Child psychologists study learning patterns, behavioral developments, and environmental factors affecting children from infancy through adolescence. They may specialize in developmental psychology, abnormal psychology, or adolescent psychology. Parents of children who have suffered trauma or who have physical, mental, or learning disabilities often seek help from child psychologists. These professionals can work as counselors, advisors, or researchers for social, academic, corporate or community programs. If you have a passion for helping others and are fascinated by what makes people tick, psychology can be the right career for you. But as you consider pursuing your degree, it’s important to know some of the critical skills necessary to be a psychologist. If you find yourself daydreaming about becoming a licensed therapist specializing in children and childhood issues, it is important to keep an open mind regarding the dynamics of the field. Practicing an attitude of “teachability” which surpasses the norm will enable you to acquire and assimilate valuable knowledge and wisdom from every day experiences and other academic pursuits you encounter along the way to your degrees and licensure. Clinical psychologists do not prescribe medications to treat mental illness. Rather, they use psychological techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) and psychoanalytic therapy. Your patients may have experienced a great deal of trauma in their short lives, and it’s essential that you’re empathetic and motivated to help others. Problem-solving skills will help you deal with difficult patients and develop effective treatment plans for each child in your care. Analytical skills will make analyzing and identifying your patient’s issues and needs easier. On a personal level, you should be trustworthy and kind. Many of your patients may fear or distrust you at first because of experiences they’ve had with adults in their lives, and it’s essential that you conduct yourself in a way that makes them feel at ease and safe with you. Undoubtedly the children you encounter will be of different ages and have achieved various levels of cognitive development. In order to effectively communicate with your young clients, it will be necessary to have your creative skills and abilities honed and immediately available. For some kids, the social pressures of school are much more challenging than the academic pressures. And in the age of social media, issues like bullying and ‘feeling left out’ can be more difficult than ever. Counselling helps kids develop the coping skills they need to navigate the playground and beyond. And to maintain positive and healthy relationships at school and at home.
- Making and maintaining effective relationships with others, including clients, fellow practitioners, and the public. The clinical psychologist must also be fair, respectful, a clear communicator, and able to handle potentially difficult situations with understanding and diplomacy.
- Sensitivity to individual and cultural diversity and understanding how these factors affect who we are and how we think.
- An awareness of ethical and legal principles and employs them effectively.
- A professional attitude, values, and behaviors that are apparent in interactions with others.
- A continual practice of self-evaluation and always striving to improve treatment methods.
- An understanding of different scientific disciplines that relate to psychology and how they may impact treatment.
- Skill in collaborating with others from different disciplines and organizations, employing respect, appreciation, and communication.
- Keeping up with the latest research and identifying how it can improve clinical practice.
To summarize, develop the ability to think beyond your own mind; learn how to think from the standpoint of the child as well as how the family is affecting the child. Develop the ability to relate with children on their own level by familiarizing yourself and staying current with the particular aspects of the world they encounter. Choose to create a warm and inviting environment from which you offer a calm and collected presence; a presence which has been freed from personal childhood issues and therefore feels safe and encouraging. Finally, be the person you would like to spend time with–if you were once again a child.
Interestingly, while the academics involved in becoming a child therapist can be challenging and complicated; the finishing touches are really quite simple and within reach. Begin today to develop the skills which will make you a well-rounded and valuable therapist; one who has taken the time to strive for greatness and excellence.