Children's Hospital Colorado

Research at the Pediatric Mental Health Institute

Healthy children, healthy families and healthy communities: That's the focus of research at our Pediatric Mental Health Institute. Every day, our researchers are focused on making critical discoveries that advance our understanding of the causes of mental health problems in childhood.

Through research, we're working on new approaches to support healthy child development and more effective treatments for mental illness. Plus, we're finding ways to make these new approaches and treatment available to children and families in Colorado and around the world.

Advancements in pediatric mental health

Our researchers are currently conducting more than 30 studies that are deepening our understanding of the genetic and experiential underpinnings of mental health and mental illness. This impacts how families, therapists, nurses, physicians, teachers and other community members can make a difference in the lives of our children.

"Our group wants to understand the origin of negative emotions so we can develop and improve treatments to enhance the lives of youth and their families."
Joel Stoddard, MD

What our mental health research means for kids

Our researchers are working to change the future of mental health by discovering the causes of mental illness and developing better treatment for children.

Discovering the causes of mental illness in childhood

Drs. Law, Mullin and Stoddard are studying the genetics, molecular biology and altered brain development that are related to mental illnesses such as schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa, anxiety and panic, and bipolar disorder.

Developing better treatments for mental health problems

Drs. B. Anthony, L. Anthony, Miller, Gabriels and Stoddard are developing more effective treatments for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders, bipolar disorder and childhood obesity.

Delivering the best treatments wherever children and families seek help for mental health challenges

Drs. B. Anthony, L. Anthony and Novins are designing better ways to support schools, pediatricians and community mental health providers to deliver the best mental health care possible. Their research addresses attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorders, substance use disorders, and posttraumatic stress disorder.

Transdiagnostic treatment of emotional disorders in children

This research aimed to evaluate if a transdiagnostic treatment, which targets multiple types of diagnoses or problem areas in a single intervention, is an effective means of treating anxiety disorders in children, as well as any comorbidities the children might have. The idea behind transdiagnostic treatment is that rather than using different treatments to address symptoms of different diagnoses — anxiety and depression, for example — we can use the same treatment to address the core processes maintaining each of these problem areas at once.

In this study, Sarah Kennedy, PhD, a clinical psychologist in our Pediatric Mental Health Institute, led a randomized trial testing a transdiagnostic treatment against a treatment specific to anxiety disorders. The Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders in Children (UP-C) did just as well at treating anxiety symptoms as the treatment specifically for anxiety. The study also showed that children receiving the transdiagnostic treatment had a more linear change in depression symptoms and made more gains in several different areas of emotion regulation, including emotion dysregulation and cognitive reappraisal. These results show preliminary evidence that the UP-C may be at least as effective in treating anxiety as well-supported anxiety-specific treatment protocols, may have some greater benefits for addressing depression symptoms and may produce greater gains in certain areas of emotion regulation.

Read the article “A Randomized Controlled Pilot Trial of the Unified Protocol for Transdiagnostic Treatment of Emotional Disorders in Children.”

The impact of your continued support

We have a big goal to better understand mental illness, from diagnosis and treatment to best practices system-wide. That's why our Research Fund is essential to continuing this progress.

We invite you to make a gift today to help create a better mental health future for kids and teens. Thank you for your thoughtful consideration.

Contact us at 720-777-6200.

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