Get to Know the Great Falls Pediatric Psychiatrist Who Is Impacting the Mental Health Crisis

Dr. LaToya Floyd is a child and adolescent psychiatrist who guides young people through vulnerable situations. Her knowledge and experience are enhanced by her natural ability to build trusting relationships, essential in paving the road to wellness. She feels privileged to make an impact on children, whose resilience she admires.

Is there substantial need in Montana for pediatric and adolescent mental health services?

The challenges Montana faces are many. It is sparsely populated—while the fourth largest state in size, it is 44th in population with just over a million people—and it has less than a quarter of the mental health providers required to serve its residents, according to the Health Resources and Services Administration.

Suicide has been a persistent problem in Montana—and it’s getting worse. The state saw nearly double the national average for suicides in 2016, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s age-adjusted data.

How has your previous experience set you up for success in treating Montana’s youth, and what do you hope to accomplish going forward?

I have worked in partial programs, residential treatment facilities, detention and community outpatient clinics, and been the medical director for in-home services. In some way, all these positions inform my treatment practices in Montana.

I would like to be involved in establishing a continuum of care for children’s services in Great Falls, and I believe having a menu of services will allow children to have more specifc interventions at different entry points.

What do you enjoy about working with young people?

I enjoy helping families. While the child is identifed as the patient, the entire family structure can beneft. For example, I have had patients’ parents say, “I went through the same thing when I was a kid and never understood how it affected the way I have raised my children.”

What ages do you treat?

I treat patients from 5 to 18 years old.

How do you break through with children who may be emotionally closed off?

I think psychiatric treatment and speaking to a psychiatrist can still carry stigma, so I try to address those distortions or things that may make my patients uncomfortable at the frst visit. I also believe having genuine honesty when approaching the family is important.

How can parents prepare their children for therapy?

It depends on the child’s age. If the child is in elementary school, I fnd a good way for them to understand is by telling them I am a doctor that helps with feelings and worries. For older children, I think it is important to address the issue and state, “I am worried about and I would like us to go and speak with a doctor to help us understand how to better help you.”

What can a child and their parents expect when the child starts therapy?

Families that make an appointment will receive a welcome letter and some surveys. These surveys give parents an opportunity to refect on a wide range of symptoms and responses. We also include surveys for the child to complete depending on their age, and for other caregivers who support the family.

The child is then scheduled for an intake visit, which is longer than a usual visit. I begin with the entire family and answer questions, then the parent and child meet with me separately, and fnally end the session all together to discuss a treatment plan.

Can pediatricians diagnose and treat mental health issues?

Pediatricians and other clinicians are great partners, and with a shortage of child psychiatrists, they have been treating and diagnosing mental health issues. Many are doing a great job. I think the diffculty is that, often, pediatricians do not have the same amount of time to spend with their patients as I do, so more complex issues can be diffcult to thoroughly address.

How does a psychiatrist differ from a psychologist?

Psychiatrists are medical doctors. After I completed medical school, I spent six years studying psychiatry, which includes learning pharmacology and advanced therapy techniques. Psychiatrists may see their patients weekly or monthly for psychotherapy and/or psychopharmacology, depending on the patient’s clinical needs.

Psychologists often see their patients on a weekly basis for psychosocial counseling. It would not be uncommon for children to be in treatment with both. Psychologists and psychiatrists frequently work together to coordinate and provide the best therapy for patients.

How would parents go about making an appointment for their child—do pediatric psychiatry services typically require a referral?

Parents need a referral from their child’s primary care provider.

What do parents need to know about determining if their child is a fit for pediatric psychiatry services?

Families need to understand that treatment is a commitment and a journey, and that they are part of the treatment team. Change may be sparked in the offce, but the family will have a role in reinforcing and working with their children outside of session.

Learn more about pediatric behavioral health.