Welcome to the Glossary of Terms Used in Children’s and Adolescents’ Mental Health, Page 1

This glossary covers terms commonly used in mental health in the context of children and adolescents; it draws primarily on US usage of these terms. Also see the broader general Mental Health Glossary.

Glossary of Terms: Child and Adolescent Mental Health

This glossary contains terms frequently used when referring to the mental health needs of children and adolescents. The terms in this glossary describe ideal services, which may not be available in all communities. For more information about children’s mental health issues or services, call SAMHSA’s National Mental Health Information Center at 1-800-789-2647.

A – C

Accessible services:
Services that are affordable, located nearby, and open during evenings and weekends. Staff is sensitive to and incorporates individual and cultural values. Staff is also sensitive to barriers that may keep a person from getting help. For example, an adolescent may be more willing to attend a support group meeting in a church or club near home than to travel to a mental health center. An accessible service can handle consumer demand without placing people on a long waiting list.
Appropriate services:
Designed to meet the specific needs of each individual child and family. For example, one family may need day treatment, while another may need home-based services. Appropriate services for one child and family may not be appropriate for another. Appropriate services usually are provided in the child’s community.
Assessment:
A professional review of child and family needs that is done when services are first sought from a caregiver. The assessment of the child includes a review of physical and mental health, intelligence, school performance, family situation, and behavior in the community. The assessment identifies the strengths of the child and family. Together, the caregiver and family decide what kind of treatment and supports, if any, are needed.
Caregiver:
A person who has special training to help people with mental health problems. Examples include counsellors, social workers, teachers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and mentors.
Case manager:
An individual who organizes and coordinates services and supports for children with mental health problems and their families. (Alternate terms: service coordinator, advocate, and facilitator.)
Case management:
A service that helps people arrange for appropriate services and supports. A case manager coordinates mental health, social work, educational, health, vocational, transportation, advocacy, respite care, and recreational services, as needed. The case manager makes sure that the changing needs of the child and family are met. (This definition does not apply to managed care.)
Child protective services:
Designed to safeguard the child when abuse, neglect, or abandonment is suspected, or when there is no family to take care of the child. Examples of help delivered in the home include financial assistance, vocational training, homemaker services, and daycare. If in-home supports are insufficient, the child may be removed from the home on a temporary or permanent basis. Ideally, the goal is to keep the child with the family whenever possible.

Children and adolescents at risk for mental health problems:
Children are at greater risk for developing mental health problems when certain factors occur in their lives or environments. Factors include physical abuse, emotional abuse or neglect, harmful stress, discrimination, poverty, loss of a loved one, frequent relocation, alcohol and other drug use, trauma, and exposure to violence.
Continuum of care:
A term that implies a progression of services that a child moves through, usually one service at a time. More recently, it has come to mean comprehensive services. Also see system of care and wraparound services.
Coordinated services:
Child-serving organizations talk with the family and agree upon a plan of care that meets the child’s needs. These organizations can include mental health, education, juvenile justice, and child welfare. Case management is necessary to coordinate services. Also see family-centered services and wraparound services.
Crisis residential treatment services:
Short-term, round-the-clock help provided in a nonhospital setting during a crisis. For example, when a child becomes aggressive and uncontrollable, despite in-home supports, a parent can temporarily place the child in a crisis residential treatment service. The purposes of this care are to avoid inpatient hospitalization, help stabilize the child, and determine the next appropriate step.
Cultural competence:
Help that is sensitive and responsive to cultural differences. Caregivers are aware of the impact of culture and possess skills to help provide services that respond appropriately to a person’s unique cultural differences, including race and ethnicity, national origin, religion, age, gender, sexual orientation, or physical disability. They also adapt their skills to fit a family’s values and customs.

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