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Do You Need to Hire a Child Psychologist

By: Chris Hogan MSc - Updated: 19 Oct 2012 | comments*Discuss
Hiring Help Child Psychologist

Many people view psychology with suspicion particularly when child psychology is mentioned. Even those who accept psychology still baulk at the idea of its effectiveness with children, who, depending on their age, are not considered capable of complex thought and therefore unlikely to respond to a psychologist. But developmental psychology, the branch to which child psychology belongs, isn’t about that so much as many other areas of human development such as acquiring language and problem solving skills, and learning about right and wrong and how people interact.

What is Psychology?

Psychology in general is about studying humans to work out how we act, think and interact with each other. This is driven by research, and the results are fed into the field of 'applied' psychology, where the things that researchers have discovered is put into practice by psychologists who treat people. Child psychology is often grouped with its close relative, educational psychology; for example they are both covered by the same division of the British Psychological Society, and there is a degree of overlap between the two disciplines There is often a stigma about getting a child psychologist involved in the development of a child because they're associated with mental health, which causes people to baulk at bringing them in.

Unfortunately this reinforces the stereotype, as it means they are not called in until the perceived problem is more serious, whereas if they had been brought in earlier there might have been less of a problem. After all, occupational psychologists are at work on a daily basis in all sorts of companies all over the world, working with individuals and teams to help them develop their careers and achieve top performance, and they're rarely considered to be treating people who have mental problems.

Education Psychology Service

The government runs an educational psychology service which is usually called in by a school rather than parents, although this should of course be a collaborative venture. They send qualified psychologists and assistants in to assess children who don't appear to be developing normally and can identify those with problems such as learning disabilities, emotional difficulties or behavioural problems. It is possible, if you cannot get a school to agree to call in the service to look specifically at your child, to hire them independently, but this is likely to cost. If a GP can make a referral it is possible to get support on the NHS but even then, the waiting list may be so long that crucial months of childhood development can pass.

Assuming you can get the support, which may simply recommend counselling as a family or parenting advice rather than any heavyweight treatment, a plan of action will be devised which will include the child or children, parents and the school. If a medical problem is identified, such as a hearing defect or vision problem, then specialist health advisors can be called in and similarly, if a specific mental health problem is identified, they can call on the aid of experts in that area. Often these days child psychologists are brought in to help children overcome traumatic events such as divorce.

Go for the Holistic Approach

If you are considering getting the help of a child psychologist, it's probably best to try going through a school or a GP first, then if you can't get their support, going out to find one on your own. Apart from anything else, it's good to get other people's viewpoint, and approach the problem in a holistic manner. That is to say rather than thinking that hiring a psychologist is your solution, review your child's behaviour in the context of other children, with people that see them in action everyday. It could be that a child psychologist is not the solution, but if others agree that they can be effective as part of an overall programme of support then you should have little to fear.

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