A smiling boy helps cook in the kitchen.

Children's mental & behavioral health

Support and treatment for children’s mental health

Childhood is a time of wonder and excitement, but sometimes kids face obstacles that require help. If you’ve noticed signs of a change in the way your child or teen sees and responds to the world, we can help.

Mental health disorders are very common among children. In fact, 20% of kids in the U.S. are diagnosed each year. But parents can rest assured that these conditions are treatable through a variety of methods, and support is available for both children and families every step of the way.

At HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, we take an integrated approach to treating mental health conditions. Using the skills and experience of both our primary care doctors and mental and behavioral health specialists, we’re able to provide treatment for a broad range of conditions, from the common to the more complex.

Our team of mental and behavioral health experts works with families to develop a personalized plan for support and treatment using the latest clinical research.

What we treat

  • Adjustment disorders
  • Anger issues
  • Anxiety
  • Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)
  • Autism spectrum disorder
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Depression
  • Disruptive behavior
  • Eating disorders
  • Fetal alcohol syndrome
  • Grief and loss
  • Intellectual disabilities
  • Obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD)
  • Panic disorder
  • Phobias

With locations in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, we offer compassionate help for mental health close to home.

Signs of mental and behavioral conditions in children

Children naturally experience changes in mood and behavior as they grow and mature. But sometimes the changes parents notice are more severe or don’t seem to be improving over time. Signs of mental and behavioral conditions may differ from child to child. Children may experience changes in weight or sleep habits. They may have difficulty concentrating and staying still. Anytime your child has new or unusual symptoms that you are concerned about or are worsening, it’s a good idea to schedule an appointment.

Diagnosing mental health conditions

Monitoring a child’s mental and developmental health is a partnership between parents, teachers, coaches and the child’s primary care doctor. Each plays a unique role in the child’s life and may be the first to notice something of concern. It’s important that everyone in a child’s life works together and openly communicates about any potential concerns.

Our primary care doctors are trained to observe each child’s physical and mental health and listen to any concerns you share during your visit.

If our doctors think the help of a specialist is needed, we can refer you to one of our child mental and developmental health experts. When you meet with our specialists, we will determine the type and extent of evaluation needed to obtain an accurate diagnosis.  An evaluation may include one or more of the following:

  • an interview
  • rating scales
  • psychological testing

If next steps are needed, we will begin working with you and your child’s primary care doctor on the best treatment plan for your family.

Personalized treatment plans

Whether your child is experiencing grief or social anxiety in school, your family has our support. We consider medical, developmental and behavioral factors as we get to know each child we meet.

It’s common for personalized treatment plans to include a combination of several treatment techniques, such as:

Talk therapy

In talk therapy, also known as psychotherapy or therapy, a child meets with a mental health specialist for a number of counseling sessions. Depending on their age, the child may meet with a therapist alone or with their parents present. An important part of talk therapy is the private relationship between the patient and therapist. Often a child or teen is more comfortable sharing their feelings with a therapist rather than with a parent, teacher or friend because they feel free from judgment and consequences to school, hobbies or personal relationships.

Therapy sessions follow different psychological techniques, based on the patient’s needs. Therapists are specially trained to ask questions that help them understand a child’s mental health and determine the best way to help. Through therapy, children can find a comfortable outlet for expressing their feelings and learn valuable ways to process their emotions, adopt new skills and change behaviors.

Speech and language therapy

Speech and language pathologists work with our team of psychologists and developmental-behavioral pediatricians. They treat and diagnose speech and language delays and disorders. They also identify potential barriers to verbal and social communication and provide treatment to work to remove those barriers.

Family therapy

As another therapy option, family counseling is available to support children and families through emotional challenges and relationship conflicts. In family counseling, a therapist works with the child, parents and siblings together. Families often find support to help them through a difficult time or diagnosis, as well as learning ways to contribute to the child’s mental health. Therapists can also help families work through difficult relationship conflicts and learn how to improve home dynamics.


