Psychologists study mental processes and human behavior. They observe, interpret and record how people relate to one another and the environment. Clinical child psychology and pediatric psychology are specialty areas within the broader psychology field. These areas focus on understanding and delivering psychological services to infants, toddlers, children and adolescents.
Clinical Child Psychologist
A clinical child psychologist specializes in understanding the basic psychological needs of children and adolescents. They study how family and other social dynamics such as school, the environment and mental illness influence the socio-emotional adjustment, cognitive development, behavioral adaptation and health of children and teens. Clinical child psychologists assess and treat children with a wide range of biological, psychological and social problems. These can include biological vulnerabilities, emotional and developmental problems, significant mental disorders, cognitive deficits, trauma and loss and health-related problems.
A pediatric psychologist provides comprehensive psychological treatment and assessment services to children and their families. They evaluate and treat psychological factors associated with medical illness. These can include adjustment issues that arise from serious medical conditions, struggles in adhering to prescribed medical or therapeutic regimens or parent-child issues. Pediatric psychologists conduct neuropsychological assessments, consult with a child’s physicians, nurses and other health care professionals and provide on-call services to patients who are at risk for dangerous behaviors. They also provide individual, family and group psychotherapy.
Psychologists need to have a doctoral degree in psychology. Practicing psychologists also need a license or certification. Both clinical child psychologists and pediatric psychologists often pursue a doctorate in clinical psychology, which is a four-year program followed by a one year clinical internship where students apply their knowledge in a clinical setting. Within these programs, students can focus their research on issues associated with either field of study. Most states require practicing psychology or those using the title of “psychologist” to have a license or certification. In all states, psychologists who practice independently must be licensed. The American Board of Professional Psychology offers certifications in clinical and family psychology.
Psychologists enjoy a range of work environments. Some psychologists work in hospitals or health care settings where they may treat patients or conduct research into effective therapeutic interventions. Others may focus solely on treatment and see patients in private practices. Psychologists can also find employment at colleges and universities, government agencies or private research organizations.