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Child Psychologist  What They Do

Just the Facts


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dot Child psychologists are experts in what makes kids tick. Their job involves diagnosing and treating a wide range of psychological disorders.

The majority of child psychologists are clinical. That means they work with clients rather than doing research. You'll find clinical child psychologists in clinics, hospitals, rehabilitation centers, schools and private practice.

dotSome psychologists restrict the word "child" to the ages before adolescence, while others include teenagers. Some specialize in behavior during infancy, childhood or adolescence, while others specialize in the changes that take place during maturity. Still others may specialize in developmental disabilities.

"Children are more vulnerable, and how we treat our children... is really a hallmark of a civilized society, of a good society," says psychologist Robert Naseef. He specializes in helping families of children with special needs. "I just love being a part of that, knowing I'm making a difference in people's lives, and in my own, for that matter."

dot A smaller percentage of child psychologists study the behavior and mental development of children -- they are considered to be research or experimental psychologists.

Some child psychologists specialize in school issues, and become school psychologists. They work with students, teachers, parents and administrators to resolve students' learning and behavior problems. They may evaluate the effectiveness of academic programs, behavior management procedures and other services provided in the school.

Working conditions vary. Clinical, school and counseling psychologists in private practice have their own offices and set their own hours. But they often must offer evening and weekend appointments to accommodate clients.

dotThere are some very specific personal characteristics aspiring child psychologists should have. They must be emotionally stable, mature and able to deal effectively with people.

Sensitivity, compassion and the ability to lead and inspire others are particularly important for clinical work and counseling. Research psychologists should be able to do detailed work independently and as part of a team.

Child psychologist Sarah Ravin says it's important for child psychologists to have a "scientific mind." This enables them to learn about new treatment methods and to determine which ones have the most evidence in support of them.

"If a person doesn't have a good scientific background they might not necessarily be aware of how the different methods of treatment are studied and why we use this type of treatment rather than that type of treatment," says Ravin.

At a Glance

Evaluate, diagnose and treat children and adolescents with psychological disorders

  • You'll need a good background in science
  • You must be stable, mature, sensitive and compassionate
  • All states require psychologists to have a license