Mental Health Competencies for Pediatric Practice

Pediatrics. 2019 Nov;144(5):e20192757. doi: 10.1542/peds.2019-2757. Epub 2019 Oct 21.


Pediatricians have unique opportunities and an increasing sense of responsibility to promote healthy social-emotional development of children and to prevent and address their mental health and substance use conditions. In this report, the American Academy of Pediatrics updates its 2009 policy statement, which proposed competencies for providing mental health care to children in primary care settings and recommended steps toward achieving them. This 2019 policy statement affirms the 2009 statement and expands competencies in response to science and policy that have emerged since: the impact of adverse childhood experiences and social determinants on mental health, trauma-informed practice, and team-based care. Importantly, it also recognizes ways in which the competencies are pertinent to pediatric subspecialty practice. Proposed mental health competencies include foundational communication skills, capacity to incorporate mental health content and tools into health promotion and primary and secondary preventive care, skills in the psychosocial assessment and care of children with mental health conditions, knowledge and skills of evidence-based psychosocial therapy and psychopharmacologic therapy, skills to function as a team member and comanager with mental health specialists, and commitment to embrace mental health practice as integral to pediatric care. Achievement of these competencies will necessarily be incremental, requiring partnership with fellow advocates, system changes, new payment mechanisms, practice enhancements, and decision support for pediatricians in their expanded scope of practice.

Publication types

  • Practice Guideline

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Clinical Competence / standards*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Mental Disorders / therapy*
  • Mental Health*
  • Organizational Policy
  • Pediatrics / standards*
  • Professional-Family Relations
  • Psychology, Adolescent
  • Psychology, Child