What is a Child Psychologist?

A child psychologist can make a world of difference to a patient. These compassionate, well-educated professionals work with vulnerable youth to explore difficult emotions and provide coping strategies for life’s harder moments. This field provides a unique sense of satisfaction, good pay and great working conditions.

What Do Child Psychologists Do?

The name “child psychologist’ is slightly misleading. Professionals in this career work with toddlers, children and adolescents. Some see patients in all three of these categories while others specialize in a specific age range. Psychologists who work with children may offer general therapy services or focus on a psychopathology, like ADHD, bipolar disorder or sexual abuse, or family dynamic, like foster families or adoptive families. Different tools, including group talk sessions, play therapy, art techniques and individual counseling, are used to meet each patient’s unique needs.
When working with patients, psychologists apply evidence-backed principles to help youth tackle personal, psychological and social problems, according to the American Psychological Association.

Psychologists must stay on top of new research and adjust their techniques as new studies emerge. Many counseling psychologists conduct research as part of their training so they can understand how new techniques and instruments are developed. To stay licensed, a child psychologist must take regular continuing education credits, or CEUs. Some workplaces provide annual training budgets to help staff meet their educational requirements, and many counselors visit child psychology conferences to learn about new research and share their own findings.

Where Do Child Psychologists Work?

Most child psychologists work in a school setting or private office. A few work at medical facilities. In 2014, 25% of all psychologists worked at secondary schools, making school psychology the most common specialty, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In this field, you would likely enjoy a private office for meeting with children on an individual basis. In a school setting, you may also have shared rooms filled with toys, dolls and art supplies for helping children communicate their feelings. Some school psychologists visit classrooms to build relationships with children and discuss emotional management techniques.

How Can You Start a Career in Child Psychology?

You have several ways to work as a child psychologist. The most advanced route is to earn a doctorate in counseling psychology, or a Psy.D. You’ll have to write a thesis, conduct an original research study, and take years of classes. At the end, you’ll be qualified for any clinical role, including working with minors. Other routes include earning a master’s of counseling, master’s of psychology with a concentration in counseling or a master’s of social work (MSW) with a focus on mental health counseling. These degree programs allow you to work with individual patients or conduct group therapy sessions, but you’ll have a harder time finding research-based positions or management jobs. However, many counseling programs are offered primarily online and can be completed in just two years.

Related Resource: What is an Inpatient Psychologist?

Not everyone has the emotional resilience to enjoy working as a counselor. If you have a passion for children’s health and a strong understanding of self-care practices, you could be a life-changing child psychologist.