Topic: Bipolar Disorder Treatment (Child & Adolescent)

Scientific Ratings in this topic:

1 - Well-Supported by Research Evidence

2 - Supported by Research Evidence

3 - Promising Research Evidence

4 - Evidence Fails to Demonstrate Effect

5 - Concerning Practice

NR - Not able to be Rated

Learn more about the scale

Definition for Bipolar Disorder Treatment (Child & Adolescent):

Bipolar Disorder Treatment (Child & Adolescent) is defined by the CEBC as the treatment of youth with a diagnosis of a bipolar disorder, which is sometimes referred to as manic depression. Youth with bipolar disorders may have manic episodes, depressive episodes, or "mixed" episodes. Common symptoms of a manic episode include being in an overly silly or joyful mood that is unusual, having an extremely short temper, extreme irritability, sleeping little but not feeling tired, talking a lot, racing thoughts, having trouble concentrating, behaving in risky ways more often, and doing more activities than usual. Common symptoms of a depressive episode include persistent sad mood, losing interest in activities, feeling worthless or guilty, complaining about pain more often, such as headaches, stomach aches, and muscle pains, significant change in appetite or body weight, difficulty sleeping or oversleeping, loss of energy, and recurring thoughts of death or suicide.

The CEBC has evaluated only replicable programs that do not use medication as an essential component of treatment. The Pharmacological Treatments for Children and Adolescents with Mental Health Disorders page has links to reputable organizations that list information on medications used to help treat children and adolescents with bipolar disorder and other disorders.

  • Target population: Youth with a diagnosis of a bipolar disorder
  • Services/types that fit: Typically outpatient services - usually either individual or group, but occasionally family therapy or services also
  • Delivered by: Mental health professionals
  • In order to be included: Program must specifically target bipolar disorder
  • In order to be rated: There must be research evidence (as specified by Scientific Rating Scale) that examines bipolar disorder-related outcomes, such changes in symptom levels, behaviors, and/or functioning

Why was Bipolar Disorder Treatment (Child & Adolescent) chosen as a topic by the Advisory Committee? (Click for Answer)

The Bipolar Disorder Treatment (Child & Adolescent) topic area is relevant to child welfare because documented research shows that children who enter the child welfare system, particularly those that are removed from their home, experience a significantly higher rate of mental health problems, including bipolar disorder than children in the general population. This is not surprising, and is likely the result of a number of contributing factors. These factors may include events that precipitated child welfare intervention including abuse, neglect, and abandonment, as well as factors associated with placement, including separation, loss, anger, and fear.

While the child welfare system has historically focused on the physical and safety needs of children, emerging practice within agencies across the country is to now take into account the emotional needs of children as well. Child welfare agencies along with mental health providers have come to recognize the need for timely, appropriate, and effective bipolar disorder treatment services that support children and families in achieving successful outcomes. In addition, early assessment and timely treatment intervention have been recognized as playing a key role in ensuring successful outcomes for children. As a result, a growing number of new initiatives and programs are being implemented within California counties that support the delivery of an array of mental health services to children and families receiving child welfare services. These services range from mental health screening and assessment to individualized treatment for identified needs.

Additionally, there is heightened awareness among professionals that the delivery of children's mental health services must be carefully coordinated across child serving agencies to thoroughly address their complex needs. Whether children remain living with their parents or are placed outside the home, it is critical that all children in the child welfare system be screened and assessed. Moreover, parents and caregivers must be trained to identify early signs of mental distress enabling them to seek early intervention and appropriate care and treatment.

Marilynne Garrison
Division Chief, Community-Based Support Division
Los Angeles County Department of Children and Family Services

Programs in this Topic Area

The programs listed below have been reviewed by the CEBC and, if appropriate, been rated using the Scientific Rating Scale.

Programs with a Scientific Rating of 2 - Supported by Research Evidence:

Programs with a Scientific Rating of NR - Not able to be Rated: