How to Become a Child Therapist

Six Methods:Preparing for an Undergraduate DegreeObtaining an Undergraduate DegreePursuing a Graduate DegreeObtaining LicensingObtaining CertificationsApplying for a Job

Children can suffer similar mental health disorders as adults, including grief, depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. These children need the same in-depth psychological counseling as adults. Being a child therapist, or a child counselor, can be a great way to help children overcome these mental discomforts. Your role will be to help with prevention and intervention with these children. You may work as a college instructor or professor or work in a lab. Or, you may be a practicing clinician. With any of these positions, you will be expected to focus on your education and your ability to communicate, especially with children and their families.

Method 1
Preparing for an Undergraduate Degree

  1. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 1
    Prepare for many years of education. To become a child psychologist, you will be expected to complete at least a Master’s Degree, preferably a PhD or doctorate. The first step to this career is to prepare yourself to focus on your education.
    • Make sure you have the financial means to go to school. This may involve taking out student loans.
    • You can offset some of these costs by looking for scholarships. The United States offers scholarships based on good grades in high school.[1]
    • Talk to your school counselor or your preferred undergraduate school to see what financial assistance they offer. In many cases, colleges have a dedicated financial aid department to help you with this.
  2. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 2
    Strive for good grades in high school. In preparing to go to college, it is important to stand as a strong candidate for college. To do this, you should focus on:
    • Developing good study habits to do well on tests and homework. This includes taking good notes and having a good rapport with your teachers and mentors.
    • Stay on top of your homework. Homework is often an important part of your grade. Make sure you do all of your homework for each class.
    • Develop good time-management strategies. This is an essential skill that will help you be effective in the real world as well as your job. Establishing a good routine in high school will help you develop good habits that will carry over to your future.
  3. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 3
    Learn the good, and the bad, of the job. Before you invest a lot of time and effort into education, make sure you are looking at careers realistically. A high-paying child psychologist job may seem glamorous, but be sure of the good and the not-so-good aspects about a job.
    • Think about the amount of time you want to work. Do you want to work a 40 hour a week, or an 80 hour one?
    • Do you want a job where you will travel or stay in one spot?
    • Do you want to work with a team or alone?
    • Do you think you can handle a stressful job situation where you may have to talk to children who have suffered some terrible things?
    • How will you handle the stress of this career?
  4. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 4
    Learn appropriate skills. You should acquire skills and keep practicing them. These will most certainly help you in a future career. In fact, one of the tests you must pass in order to be a practice child psychology requires testing some of these skills. Consider the following: [2]
    • Analytical skills — learn by practicing logic puzzles and solving problems.
    • Communication skills — take a speech class or practice public speaking in front of a mirror.
    • Observational skills — write down an idea log which helps you reflect on what you have observed throughout the day. This has been proven to improve observational skills.[3]
    • Patience -- Remind yourself to take your time. Make this a habit.
    • People skills — Try and get to know people and work well with them.
    • Trustworthiness -- Try and be as honest as possible so you can be someone a patient can trust.

Method 2
Obtaining an Undergraduate Degree

  1. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 5
    Apply for an undergraduate degree. An undergraduate degree is a must have in child counseling. When applying to school, make sure the school has the appropriate programs. You can often research specific programs on the school’s website. You’ll want to look for a school that meets the following criteria:
    • It is accredited and legally able to grant a degree.[4]
    • It offers programs in clinical psychology, forensic psychology, industrial-organizational psychology, or sports psychology.
  2. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 6
    Take helpful classes. You will want to take the classes that will help to grant your degree. A school advisor should be able to help you make sure you are doing so. However, you should also consider taking electives or additional classes that will help you stand out as a candidate for graduate school and a career. These classes may include:
    • Biology and anatomy courses
    • Sociology courses
    • Math and science courses
    • Communication, public speaking, and writing courses
    • Nursing courses
    • Any psychology courses (even if they’re not specialized in children. This is a great opportunity to learn more about how the brain works)[5]
  3. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 7
    Cultivate connections. Since you know you will likely be going to graduate school, it is important to make connections and friends with people in the field. You will need these connections to:
    • Ask for letters of recommendations.
    • Have friends in the field.
    • Have potential mentors to help you in the future.
    • Help you get into graduate school.
    • Help you obtain a job.
  4. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 8
    Prepare for graduate school. In your junior year of your undergraduate, you will want to start to think seriously about graduate school. This is the time where you will start to research schools (see next section) and collect application materials. At this time, you should think about:
    • Geographically, where you might want to attend school.
    • Who you might ask for letters of recommendation.
    • What written material or research you will want to submit into your application.
    • If you can afford graduate school, or will you need to start to look for assistantships or scholarships.

