How To Become A Child Psychologist

A child psychologist works with and help children dealing with behavioral and mental problems. One of the more common things you’ll get to do in this profession is to help children undergoing different kinds of traumas, such as those brought about by the death of parents or one caused by having witnessed a violent accident.

As a child psychologist, you’ll be working with children at various stages of development. That means you could be helping premature infants or those born from parents who were once dependent on drugs or alcohol one moment, young children with autism the next and adolescents or teenagers suffering from depression after that.

You will be observing how the child interacts with those around him and what his behavior patterns are so that you’ll be able to decipher what his problem is. You’ll also be interviewing the child and if needed, his parents or guardians, and subjecting the child to cognitive testing to be able to ascertain the true cause of his behavior. Moreover, you’ll be coordinating with the child’s teachers, pediatricians and other healthcare professionals who have interacted with the child in order to get a complete picture of the child’s situation.

It can be challenging to connect with young people or help them understand what their problem is since they don’t process things the same way as adults. Thus, you will be using creative strategies such as art, role playing and talk therapy to facilitate your evaluation.

After giving your assessment of the situation, you will be recommending the necessary interventions. Treatment could include individual counseling, family counseling sessions or behavior modification therapy. You will also be recommending preventive therapy that is geared towards ensuring that the child does not become delinquent or cope with his problems by turning to alcohol or drug abuse. If it is needed, the psychologist will also make recommendations to transfer the child to another home or facility to protect him from being exposed to abuse or neglect.

To succeed in this career, you’ll need to have a genuine love for children. You need to be genuinely concerned about their welfare. You also need to possess patience. It’s not easy to diagnose children suffering from different kinds of psychological disorders so you will need to be very patient when talking with them to ascertain their condition. You also need to be very observant since the gestures, words and actions of the children you are working with will reveal valuable clues to the issues they are facing. You also need to possess excellent communication skills so that you will be able to talk with children and draw out their thoughts.

Why Become A Child Psychologist

One reason to become a child psychologist is that it puts you in a position to help children who are suffering from serious mental and emotional disorders. In many cases it is only through your knowledge and expertise that these children will be able to process these issues and stand a chance of living a normal life once more. If you only want the best for children, nothing could be more fulfilling than knowing that you are helping those who are being exposed to events that they should not have seen or witnessed at such a tender age. Seeing the young people you help turn out to become productive and well-adjusted adults transcends the pay (which is pretty good) and recognition (which you’ll probably get at some point in this profession) that a career as a child psychologist gives.

Child Psychologist Work Environment

Child psychologists can work in hospitals, schools, courts and other mental health institutions. Some of them hold their own private practice. Work schedules are often fulltime and done during business hours except for those who work in hospitals who may be called to take evening or weekend shifts. Child psychologists who have their own private practice may set their own schedules but this may include irregular hours or weekends to accommodate client requests.

Child Psychologist Salary

The Occupational Employment and Wages report of the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not gather data specifically for child psychologists. However, it does have the salary information of clinical, counseling and school psychologists which are areas that child psychologists also specialize in. They receive mean annual wages of $72,710. This is a little bit lower than the mean annual wages received by industrial-organizational psychologists which is pegged at $87,960. All other psychologists are paid $88,400 annually.

Child Psychologist Career Outlook

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have salary projections for child psychologists. However, it has projected that the job outlook is set to be positive for the next few years. For the decade covering 2012 to 2022, the employment rate is expected to grow 11 percent which is similar as the average for all job types. The demand will come from the fact that more people are now recognizing that children suffering from different forms of mental disorders benefit from the intervention that psychologists give. This is particularly true if the child is suffering from trauma, has witnessed a crime or is a victim of one or has a disorder like autism. In the school setting, child psychologists will be needed to work with those who have learning disabilities or have special needs.

Child Psychologist Degree

The entry point for a career as a child psychologist is a bachelor’s degree in psychology which takes four years to complete. However, this is not going to be sufficient. A postgraduate degree, such as a master’s degree or more often, a doctoral degree, is necessary. Child psychologists usually work towards obtaining their Doctor of Psychology (Psy.D.) degree which is a clinical degree that requires students to do practical work and take an exam instead of making a dissertation which is what is required for students working towards a PhD in psychology.

Clinical psychologists also need to obtain a license before they can practice their profession. They must pass all the requirements as well as an exam to be licensed. Certification in one of the 13 areas of psychology is not mandatory but many psychologists obtain one to show that they are experts in that particular field.

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