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What do you need to study to become a child therapist?

What steps do I need to take to reach my career. What pathways do I need to enter to become a child therapist. I was also wondering what other careers coincide with my preferred career. #therapy #psychology

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Carol’s Answer

Hi Nicolas

While I have not recruited for child therapists I have learned that the best way to learn about a career is to go online and ask. Note: I do have a Master's degree in Community Counseling.

This is what I have found so far.

Psychologists/Therapists serving children can be found in a range of settings, including schools, hospitals, clinics and private practice.

Undergraduate degrees in child psychology are all but nonexistent; however, there are numerous paths a student can follow. BA degree programs that provide courses in child development and psychology, general psychology, social sciences and statistics are useful.

For people to work as a child therapist most jobs require a Master’s degree in counseling or Social Work. Doctoral programs are often offered as a PhD in clinical child psychology or clinical psychology with a concentration in child development and take between five and seven years of study.

No matter the type of psychologist/therapist, all states require these professionals be licensed in order to practice. Before applying for a license, students must complete a supervised practicum (1-3 years) overseen by the American Psychological Association.

There is more information out there that will tell you what people do in certain careers, other sites that might describe a typical day in the role, jobsites with openings and job descriptions as well as salary ranges for the positions, etc. YouTube may have videos explaining the same. If you look at multiple sites, look for consistencies in what they say. This should help you feel more comfortable that the information you are reading is accurate.

Hope this helps. Feel free to reach back out.



Carol recommends the following next steps:

check out additional websites or reach back out for more information
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Alison’s Answer

Hi Nicolas,

I cannot speak to the entire process of becoming a child therapist because I am only an undergrad, but I can speak to my experience so far as I have the same career goal. I am currently a senior in undergrad majoring in Psychology and minoring in Poverty and Social Justice and Criminal Justice Studies. While these areas of study are not required for your preferred field, I have found them to be extremely helpful! I have found that my minors give me an understanding of the macro systems that can result in an unequal or disproportionate need for therapy in some populations. I think this understanding of social justice is beneficial to improving skills of empathy, which is definitely required to be a child therapist. Moreover, my major in Psychology has given me a micro understanding of mental disorders and treatment.

I have the same career interests as you and I struggled for a while to decide which path would be best for me. I ultimately decided to apply for graduate school for a master's in social work. I believe this field will prepare me not only to be a clinical therapist but also to understand systemic issues that go alongside a need for mental health resources. When my studies in social work are done (after two years) I will take a licensure exam to become a Licensed Clinical Social Worker. With this label, I can practice as a child therapist or work on more broad issues like in policy or nonprofit.

Other pathways I have researched to become a child therapist are a master's in counseling, a master's in psychology, or a Ph.D. program in either of these. Ph.D. programs require a lot more school (money and energy) and typically result in the same career with a slight pay raise. This is why I have landed on a master's program.

With your preferred interest in helping children, I believe other careers in social work, the juvenile justice system, or teaching would be a good fit.

I hope this helps!