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What is a Child Psychologist?

A child psychologist is a mental health professional who specializes in working with children and adolescents. They typically have a graduate degree in psychology, as well as specialized training in child development, behavior, and mental health.

Child psychologists work to identify and treat a wide range of psychological and emotional issues in children, such as anxiety, depression, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They may also work with children who have experienced trauma or have behavioral difficulties, as well as those who have developmental delays or learning disabilities.

In order to help their young clients, child psychologists may use a variety of techniques, such as cognitive-behavioral therapy, play therapy, and family therapy. They may also work closely with other professionals, such as pediatricians, school counselors, and social workers, to provide a comprehensive approach to care.

Child psychologists must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills, as they work closely with children, parents, and other professionals. They must also have a deep understanding of child development and be able to tailor their approach to the specific needs of each child.

What does a Child Psychologist do?

Child psychologists are responsible for helping children and families manage a wide range of mental health issues and promoting the overall well-being of children and adolescents.

“As a child psychologist, you have to be both playful and authoritative. You have to build trust, rapport, and connection with kids, while at the same time guiding them towards change. It’s a balance between being empathic and directive, and being able to help children understand and manage their emotions, while also challenging them to think differently and try new behaviors.”

Dr. Anne Marie Albano, Clinical Psychologist and Director of the Columbia University Clinic for Anxiety and Related Disorders

Here are some specific responsibilities:

  • Assessing and diagnosing mental health issues: meet with children and their families to assess symptoms and diagnose mental health conditions. This can involve gathering information about the child’s medical history, behavior, and emotional well-being.
  • Developing treatment plans: Based on their assessment, child psychologists develop treatment plans tailored to each child’s individual needs. Treatment plans may involve therapy, medication, or other interventions.
  • Providing therapy: provide therapy to children and their families to address a wide range of issues, such as anxiety, depression, behavioral problems, and family conflicts.
  • Collaborating with other professionals: work closely with other professionals, such as pediatricians, school counselors, social workers, and other mental health professionals to coordinate care and provide comprehensive treatment.
  • Conducting research: engage in research to better understand child development and mental health issues, as well as to evaluate the effectiveness of different treatment approaches.
  • Advocating for children: advocate for children’s mental health needs by working with schools, government agencies, and other organizations to promote policies and programs that support children’s well-being.
  • Providing education and support: provide education and support to parents and caregivers to help them understand and address their child’s mental health needs.

Here is what a typical day might look like:

8:00 am – 9:00 am: Review and prepare for the day’s appointments, including reviewing notes from previous sessions and updating treatment plans.

9:00 am – 10:00 am: Meet with a new client and their parent/guardian for an initial assessment. Gather information about the child’s medical history, behavior, and emotional well-being.

10:00 am – 11:00 am: Meet with a child for a therapy session, using play therapy techniques to help the child express emotions and develop coping strategies for anxiety.

11:00 am – 12:00 pm: Write notes and update the treatment plan based on the morning sessions.

12:00 pm – 1:00 pm: Take a lunch break.

1:00 pm – 2:00 pm: Meet with a school counselor to discuss a student’s behavior and mental health needs, and collaborate on strategies to support the student’s success.

2:00 pm – 3:00 pm: Meet with a family for a therapy session, using a combination of cognitive-behavioral therapy and family therapy to address issues related to conflict and communication.

3:00 pm – 4:00 pm: Complete paperwork and documentation for the day’s appointments.

4:00 pm – 5:00 pm: Attend a staff meeting with other mental health professionals to discuss cases and share resources and strategies.

5:00 pm – 6:00 pm: Respond to emails and phone calls from clients and their families, providing support and guidance as needed.

What Skills are Required in Child Psychology?

Child Psychologists must have good listening skills. They should listen actively, paying attention not only to what their client is saying but also what they do not verbalize. This requires strong communication skills and the ability to help clients feel comfortable enough to relate relevant information. Child Psychologists must possess strong critical thinking skills. They should have the ability to quickly assess the effectiveness of treatment plans, questioning what is and is not working for the client, and then changing the plan as necessary for the well-being of their client. A good therapist should have the ability to empathize with many types of personalities and try to understand their clients’ thoughts and feelings.

