Psychologists specialize in human mental processes and the relationships between people, animals and their environment. Within the discipline, psychologists may specialize in clinical, counseling, developmental, forensic, industrial-organizational, school or neuropsychology. Of this group, the two specialties most likely to specialize further into child psychology are clinical and school psychologists. Child psychologists need some specific qualities.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that all psychologists should possess certain important qualities. These include analytical skills, which allow the psychologist to examine the information she has collected and draw logical conclusions. Strong communication, listening and observational skills are also basic to the profession. Psychologists get their information from a child’s conversation, behavior and mannerisms. Anyone who works with children must be patient, and both child and parents should be able to trust the psychologist.
Working with Children and Parents
First and foremost, a child psychologist must be knowledgeable about and like children, according to Clinical Psychologist Kim Peterson, who specializes in counseling children. She notes that children are a distinct population, and treatment must be geared to their level of development. A child psychologist should also be able to establish rapport and communication with parents and be open to questions or updates about the child she is treating. Since children may have behavior problems in school or day care as well as at home, the psychologist should be able to work collaboratively with other disciplines for the benefit of the child.
ONET Online reports a child psychologist needs a number of other skills and abilities. A child psychologist must be able to understand the implications of new information, as that will affect both her current and future problem-solving and decision-making. She should be able to use critical thinking and complex problem-solving to evaluate options and solutions. The ability to self-monitor and take corrective action is another necessary skill. A child psychologist should be service-oriented and actively look for ways to help people.
Child psychology requires a commitment to lifelong learning. A child psychologist must be willing to go to school, usually to the doctoral level, although school psychologists may be able to obtain a specialist in education degree. She must also obtain a license to practice as an independent psychologist and be licensed or certified -- depending on the state -- to practice in a school. Clinical and school psychologists must also complete supervised postdoctoral training. Specialty certification may also require passing an exam and completing continuing education on a regular basis.
- Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images