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.
Some 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."
A smaller percentage of child psychologists study the behavior and mental
development of children -- they are considered to be research or experimental
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.
There are some very specific personal characteristics aspiring child psychologists
should have. They must be emotionally stable, mature and able to deal effectively
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.