Method 3
Pursuing a Graduate Degree

  1. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 9
    Research graduate programs. Before you apply to graduate school, you will need to research the type of graduate school you would like to enter. There are many schools out there, but you will want to look for a school that will help you focus on what specific career you are looking for. For example:
    • If you are looking for a school you can do research, you may want to look into RI institutions, which are ranked the best for research.[6]
    • If you want to specifically work in counseling and prevention, you should consider a school that offers specific clinicals or internships.
    • If you want to teach child psychology, consider entering a school with an emphasis in pedagogy and teaching.
  2. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 10
    Ask for letters of recommendation. You need to call on your old connections to ask if they would be willing to write you a letter of recommendation. These connections should be people that can reflect on your academic, professional, or personal merit.
    • You may consider asking old professors, primary investigators (from labs), advisors, or employers (if applicable).
  3. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 11
    Write a statement of purpose. Many graduate schools require a statement of purpose/intent for their applications. These statements ask you to specifically articulate why you want to enter the program and what you will bring to the school.
  4. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 12
    Take GRE or MCAT. Some graduate schools will require you take the GRE, which is a general graduate school examination (similar to the ACT/SAT for undergraduates). As of 2015, the MCAT, traditionally used for medical school, added psychology and sociology to their tests. Your school of choice will more than likely have a preference on which you will need to take.[7]
    • Both the GRE and the MCAT have test prep materials on their websites. Often, when you sign up for these tests, you will have an opportunity to take practice tests.
  5. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 13
    Apply to graduate school. After you have your materials together, it is time to apply to graduate school. This process can be daunting, but it helps immensely if you have prepared your materials in advance. Here are common requirements for graduate school applications:[8]
    • Statement of intent/purpose
    • Writing sample
    • Letters of recommendation (usually 3)
    • High school and undergraduate transcripts
    • GRE/MCAT scores
    • FASFA information
    • TESOL/TEFOL information (if applicable)
  6. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 14
    Make connections. Just like undergraduate, you will want to make connections to cohorts and mentors alike. They can really help you secure a job or help you with whatever you may struggle with. In graduate school, work can sometimes be overwhelming, take advantage of:
    • Departmental meet-and-greets
    • Opportunities to present research
    • University programs specifically for graduate students (for example, Graduate Student Senate or a graduate student psychology group)
    • Invited presentations/lectures
  7. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 15
    Start inquiring about jobs. Graduate programs should have some way to help you obtain a job when you graduate. This might be required professional development including clinical work or internships. Or, you might have an opportunity to do laboratory work with a mentor or professor.
    • Always keep an eye out for these opportunities, even if they are not mandatory, as they can go a long way in helping you to secure a job.