How to Become a Child Psychologist

How Long Does It Take to Become a Child Psychologist?

The path to becoming a child psychologist can take between 6-10 years or more, depending on the specific degree program and licensing requirements in your state.

Education Requirements

The first step to becoming a child psychologist is to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology or a related field. During your undergraduate studies, it’s important to take courses in child development, abnormal psychology, and other relevant areas.

The second step to becoming a child psychologist is to earn a graduate degree in psychology, such as a master’s or doctoral degree.

There are a few different degree paths you can take at this point on your path to becoming a child psychologist. Either a Master’s followed by a doctorate or opt for a doctorate program which includes a Master’s.

In both instances you will be looking at a time investment of between 7 and 10 years and you will receive advanced training in psychology usually with specialized training in child development, assessment and treatment.

Supervised Experience

After completing a graduate degree in psychology, you will typically need to complete a certain amount of supervised clinical experience before you can become licensed as a psychologist. This is an important step in developing the practical skills and knowledge needed to provide effective care to clients.

The exact requirements for clinical experience can vary by state, but typically involve completing a certain number of hours of supervised practice in a clinical setting. For example, in some states, you may be required to complete 1-2 years of supervised practice, totaling 3,000-4,000 hours. You may also be required to complete a certain number of hours of supervised practice in specific areas of practice, such as child and adolescent therapy.

During your supervised clinical experience, you will work under the supervision of a licensed psychologist or other mental health professional. You will provide therapy and other mental health services to clients, and your supervisor will provide guidance and feedback on your work. This is an opportunity to gain practical experience in working with children and families, as well as to develop your skills in assessment, diagnosis, and treatment.


Once you have completed your clinical experience, you will typically be eligible to sit for the licensing exam in your state. Passing the exam and meeting other licensing requirements will allow you to become licensed as a psychologist and begin practicing independently.

Here is an overview of the licensing process:

  1. Application for licensure: Once you have completed your education and clinical experience, you will need to apply for licensure with the state board of psychology or other regulatory agency in your state (find your state’s board). The application typically involves submitting transcripts, clinical experience documentation, and other supporting materials.
  2. Examination: In order to become licensed as a psychologist, you will need to pass a licensing exam. The specific exam required can vary by state, but is typically the Examination for Professional Practice in Psychology (EPPP), which is developed by the Association of State and Provincial Psychology Boards (ASPPB). The exam covers a wide range of topics related to psychology, including assessment, diagnosis, treatment, and ethical and legal issues. It is a computer-based exam that typically takes several hours to complete.
  3. Background check: You may also be required to undergo a background check as part of the licensure process, which may involve a criminal history check or other screening.

Continuing Education Requirements

Although child psychology entails a rigorous education in the years leading up to your degree, you are not done with your education the moment you leave the classroom. 

On the contrary, you must complete continuing education requirements to maintain your certifications. Don’t fret, however—doing so is not a chore but rather an opportunity to sharpen your skills and become a stronger clinician.

Different states, territories, and provinces maintain slightly different requirements for continuing education. For example, in Alabama, psychologists must participate in 20 hours of continuing education programming each year to maintain their licenses. In Ontario, on the other hand, a psychologist must obtain 50 credit hours every two years.

In terms of content, continuing education programs are open to your interests. You might pursue programs that attend to issues you care about, such as ethics, family psychology, or telehealth. It is theoretically possible for you to pursue continuing education in convenient issues rather than applicable ones—but doing so would likely be an immense waste of your time and potential.

How Much Money Can You Make in Child Psychology?

Child Psychologists make a median salary of $85,000 per year. This figure can vary considerably depending on specialty and location. Child Psychologists who are just beginning their career earn an average of $64,000 per year, and they typically start their career working in rural or less populated areas of the country. Seasoned Child Psychologists can earn upwards of $135,000 annually in urban and other largely populated areas. Government industries average $96,000 per year. Hospital and ambulatory healthcare settings pay an average annual salary of $82,000.

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