Date of Conferral







Sandra Rasmussen


Prior to the 1990s, bipolar disorder, a behavioral disorder characterized by severe mood fluctuations, was not considered an suitable diagnosis for children. However, in recent decades, an increase in pediatric bipolar disorder (PBD) diagnosis has occurred in the U.S. The purpose of this study was to explore the perceptions and lived experiences of licensed mental health clinicians regarding their decision-making processes used during assessment and diagnosis of PBD. This phenomenographic study utilized individual, semi-structured interviews to explore the perceptions and lived experiences of 14 licensed clinicians in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts who assess and diagnose PBD. Data were collected with a 7-question face to face interview. Using NVivo 10 software several key phrases and words were identified, coded, and used to locate patterns, themes, and concepts. Data analysis revealed that significant issues related to PBD assessment and diagnosis may exist, including: inconsistencies in assessment/diagnostic processes; reticence to diagnose the disorder; failure to use available assessment instruments; a lack of attention to comorbidities; and trouble differentiating between PBD symptoms and other issues, such as trauma or dysfunctional family dynamics. Given the reluctance of these mental health professionals to diagnose PBD, implications for social change underscore the important role of education, training, and ongoing clinical supervision to help other mental health professionals accurately assess and diagnose PBD. Recommendations emanating from study findings suggest further research on PBD assessment and diagnosis to help professionals develop more effective diagnostic frameworks for clinical training and practice.