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Pediatric Psychology: Helping You Raise a Happy Child

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Since the younger generation has always been a priority for society, numerous medical fields address children’s health. Among the most important and lucrative ones is pediatric psychology.

So, how do pediatric psychologists help children and adolescents who struggle with mental health problems?

Pediatric Psychology

Pediatric psychology is a broad field of study and practice that includes several subdomains.

What is Clinical Psychology?

In broad lines, clinical psychology explores the psychological mechanisms involved in health and illness. Many experts believe this field is at the crossroads between psychology and medicine. Psychologists who specialize in pediatric health are known as pediatric psychologists. Most likely, you’ve heard of the term “child psychologist.”

The Uniqueness of Child Psychology

As the name suggests, child psychology focuses on the physical, mental, emotional, and social development of children. This allows clinicians to tackle issues like anxiety and depression from an early age, preventing complications that could occur later on in life. [1]

Furthermore, unlike other mental health professionals, pediatric psychologists place a strong emphasis on the family climate in which the child grows up.

Child Psychology vs Adolescent Psychology

Just as childhood and adolescence are two relatively different stages of life, child psychology and adolescent psychology are quite different as well.

A child psychologist may focus heavily on the family climate seeing as many of them view children’s problems as the symptoms of a dysfunctional family. On the other hand, psychologists who work with adolescents tend to pay close attention to environmental factors as well.

How Are Pediatric Psychologists Trained?

In terms of training and certification, pediatric psychologists aren’t that different from other professionals in this field.

To become a pediatric psychologist, you must earn a doctorate. However, there is an alternative to this rather complicated academic path. Psychology graduates who wish to work with children can pursue a career as school psychologists by obtaining a master’s degree.

Which Types of Mental Health Professionals Deal With Children’s Issues

Since mental health issues result from a mix of biological and environmental factors, most experts rely on a holistic approach when treating emotional or behavioral problems.

Social Workers

Social workers provide support for individuals, families, and communities that are struggling with various economic and health-related issues.

For children who struggle with all sorts of problems that result from living in unstable family environments, social workers provide the guidance they need to become healthy and functional members of society.

Counselors

Counselors specialize in dealing with sub-clinical problems, preventing mental health problems, and cultivating personal development.

Think of them as mental health coaches who can help children solve their emotional problems and implement healthy behaviors.

Clinical Child Psychologists

Clinical child psychologists offer inpatient and outpatient care. Using clinical interviews and psychological tests, they can zero in on the problem and design personalized intervention plans.

Child Psychiatrists

Child psychiatrists are medical professionals who can diagnose mental health disorders and prescribe drugs. As the name suggests, their specialty is child and adolescent psychopathology.

Child Psychology

Types of Mental Health Problems That Affect Children

In recent years, children’s mental health has become a serious concern for mental health professionals. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), out of all children (aged 3-17 years) living in the US: [2]

  • 6.1 million have received an ADHD diagnosis
  • 4.4 million are dealing with anxiety
  • 1.9 million struggle with depression

Behavioral Problems

Behavioral problems can range from tantrums and meltdowns to defiance and even violence towards peers. During adolescence, issues like alcohol and substance abuse or delinquency are relatively common among the younger generation.

One paper published in Child Abuse & Neglect revealed that adverse childhood experiences are among the leading factors in behavioral problems. [3]

Autism Spectrum Disorders

Autism is a neurobiological condition that affects children on a developmental, cognitive, and behavioral level. Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have a hard time interacting with others and adapting to society’s norms.

One study published in JAMA revealed that parent training programs could have a significantly positive effect on the behavioral problems that children with ASD manifest. [4]

Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is one of the most common problems that today’s children are dealing with. This neurodevelopmental disorder manifests through hyperactivity, irritability, and lack of focus.

Although this condition is mostly genetic, experts believe that familial and social factors can trigger the onset of ADHD.

Anxiety

Anxiety is a mood disorder that affects people of all ages. From persistent worrying and restlessness to lack of focus and avoidance, this condition comes with an entire array of unpleasant psychological and behavioral changes.

Depending on the severity of symptoms, parents of children who struggle with anxiety can contact a clinical child psychologist or a child psychiatrist.

Depression

As the number one cause of disability, depression is a severe condition that can ruin a child’s present and future.

Fortunately, there are numerous strategies and approaches that mental health professionals can use to prevent and treat this condition.

How Can I Find a Child Psychologist Near Me?

Here are some ways to find a child psychologist near you.

Online Resources

Nowadays, many professionals focus on building a robust online presence, and child psychologists are not an exception. With one quick google search, you can find a counselor or psychologist in your area.

Referrals

In some cases, parents who take their children to a psychologist are referred by primary care physicians, teachers, or social workers. These professionals are usually the first ones to notice potential problems in a child’s behavior.

Recommendations

When it comes to finding the right child psychologist, many parents opt for word-of-mouth recommendations. It’s comforting to know that the professional you wish to consult comes with reliable recommendations.

What Happens in a Session With a Psychologist?

Since we’re talking about child psychology, the professional you wish to consult will most likely interact with the child and have a chat with you (as parent or caregiver) as well.

Based on their evaluation, psychologists suggest an appropriate course of action. This can include talk therapy, a psychiatric consultation (and possibly medication), and group activities designed to build various skills.

Questions to Ask a Potential Psychologist

Let’s look at some questions that can help you determine if a potential psychologist is the right fit for your child. You can ask if they are:

  •  Licensed as a clinical psychologist.
  •  Registered with a psychological association.
  •  Specialized in pediatric psychology.

How Can I Help My Child?

If your child is struggling with emotional or behavioral problems, pediatric psychology can help. It provides a set of strategies and approaches that will help your little one regain his/her health and well-being. Furthermore, experts in this field can also teach you how to be a better parent.

References

  1. K. Cherry, “Child Psychology and Development,” Verywell Mind, 04 May 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.verywellmind.com/what-is-child-psychology-2795067.
  2. “Data and Statistics on Children’s Mental Health,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 19 April 2019. [Online]. Available: https://www.cdc.gov/childrensmentalhealth/data.html.
  3. T. K. A. Hunt, K. S. Slack and L. M. Berger, “Adverse childhood experiences and behavioral problems in middle childhood,” Child Abuse & Neglect, vol. 67, pp. 391-402, 2017.
  4. K. Bearss, C. Johnson, T. Smith and e. al, “Effect of Parent Training vs Parent Education on Behavioral Problems in Children With Autism Spectrum Disorder,” JAMA, vol. 313, no. 15, pp. 1524-1533, 2015.
About The Author Alexander Draghici
 

I'm a licensed Clinical Psychologist, CBT practitioner and co-founder at psycheguide.com. My work focuses mainly on strategies designed to help people manage and prevent two of the most common mental issues – anxiety and depression. When I’m not busy crafting content or working one-on-one with my clients, I enjoy going to the gym, practicing on my guitar, or playing airsoft. I've also been struggling with anxiety for most of my teenage years, but now I can proudly say that I've finally managed to regain control of my life.

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