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Transforming the understanding
and treatment of mental illnesses.

Celebrating 75 Years! Learn More >>

Kenneth Towbin, MD (He/Him/His)

Kenneth Towbin, MD
Staff Clinician
Kenneth E. Towbin, MD, is Chief of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (CAP) in the Emotion and Development Branch in the Intramural Research Program (IRP) at NIMH.

Kenneth E. Towbin, MD, is Chief of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychiatry (CAP) in the Emotion and Development Branch in the Intramural Research Program (IRP) at NIMH. He is a Senior Research Physician at NIH, where he has worked since 2001, and Clinical Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Science at The George Washington University School of Medicine (GWUSM).

Dr. Towbin completed residency in general psychiatry at Yale Medical School and CAP fellowship at the Yale Child Study Center (YCSC). He completed research fellowship at Yale under James Leckman and was Associate Training Director at YCSC. In 1993, he became Training Director in CAP at Children's National Medical Center, Washington, DC, and was Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Pediatrics at GWUSM.

Dr. Towbin has studied and authored on children's psychiatric disorders, including Tourette Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Autism Spectrum Disorder, and Mood and Anxiety Disorders. He is currently working with Dr. Pine on treatment-resistant major depression in teens. ‬

He is a past Editorial Board member of the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. He has also been an advisor to the US FDA and past Chair of the Pediatric Advisory Committee to the FDA. ‬‬‬‬‬‬ Along with Dr. Pablo Vidal Ribas, he is the recipient of the 2020 Schlosser Award from AACAP.

Dr. Towbin is a Distinguished Fellow of the AACAP and a Diplomat of the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology, in both General Psychiatry and in Child & Adolescent Psychiatry.

Research Interests

Throughout his career, Dr. Towbin has maintained a major interest in serious psychopathology affecting children, exploring conditions such as Tourette Disorder, psychosis, obsessive-compulsive disorder, autism spectrum disorders (ASD), pediatric mood disorders, and depression in adolescents. His particular expertise has been in balancing clinical and research demands in an academic setting. Specifically, he has deep experience and takes enjoyment in the assessment and treatment of serious psychiatric disorders in children and youth. Moreover, Dr. Towbin is particularly interested in diagnostic boundaries and the application of diagnostic criteria to complex clinical presentations and comorbidities. As an outgrowth of that interest, he has developed expertise in psychiatric nosology and its impact on clinical care. He has a long-held interest in the role of early neurodevelopmental problems on the expression of later psychopathology. Also, the extension of his work, along with others, has been to explore more effective treatments in clinical trials to benefit children with chronic irritability and teens with major depression. Finally, he has both considerable experience and an abiding interest in training and in ethical dilemmas that arise during pediatric and psychiatric care of children.

Selected Publications

A Randomized Controlled Trial of Computerized Interpretation Bias Training for Disruptive Mood Dysregulation Disorder: A Fast-Fail Study . Haller SP, Stoddard J, Botz-Zapp C, Clayton M, MacGillivray C, Perhamus G, Stiles K, Kircanski K, Penton-Voak IS, Bar-Haim Y, Munafò M, Towbin KE, Brotman MA. (2022) J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. PMID: 34147585

Clinical utility of family history of depression for prognosis of adolescent depression severity and duration assessed with predictive modeling . Gorham LS, Sadeghi N, Eisner L, Taigman J, Haynes K, Qi K, Camp CC, Fors P, Rodriguez D, McGuire J, Garth E, Engel C, Davis M, Towbin K, Stringaris A, Nielson DM. (2021) J Child Psychol Psychiatry. PMID: 34847615

A Double-Blind Randomized Placebo-Controlled Trial of Citalopram Adjunctive to Stimulant Medication in Youth With Chronic Severe Irritability . Towbin K, Vidal-Ribas P, Brotman MA, Pickles A, Miller KV, Kaiser A, Vitale AD, Engel C, Overman GP, Davis M, Lee B, McNeil C, Wheeler W, Yokum CH, Haring CT, Roule A, Wambach CG, Sharif-Askary B, Pine DS, Leibenluft E, Stringaris A. (2020) J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. PMID: 31128268

The Clinician Affective Reactivity Index: Validity and Reliability of a Clinician-Rated Assessment of Irritability . Haller SP, Kircanski K, Stringaris A, Clayton M, Bui H, Agorsor C, Cardenas SI, Towbin KE, Pine DS, Leibenluft E, Brotman MA. (2020) Behav Ther. PMID: 32138938

Differentiating bipolar disorder-not otherwise specified and severe mood dysregulation . Towbin K, Axelson D, Leibenluft E, Birmaher B. (2013) J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry. PMID: 23622848