Adolescent psychology specialists are people who specialise in protecting the mental health and well being of young people. There are several different people who would form the basis of a child and adolescent mental health team, including psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists, psychotherapists, nurses, outreach workers, counsellors and family therapists.
Counsellors offer a fairly informal form of treatment in that they spend their time talking to young people and working with them to help them find ways of coping with whatever problems they are having. In contrast, doctors and GPs tend to provide more in-depth medical services, talking to young people, prescribing them medication if required, and referring them to specialists if necessary.
The psychologists and psychotherapists specialise in mental health issues, and often have specific training in working with adolescents. They help people to cope with various mental issues, and can diagnose developmental disorders, stress, and other conditions. Psychologists could specialise in educational psychology, clinical psychology, or other disciplines, while psychotherapists tent to take an approach that is closer to what counsellors do. They also may not be registered and may vary significantly with the training that has been done. It is always helpful to obtain a recommendation for the person you would like to see and make sure they have specific training to help teenagers.
The Unique Challenges of Adolescence
Childhood and adolescence are difficult times for those who are going through them. While adults can think of childhood as being a simple time, the fact is that to the child who is going through it, childhood is a time where they can feel dis-empowered. They are innocent and can be victims of their environment and the adults around them, and if those adults are not following through with their duty of care, then the child could suffer a lot as a result.
Childhood psychology covers not just childhood but the whole time span from birth to adolescence. A person who specialises in this branch of psychology will learn about behavioral issues, important developmental milestones, social skills, emotional development, well-being and mental health issues specific to this stage.
There was a time when childhood psychology was dismissed as not being a real thing. In Medieval times, children were considered to be simply a smaller version of an adult, and they were dressed like adults, treated like them, and expected to behave like them. Later, it was acknowledged that they were different and towards the end of the 16th century, John Locke, the philosopher, helped to change this outlook. The created the tabula rasa theory, which states that when a child is born their mind is a blank tablet. They will develop knowledge and behavioral patterns based on what they are told and taught when they are a child.
There is another theory, at the other extreme, that was popularised by Jean-Jacques Rousseau, who was a prominent philosopher during the 18th century. He believed in innate goodness, and suggests that children are born as inherently good beings. The reason that a child may grow up and start misbehaving, or become an unkind adult, is because they are exposed to evils in society while they are growing up.
Even today, the debate about nature versus nurture still continues. There are psychologists who subscribe to all sides of that debate. One thing that they do all agree on, however, is the importance of that stage of development.
Becoming a Child or Adolescent Psychology Specialist
Before someone can specialise in child psychology, they will either need to train in educational psychology, and get experience in working with young people, or they will need to train as a clinical or counselling psychologist and then move over to the specialism at a later date. This can take several years, depending on the path that you take, but it will give you the skills that you need to work in a wide range of special fields, from which you can choose to work privately, with the national health service, or out in the community, depending on your own personal preferences. This is one of the most exciting facts about adolescent psychology specialists – they have a whole lot of work options.
One often overlooked issue when it comes to facts about adolescent psychology specialists is that they will need to get a degree in psychology, and get some experience working with people of all ages before choosing a specialism. In Aus, psychologists must pass a Working with Children Check, to prove that they do not have a criminal record, before they can work with children or vulnerable adults.
Working with adolescents is incredibly rewarding, because they are old enough to be able to communicate well, and they tend to have an idea of what they want to do with their lives. A good psychologist can really make a difference to the young people that they have contact with, and see the change in that child from very early on, before problems become too ingrained. They can help them to make decisions about their future, and give them coping mechanisms for their problems, at a time when they are developing the maturity to employ them, and are still mentally malleable enough to really make a difference.
Psychologists for teenagers takes specific skills; it takes patience to deal with teenagers, and to help them understand their conflicting selves and the changes that their minds are going through. It also takes being challenging and direct too at times when it is appropriate. Psychologists who can understand the perception of self and identity that teenagers are working on creating can have a massive impact on the next generation, and help them to get the best possible start into their adult lives.