Method 4
Obtaining Licensing

  1. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 16
    Decide where you wish to practice. Licensing varies state by state and, though it has become easier to obtain licensure mobility (the ability to obtain licensing in other jurisdictions),[9] you should try to have an idea of where you'd like to practice and where you might like to practice in the future.
    • Learn the current licensing laws specific to your state and other states where you would consider living. You can research the license requirements unique to each state by entering the relevant information on the asppb website.
    • Most states will require that you have obtained your post-doctorate, pass the Examination for Professional Practice of Psychology (EPPP), pass a jurisprudence or ethics exam, pass an an oral exam, and that you've completed a certain number or hours (between 1,500 and 6,000) of "supervised professional experience" (the definition of which varies by state).[10]
  2. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 17
    Take the EPPP as soon as possible. The EPPP is a multiple-choice test that covers your foundational, text book knowledge of psychology.[11] The sooner you take it after grad school, the less you'll have to re-learn. Check the requirements to take the EPPP within your state.[12]
    • You need to get about 70% of the questions correct to pass the EPPP. You are not penalized for incorrect answers, so if you find yourself running out of time (the test takes 4 hours and 15 minutes), it's better to guess the answers than to leave them blank.[13]
    • Take practice exams to familiarize yourself with the types of questions you will be asked and to get used to the time limitations. Go back over the test and figure out where your knowledge is strong and in which subjects you'll need to review heavily.[14]
  3. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 18
    Get your supervised professional experience hours. This can be tricky, as state requirements can vary widely. On average, states require between 3,000 – 4,000 hours of experience.[15] What qualifies as experience can also vary from state to state. Your state may or may not require internships to be APA-accredited.[16]
    • Cover your bases by fulfilling the maximum number of hours required in most states. Even if the state in which you currently live only requires 1,500 hours, you should aim for 2,000 hours in an APA-accredited internship and 2,000 hours in a supervised postdoc.[17] This will give you the most flexibility and mobility later on, as this will fulfill most state requirements.[18]
  4. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 19
    Pass your jurisprudence exam. Again, this will vary by state, so you need to research the requirements to find out when you are eligible to take the test, the topics covered, and how to get approval to take the exam. It may be online, taken in a classroom, open or closed book.
    • This exam will cover state-specific laws and the ethics code of the APA.[19]
  5. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 20
    Take the oral exam, if required. Depending on your state, you may also need to pass an oral exam. The purpose and format of these exams is incredibly varied, so research the requirements within your state to prepare.[20]

Method 5
Obtaining Certifications

  1. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 21
    Research certifications. If you live, or intend to practice in the United States, you will be working with the American Board of Professional Psychology (ABPP) to earn certifications. You will need to have earned your license to pursue other certifications.
    • It is always a good idea to talk to a trusted adviser about what examinations and certifications you should pursue. Some jobs require unique certifications, but almost all require passing the ABPP certification.[21]
  2. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 22
    Prepare for credentials review. This first stage of the ABPP examination is just an objective examination of your educational history. The review board will make sure you have successfully completed the appropriate schooling necessary. This includes both your undergraduate and graduate studies and includes any accomplished research or publication.
  3. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 23
    Pass the practice sample review. This is the second part of the ABPP examination and requires you to pass a written examination based on the field. The organization will ask you to submit a statement of purpose detailing your content expert knowledge of your preferred field.[22]
  4. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 24
    Ace your oral examinations. Depending on how well you do on the previous portions of the exams, the board may ask you to be able to orally defend your material. This is just a review of your previous supplied materials.
    • Often, this is organized depending on the needs of the review board.[23]
  5. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 25
    Demonstrate domains of competency. The last part of the examination is for you to show that you are competent in your expertise. The board requires you to submit evidence of successful practice. This may include a recording of you in a therapy session or evidence of laboratory work.
    • This state of the examination is dependent on your future career goals. The board will help you determine what will be appropriate to submit at this portion.[24]

Method 6
Applying for a Job

  1. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 26
    Recognize job growth. Luckily, the field of child psychology is a growing field of about a growth rate of 14% per year.[25]
  2. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 27
    Obtain a job through clinicals/internships. You will more-than-likely have to do some sort of professional development through your schooling. This might be a great time to secure a position. Ask your manager or your managing professor to see if you can get a full-time job through this internship.
    • These professional development opportunities are another great way to make a great impression in the field. More than likely, a hiring manager may know other similar people in the field.[26]
  3. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 28
    Search online.There are many psychology-specific job boards out there. Check hospitals and agencies in your area to see if they have an open position.
    • Often, colleges post instructor/professor positions on their college job board. You can check your local colleges (or college website) for open positions.
  4. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 29
    Talk to connections. You have spent a lot of time in education.Talk to your connections that you have made in the past. Contact your professors and your classmates to see where you can get a position.
  5. Image titled Become a Child Therapist Step 30
    Go to medical conventions. Medical and psychological associations, like the American Psychology Association (APA), hold fairs for future clinicians.[27]

Sources and Citations

Show more... (24)

Article Info

Categories: Health Care