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What does a child psychologist do?

The team at Young Minds undergo specific training and receive specialised supervision that enables them to provide evidence-based treatment tailored to meet the needs of children, adolescents, and their families. So, just what does a child psychologist do? Below you will find some information that hopefully helps to answer that question.

What does a child psychologist do? Work from a child-focussed framework.

Children are not mini adults – their brains and bodies are still developing and the environment in which they function is different to the adult world. Psychologists who work with children are cognisant of the differing abilities, experiences, perspectives, and vulnerabilities of young people.

You may already have noticed that children learn though play. It is how they learn about themselves and the world around them. Child Psychologists are trained to use “play” as a means to improving the cognitive, social and emotional well-being of children.

What does a child psychologist do? Provide supportive therapy to young people.

Child psychologists deliver evidence-based therapy to children and adolescents. They may also advocate for a young client if needed and/or support parents by helping them develop skills so they have the resources to be the best parent they can be.

Child psychologists are trained to provide therapy to young people with a range of problems. Some of these are outlined below:

Neuro-developmental disorders

Neuro-developmental disorders refer to diagnoses that are due to non-standard or delayed development. Some examples are autism spectrum disorder, ADHD, intellectual impairment and learning disorders.Child psychologists are trained to support children and their parents develop ways to overcome some of the impact these disorders have on everyday functioning. A child psychologist can, for example, help by introducing the family to a number of cognitive, behavioural, and/or emotional strategies aimed at assisting the family manage difficult behaviour. Child psychologists are also able to give advice about changes to the home or school environment that may help to reduce some of the symptoms and to provide parenting support for those managing these diagnoses.

Age-related issues

Childhood and adolescents have unique challenges, and psychologists who work with children have experience helping young people navigate these difficulties. Some common transitions such as starting school, building a friendship group, coping with stress, and forming a strong identity are all areas where child psychologists can assist. Child psychologists also assist children who are experiencing social or behavioural difficulties such as bullying or school refusal. Separation anxiety and fussy eating are other child-specific difficulties that psychologists can assist with.

Mental health disorders in children and adolescents

Conditions such as depression or anxiety related disorders may impact individuals at any age. Psychologists who work with children and adolescents understand how these difficulties interact with developmental functioning and how they are likely to impact on home and school life. Child psychologists are trained to provide age-appropriate therapy so that children and adolescents can master the life skills they need to overcome their fears and build resilience.

What does a child psychologist do? Takes a holistic approach working with caregivers, schools and other health professionals.

Child psychologists appreciate that children are never alone in the world — hence, they generally always work with parents or caregivers, family members, health professionals, schools or other social communities involved in the child’s life.

In this regard, a child psychologist takes a holistic approach to therapy by engaging the most important people in the child’s life. In this capacity child psychologists provide education about a child’s difficulties, and strategies on how to best support them. For example, parents may be engaged to help children continue to develop or reinforce new skills learned in the home environment. Psychologists may also work with whole families to help build relationships and improve family communication.

In supporting young people, child psychologists may also liaise with other health professionals such as occupational therapists or speech pathologists. Our multidisciplinary team at Young Minds may mean your child is seeing more than one allied health member within our team. This is great when it comes to ensuring a coordinated care approach. Regardless, a child psychologist will always keep your GP, paediatrician and/or psychiatrist updated with regular progress reports.

What does a child psychologist do? Psychological Assessment for children and adolescents

Child psychologists are trained in the administration of psychological assessment measures specific to children and adolescents. Some assessments are simple checklists completed by parents, school teachers or a child or adolescent themselves. Others, such as cognitive or capacity assessments, are more complex and involve longer periods of concentration by a child.

Assessment can help a clinician identify symptoms, and better understand the presentation and severity of distress being experienced. Psychological assessment is also an important part of the diagnostic process, particularly, when it comes to neuro-developmental disorders. A child psychologist will take the time to work with parents or caregivers so that they fully understand the process and expected outcomes.

Administration of psychological assessments

Before an assessment is administered a child psychologist considers the following:

  • What is the assessment question?
  • What assessment/s would best capture the information required to answer the assessment question?
  • Is this the optimum time to complete an assessment?
  • What are the benefits and/or possible downfalls of completing an assessment?
  • How best can the assessment be administered to ensure the child is at ease and can fully engage so that the most reliable results are obtained?

Providing assessment results and diagnoses.

When feeding back test results, child psychologists take into consideration the maturity and emotional capacity of the young person and their family. This helps ensure the outcome of psychological assessments is provided in a manner that ensures the clients have a clear understanding of the results.

The assessment feedback generally also includes a number of recommendations aimed at improving the young person’s overall functioning. The child psychologist will explain these in detail and will be able to help you identify any resources you need to implement the recommendations.

Giving information and advice regarding diagnoses

It is not uncommon for people to ask can a child psychologist diagnose ADHD? Or autism? Or dyslexia? The role of a child psychologist is to gather information from parents and teachers, and to observe behaviour at home, school or during therapy. This information is incorporated with assessment results before considering a diagnosis. This information is often used to support or inform a formal diagnosis given by a paediatrician or child psychiatrist.

What does a child psychologist do?  Deliver group therapy

There are a lot of benefits of group therapy for children. Group therapy provides a safe space for children to learn and experiment with new skills. At Young Minds we have a number of group programs for children and adolescents. These programs help children to learn skills to self-regulate, discover their strengths, learn social skills and develop peer relationships. Our group programs were designed by experienced child psychologists who understand the needs of neuro-diverse kids.

The psychologists who facilitate the programs have a thorough understanding of the content, as well as the skills needed to inspire and motivate young people and to manage group dynamics and child behaviour.


In summary, child psychologists work with children from a child-centred framework and consider the unique attributes and environment of young people. Child psychologists may provide therapy to children, adolescents and parents, undertake psychological assessments, facilitate group therapy, and liaise with school staff and other health professionals to ensure a young person receives the best possible support. If your young person needs support, please contact us on (07) 3857 0074.