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Treatment Options for Children and Teenagers

The most effective type of treatment for children with conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and/or psychopathy is family-focused therapy. In family-focused therapy, parents work directly with a clinician who trains them to use specialized approaches to manage their child’s symptoms and behavior at home.

Research shows that this type of therapy is much more effective for children with behavior problems than therapy where the therapist works one-on-one with the child. It is also more effective than medication.

There are several forms of family-focused therapies that research has shown are effective in improving symptoms in children with conduct disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, and/or psychopathy.

Family Focused Therapies

For some children medications or residential treatments may also be important for helping children manage their symptoms and behavior.

Residential Treatment & Medication

Treatment options for adults

In adults with psychopathy or related disorders (like Antisocial Personality Disorder) symptoms can be reduced and quality of life improved by several forms of specialized individual-focused therapy, as well as, in some cases, medication.

How to Find the Right Program

Determining what funding sources and financial resources are available is an important first step for guiding the search for residential treatment options.

It is also important to talk to your child’s healthcare provider to determine what type of program would best suit your child. Some children require more relational-based treatment models whereas others do better with a more cognitive-based approach. Some children need a program with very high levels of security. Some children simply need short-term stabilization, whereas others need a longer-term stay. 

Families should create a list of priorities for what they are seeking in a treatment program. Priorities can include the specific treatment approach, out-of-pocket costs, proximity of the program to the child’s home, living arrangement (for example, will the child have roommates), and school options (online, on-campus school, local public school). It may not be possible to find a program that meets every criteria you are seeking, but prioritizing may make it easier to choose among programs.

Families should also reach out to local and state mental health advocacy organizations. One starting point can be your state chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). These organizations can often provide information about how families can access residential treatment programs and might be able to connect families with other families who have placed children in residential programs. Another useful starting point is Building Bridges.

It is important to talk directly to representatives of the programs you’re considering. A program’s website can provide important information about their treatment focus and the types of children they accept. But the best way to determine whether a program is a good fit is to call them directly and visit, if possible. Admissions staff at most residential programs are knowledgeable and helpful. If their program turns out not to be a good fit, ask for their suggestions about other programs.