When children and adolescents have psychological problems, child psychologists are often called upon to evaluate the condition and provide treatment. Child psychologists are licensed, doctoral-level mental health professionals who specialize in helping children and, in many cases, adolescents with a variety of emotional, social, behavioral or developmental concerns. They work in various settings, including schools, private practice and hospitals, but some also work as researchers or professors.
When a child is referred to a child psychologist, the psychologist will first perform an assessment. In most settings, such as schools, hospitals and private practice, child psychologists meet with a child and usually his family to gather information to help formulate a diagnosis and determine the extent of the problem. The types of problems child psychologists handle or specialize in depend on the practitioner's specialization and the work setting. For example, some child psychologists specialize in developmental disabilities, while others may focus on problems like depression, anxiety or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder.
Testing and Diagnosis
In many cases, child psychologists administer specific psychological tests to their patients to help determine the presence of specific disorders or disabilities. According to the Woodview Psychology Group, psychological tests are used to help measure emotional, intellectual, learning or behavioral functioning of a child. As with assessments, the specific tests administered may depend on the child psychologist's field of specialization and work setting. During the evaluation process, a child psychologist may administer tests, such as structured interviews or tests of academic achievement, to help formulate an official diagnosis, if applicable.
After the evaluation process is completed, a child psychologist may recommend treatment based on the findings from his assessment. Child psychologists offer a wide range of treatments that are specifically geared toward children and adolescents. This might include play therapy, talk therapy or art therapy, depending on the child's age, the specific condition or concern and the treatment setting. For example, school psychologists do not always offer extensive treatment -- they may perform assessments, offer brief therapy and refer students to child psychologists in private practice for additional psychological services. Child psychologists usually also consult with families and involved professionals, such as pediatricians or teachers, both before and during the treatment process.
Research and Teaching
Some child psychologists focus on teaching and research, working in research organizations, universities and similar institutions. Child psychologists who perform research are usually referred to as experimental or research psychologists. They may conduct psychological experiments, study the effects of new treatments or examine specific traits in children with certain psychological disorders. Other child psychologists may become professors of psychology in colleges or universities. In many cases, professors combine their teaching activities with research and writing for scholarly publications.
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