USF Health opens neuropsychiatry center at All Children's Hospital

L to R: Members of the Rothman Neuropsychiatry Center are Dr. Steve Pence, Omar Rahman, Dr. Aldea Adina, Dr. Jane Mutch, Dr. Eric Storch, Dr. Tanya Murphy, Danielle Bodzin and Jeannette Reid.

With the addition of a highly respected team of child neuropsychiatrists and clinical psychologists, USF Health recently launched the Rothman Center of Neuropsychiatry at All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg.

Tanya Murphy, MD, professor and Rothman Endowed Chair of Developmental Pediatrics in the Departments of Pediatrics and Psychiatry, oversees the new multidisciplinary clinic, for children, adolescents and adults with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and other anxiety disorders, Tourette’s syndrome, autism spectrum disorders and learning disabilities.

The center’s team includes faculty members Eric Storch, PhD; Steven Pence, Jr. PhD; Adina Aldea, PhD; and Jane Mutch, PhD, who provide comprehensive evaluation and individualized treatment. They offer virtually all services in one location, including medication management; cognitive-behavioral therapy, which safely exposes patients to a dose of what they fear to help prevent a compulsive response; habit reversal training, an intervention for managing tics or hair pulling-behaviors; parent training; occupational therapy; speech therapy; and audiology.

Dr. Storch, associate professor of pediatrics and psychiatry, directs the center’s OCD Program – one of few in the Southeast. Previously considered a rare condition among children and adolescents, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) has become one of the most common pediatric psychiatric illnesses.

The condition is characterized by intrusive, troubling thoughts and repetitive behaviors intended to alleviate the anxiety brought on by the unwanted, obsessive thinking. It can be tricky to identify in youngsters, who can normally seem obsessed with one thing or another, including bedtime and mealtime routines, their appearance, and repetitive play. The Rothman Neuropsychiatry Center offers both intensive daily outpatient treatment and the more standard weekly cognitive-behavioral therapy program for OCD.

“We are rehabilitating the mind,” Dr. Murphy. “Children have such plastic brains that you can often change the way the brain functions through behavioral therapy rather than just throwing medication at the problem. You can teach them skills to modulate their anxiety or depression in everyday life so it doesn’t develop into a long-term neuropsychiatric disorder.”

The USF Health clinical psychologists have extensive experience using intensive outpatient cognitive-behavior therapy to help reduce or eliminate a child’s obsessions and compulsions. Therapy sessions involve exposing patient to what they fear in graduated doses in an attempt to decrease their anxiety over time and prevent a compulsive response. It’s the psychiatric equivalent of immunotherapy, or allergy shots, which gradually reduce a patient’s sensitivity to the allergens that trigger their symptoms by exposing them to graduated doses of the substances.

Clinical studies have shown that this integrated treatment approach — behavior therapy alone or combined with medication when needed — helps 80 percent of patients improve. “Most children with straightforward OCD, without complicating conditions like autism or ADHD, have tremendous recoveries with cognitive-behavioral therapy alone,” Dr. Murphy said.

Dr. Murphy and Dr. Storch, long-time collaborators, came to USF this summer from the University of Florida, where they helped establish a Child OCD Treatment Program in 1999.

They edited the Handbook of Pediatric Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, published over 200 articles and book chapters between them, and together bring to USF more than $3 million in research funding, including grants from the National Institutes of Health, the National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders and the Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation.

Dr. Murphy was chief of the Division of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and directed the Child Anxiety and Tic Disorder Clinic at UF. Her research interests include investigating the role of infections in the onset of childhood psychiatric disorders and medical and psychological treatments for Tourette’s syndrome and OCD. She is a member of the National Tourette’s Syndrome Association Medical Advisory Board and the Regional Obsessive-Compulsive Foundation Scientific Advisory Board.

Dr. Storch was director of Cognitive-Behavior Therapy Research at UF. He is a licensed clinical psychologist with expertise in the psychological treatment of OCD, Tourette’s syndrome, trichotillomania and anxiety disorders. His research interests include cognitive-behavioral therapy for OCD, augmenting therapy for patients who do not respond to treatment, and symptom assessment.

The clinic, open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, is located on the Fourth Floor of the Children’s Health Center at All Children’s Hospital.

For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call (727)767-8230 or email

– Story by Anne DeLotto Baier, USF Health Communications