Medication can be another effective treatment option, and it’s often recommended in combination with talk therapy. Some medicines are meant for short-term use while others are prescribed for a longer period. Doctors may prescribe antidepressants, antianxiety medications, mood stabilizers, stimulants or others.

If you haven’t talked to a doctor about your child’s symptoms, we recommend starting with a visit to one of our primary care doctors or pediatricians. We’ll listen to your concerns and can connect you to the right specialist if needed.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Kids go through countless phases as they grow, and their emotional state and behavior might change slightly with each one. So how can you tell if your child is experiencing something outside the norm? If changes in your child’s mood or behavior are becoming disruptive to his or her relationships or activities, it’s a good idea to see a doctor.

Before your child’s first appointment, you will be asked to complete a background questionnaire. This gives us helpful information so your appointment can be focused on what is most important to you.

During the appointment, you will be asked a variety of questions to help us understand your concerns. Based on the concerns you share and the doctor’s initial assessment, further testing may be recommended. Any recommended tests won’t happen in the first appointment, but we’ll help you schedule follow up appointments and answer any questions you have about next steps.


Many parents begin with their child’s pediatrician to get an assessment by someone who knows them and to rule out a medical condition that could be causing symptoms. Primary care doctors, physician assistants and nurse practitioners are all familiar with common childhood development stages, as well as indicators of mental or behavioral disorders.

At HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, we train our pediatricians to evaluate each child who comes in for an appointment to help catch mental health concerns early. In addition, our pediatricians can treat common conditions like anxiety and depression, and can refer your child to one of our specialists if needed.

Developmental and behavioral pediatricians

Board-certified child development and behavior experts help families understand their children’s unique development or learning style – and how that impacts day-to-day behavior. Our team of developmental pediatricians helps children with developmental delays, autism spectrum disorders, attention disorders, learning disorders and disruptive behaviors. These clinicians are involved in individual and team assessments, medication management and ongoing follow-up of patients with developmental disorders.

Mental and behavioral health specialists

Our experienced care team includes advanced practice nurses, psychologists, psychiatrists, therapists, speech and language pathologists and more with expertise in treating children with a variety of mental health conditions.

Some conditions respond well to talk therapy, some are successfully treated with medication and sometimes a combination of both is best. We respect our patients’ preferences and will work with you to develop a treatment plan that you and your child are comfortable with.

At HealthPartners and Park Nicollet, we take an integrated approach to treating mental health, using the skills and experience of both our primary care doctors and mental and behavioral health specialists.

Making a difference in our community is one of our guiding values. Here are some of the ways we’re working to enrich the mental health and well-being of our community:

Growing Through Grief

This free school support program serves 13 Twin Cities school districts. It’s designed for students and school staff who are grieving the loss or preparing for the death of a loved one, and helps them heal from the pain and heartache that comes with that. The program gives kids and school staff a safe place to express grief, which helps them to not feel alone. This is key to learning healthy ways of coping. The program encourages healing through peer support groups and a range of activities.

Make It OK

As an organization, we’re helping Make It Ok to talk about mental health. We know that it’s important to remove the barriers and stigma around mental health and clear the way for honest conversations. Only then can we fully support one another and make treatment more accessible for everyone. Make It OK offers tools and resources for how to talk about mental health issues in a respectful way.

If you or someone close to you needs help now, we have options.

If this is an emergency, please call 911. If you or someone you know is considering self harm, please call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline at 988 for confidential support 24/7.

Call for 24/7 help:

Walk in:

  • Urgent care – Walk in and meet with a doctor at any of our 23 urgent care locations in the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin. Open weekdays, weekends and some holidays with no appointment needed.
  • Emergency room – If you or someone you know needs emergency mental health care, visit the emergency room at Regions Hospital, which specializes in mental and behavioral health.

We accept most health insurance plans, including Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota, CIGNA, HealthPartners, Medica, Medicare, PreferredOne and many others.

Not sure what your insurance covers? Call the number on the back of your card for help looking at your options.

Don’t have your card in front of you? Here are the member services numbers to help you get started: