Is Child Psychology the Right Career for You?

The human mind is fascinating, and it’s intriguing to see how differently people react to situations or even can be affected in similar ways as a result. For a long time, mental health was misunderstood, and even though there is still a fight to educate more people about mental illness and remove stigmas in today’s society, things have got a lot better than there were a hundred years ago. As psychology and mental health is such an interesting subject, it is easy to see why so many people are drawn to this as a career, and there is also the opportunity to apply this knowledge in a variety of roles. One of these roles is working as a child psychologist, which is great for those who also want to work closely with children. Helping young people improve their mental health is very rewarding, but it can get very tough at times as well. If you have been thinking about pursuing this career, here are some things you need to think about to decide if it is the right path for you.

There is a lot of Studying Involved

If you want to be a child psychologist, you will need to get a degree in psychology, preferably focusing on early age and adolescents, although this will likely be covered in most psychology courses. Expect to be studying for at least 3-4 years for this degree unless you choose to enroll in a shorter course online. Even after getting your undergrad, you will still have to commit to keeping learning as this is a scientific field with new research being carried out all the time. If you’re going to succeed in this role, you need to stay up to date with the latest treatments and theories to help you give the best support possible to your patients. If you are someone who isn’t very studious by nature, this might not be the best role for you.

Patience is Essential

As a psychologist, you must be a patient person. When your patients are in your sessions, they are the ones who need to be doing most of the talking, but this isn’t always the case. It is very difficult for a lot of people to talk about these sensitive topics, particularly to a stranger, so you can’t expect them to put everything on the table in the first one or two sessions. It could take weeks, months, or even years for them to fully open up to you and perhaps even that long for them to realize what is at the heart of their struggles. When you’re working with children, they might also be closed off and wary of you at first, and there might also be things that they don’t understand yet if they are young, which can make this process longer, requiring you to be ever more patient and sensitive.

Compassionate

Everyone has bad days on occasion, psychologists included. However, you need to leave your emotions at the door when you come into work because it is about how your patients are feeling in every single session, not you. You need to be compassionate to patients and never dismiss what they are saying, as this can knock their confidence in you and even cause more harm to their self-esteem. Instead, you need to try and see things from their perspective and gently offer a new point of view for them to consider. If you come across as cold or aloof, it can result in your patient retreating into themselves or even requesting a new therapist. Children especially need to be treated with love and care so that they feel safe in this environment.

It Isn’t Going to Be Easy

One of the most important things a psychologist needs to do in their job is to make sure that they aren’t getting emotionally attached to their patients. This can be challenging for many reasons, but working with children can make this even tougher as for most people, the instinct is to protect them and care for them. Unfortunately, being a child psychologist won’t be easy, and the reality is that there will be cases that include very distressing details. Even though you are playing a role in helping to support that child and can report your concerns to social services, when necessary, it can be hard to mentally switch off from these difficult cases. This is why you need to practice great self-care in this role and distance yourself emotionally to avoid compromising the relationship you have with your patients.

There Are Other Career Paths You Can Follow

If you have worked in a clinical setting as a child psychologist for a while and want a change, it’s important to note that there are other career paths you can follow. For example, you can have a career shift to become a school counselor where you can support students with difficult situations that they might be having at school and educate them about the importance of mental health. Alternatively, you could look into teaching psychology yourself at a college or in a high school. Finally, you could move into social work too for a change of pace or even explore research role opportunities within your field.

Job Stability

One of the other perks of being a child psychologist and helping those in need is that it can offer job stability. Like most healthcare roles, psychologists are a service that will always be necessary, and there is even more demand for them as mental health services are struggling to meet patient demands. It’s a fantastic job for someone who wants to help others, particularly children, but also needs to know that they are getting a good salary and will have a stable job as their career.

If you have been thinking about pursuing a career in child psychology, consider the points above. There is no denying that this is an incredible job and can make a big difference to young people who need this support, but it isn’t always a walk in the park, either. However, if you think you do have what it takes, you should look into starting the journey to this career as soon as possible.­­

 

 

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