Child psychology is a specialty in professional psychology that develops and applies scientific knowledge to the delivery of psychological services to infants, toddlers, children and adolescents within their social context.
Of particular importance to the specialty of child psychology is an understanding of the basic psychological needs of children and adolescents, and how the family and other social contexts influence the socio-emotional adjustment, cognitive development, behavioural adaptation and health status of children and adolescents.
The specialty of child psychology involves the study, assessment and treatment of a wide range of interrelated biological, psychological and social problems experienced by children and adolescents.
These include but are not limited to the following:
- Biological vulnerabilities.
- Emotional and developmental problems.
- Significant mental disorders.
- Cognitive deficits.
- Trauma and loss.
- Health related problems.
- Stress and coping related to developmental change.
- Problems in social context.
Skills and Procedures Utilised
Child psychology employs a wide range of procedures and skills addressing the population of infants, toddlers, children and adolescents. Essential skills and procedures include:
- Assessment (e.g., psychological, intellectual, cognitive, behavioural testing and evaluation).
- Intervention (e.g., psychotherapy and behaviour management).
- Development of prevention programs (e.g., bullying, addictions, teen pregnancy, obesity).
- Consultation with other professionals working with children.
- Design and utilization of research.
Child psychology involves research and service delivery for infants, toddlers, children and adolescents displaying a variety of psychological, behavioural, developmental, academic, family, peer and health-related difficulties in a variety of settings.
Play Therapy is a specific counselling approach in which games, toys and mediums such as clay, drawings and paint are used to help a child or adolescent to express their emotions, thoughts, wishes and needs. It helps them to understand muddled feelings and upsetting events that they have not had the chance or the skills to sort out properly. Rather than having to explain what is troubling them, as adult therapy usually expects, children use play to communicate at their own level and at their own pace, without feeling interrogated or threatened.
The initial focus of the therapy is on building a relationship between a child and the therapist. This relationship is a very important tool in the therapeutic process because a child or adolescent will more readily talk about their intimate feelings when they feel respected and accepted. In the sessions the therapist uses specific techniques to assess how a child or adolescent experience their world and how they communicate and react to the events and people in their world. Children are lead to become aware of what they are feeling and opportunities are given to express these feelings. Awareness is a very important process in play therapy, because without awareness change is not possible. Throughout the therapy the child or adolescent is empowered and supported to learn more about who they are, to talk about things that are frightening or painful, to be self-supportive and to experiment with new behaviour.
Play Therapy can be useful for any child of four years and older. It can help to become aware of what feelings and how these feelings manifest in behaviour or one's body. They can learn how to become better at regulating emotions and expressing them in constructive ways. They can discover who they are and what their strong and weak points, needs, wishes, thoughts and dreams are. The combination of this self-knowledge and training in social skills may help a child to become more assertive, self-confident and to have self-respect and respect for others.