Child & Adolescent Psychology Track

What is child and adolescent psychology?

Child and adolescent psychologists work with children, adolescents and their families to help the child develop ways of interacting that facilitate change toward ongoing development.

According to the CDC, mental health is critical to a child’s overall health, including their mental, emotional and behavioral well-being, and affects how they think, feel and act.

Child and adolescent psychology plays a role in how children handle stress, relate to others and make healthy choices. Mental disorders among children are described as serious changes in the way children typically learn, behave or handle their emotions.

The Importance of Play

Using play to work with children is a common practice and is used for a variety of reasons, depending on the theory the psychologist is working from. Because play is a natural way children engage, open up and communicate, child psychologists are typically on the floor playing while working with them.

Early Childhood Psychology

When children are young, the range of behavior included in the “normal” category is broader, and it narrows as they mature (consider the greater frequency of toddler tantrums as compared to much rarer adult tantrums). As a result, most child behavioral disorders aren’t diagnosed until ages 6 to 11.

Early childhood psychology typically focuses on developmental tasks, including:

Parents, caregivers and families are most often included in psychological work with young children, with sessions dedicated to exploring parent-child relationships and interactions.

Child and psychology student

School-Age Children

Work with school-aged children most often involves psychologist interaction with the child, their caregivers and their teachers. Child psychologists also often work with the child’s pediatrician, collaborating on ongoing developmental, emotional, social and behavioral goals.

Work with this age group frequently covers:

Adolescent Psychology

Adolescent psychology is a growing area of interest, given the tension between the growing independence of the child and their ongoing dependence on caregivers. In addition, emotional and social difficulties increase steadily in adolescents, with common concerns being depression, substance use and suicide.

Because adolescents are better able to sit and talk, adult generalist psychologists traditionally employ similar interventions as those used with adults. However, adolescents have some unique and specific intervention needs. Balancing the autonomy and trust of the adolescent with the caregiver’s need to stay connected with the child’s needs is delicate work for adolescent psychologists. While adolescents don’t typically play on the floor with toys, psychologists who work with them often use fidgets, card games or other activities during sessions. 

Effective psychologists are versatile, playful and don’t take themselves too seriously, while also being eloquent and professional with caregivers, teachers and pediatricians. It’s highly enjoyable work and highly rewarding. Change often occurs quickly compared to response times in adult psychology.

What kinds of jobs can you do as a child and adolescent psychologist?

How does the child and adolescent track work at George Fox University? 

The George Fox University Graduate School of Clinical Psychology uses a flexible track approach that comprises 18 hours, including electives and required courses that focus on child and adolescent psychology. Students are not admitted to a track and need not apply to one. They simply designate their intention to complete a track’s requirements and then do so. 

Because some of the electives that count toward the child and adolescent track also count toward the assessment track and primary care track, students have the flexibility to switch tracks if they wish. They just need to be mindful that they have enough credits to complete the track they are hoping to switch to. In addition to the track-related coursework, students are required to complete a research project and a practicum in their area of specialization.

Note: Students are not required to choose a specialization track to graduate from the George Fox University PsyD program.

What courses will I take?

What makes the child and adolescent track at George Fox stand out from similar programs at other schools?

George Fox’s PsyD program operates the Behavioral Health Center, which features dedicated play therapy spaces for children and private counseling offices for adolescents and other populations.

Second- to fourth-year students in the PsyD program staff the clinic and are supervised by psychologists licensed in the state of Oregon. Clinic director Ryan Thompson is an expert in parent-child interaction therapy, as well as psychological assessment for children and adults.