agency, please call 1-855-OC-LINKS between the hours of 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. to be connected to a Behavioral Health Navigator.
UC Irvine Health Psychiatry Services offers a full spectrum of comprehensive mental health services for children and adults, including inpatient hospitalization as well as outpatient and emergency psychiatry. Learn more about UC Irvine Health Psychiatry Services.


Please call us to find a pediatric mental health provider who can help your family. Our staff will assist you in making an appointment or obtaining a referral from your doctor or insurance company if needed.

If you have scheduled your child’s first appointment with us, please fill out our New Patient Packet and bring it with you to your appointment. English Packet | Spanish Packet

Exterior view of CHOC Children’s Centrum North building
CHOC Pediatric Psychology

1120 W. La Veta Ave. | Suite 470 | Orange, CA 92868 | Office: 714-509-8481

Exterior view of CHOC Children’s Centrum North building
CHOC Specialists Psychiatry

Building: Centrum North | 1120 W. La Veta, Suite 830 | Orange, CA 92868 | 714-509-8232