The essential purpose of adolescent psychology is to encourage understanding of developmental issues, sociocultural impacts, and biological influences that cause poor mental health in adolescents. With this increased knowledge, adolescent psychologists can then go about devising strategies for improving the welfare and functioning of pre-teen and teenage children as it pertains to everyday life, education, and interaction with peers and family.
Adolescent psychology is an area in which clinical or counseling psychologists can choose to specialize. Typically, adolescent psychologists deliver psychological services to children between the ages of 12 and 18, however, this is not always the case. Some adolescent psychologists will treat younger children, and likewise treat young adults. Treating adolescents requires a great deal of understanding of human development, as well as a good grasp of social and cultural influences that impact an adolescent’s behavior. Understanding family influences and an adolescent’s role in his or her specific family is additionally required.
In order to become an adolescent psychologist, students must first complete their bachelor’s level studies, usually in psychology, social work, or a closely related field. Undergraduate studies tend to be more general in scope, and introduce students to major concepts in psychology, such as theoretical orientations, data collection and analysis, history and systems of psychology, and basic forays into abnormal psychology, among others.
Graduate studies tend to focus on two separate, yet interdependent areas: clinical knowledge and clinical practice. As a result, graduate students are involved in classroom studies that delve deeper into the major principles of human behavior that were introduced in undergraduate studies. Graduate students also participate in clinical practice, where they hone their skills in practice sessions with actual clients in practicum and internship experiences.
Most clinical psychologists, including adolescent psychologists, have a Ph.D. or Psy.D. as well. Doctoral studies focus almost exclusively on topics related to the treatment of adolescents. Detailed studies in growth and development, personality, anger management, and educational issues are common for doctorate studies in adolescent psychology. Completion of an APA accredited doctoral program is required by the American Board of Professional Psychology in order to achieve licensure from that organization. Additional post-doctoral internship hours are required as well. It is recommended to check with your state of residence to determine requirements for licensure in your area.