What is Adolescent Psychology?
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.
Usually, adolescent psychologists focus on problems that are common to the developmental period. Many psychologists will identify and treat emotional or social issues, biological vulnerabilities, cognitive deficits, and stress related to developmental changes of adolescence. Adolescent psychologists will also treat significant mental health issues, including psychoses, neuroses, and personality disorders. Some adolescent psychologists will work exclusively with a particular population, such as special education students, children with autism, or adolescents that have been abused or neglected in some way.
What Does an Adolescent Psychologist Do?
The duties associated with working as an adolescent psychologist will vary depending upon employment setting and level of education.
In order to treat adolescents, psychologists in this area of specialization will often have expertise in administering and interpreting assessments. Development of intervention strategies (i.e. behavior management) and prevention programs (i.e. bullying prevention) are also common tasks taken on by adolescent psychologists. Because of the multifaceted nature of many problems during the teenage years, adolescent psychology typically involves consultation and collaboration with other professionals who work with adolescents, specifically pediatricians and other healthcare providers, juvenile probation officers, and public and private school officials.
Adolescent psychologists can work for school systems to provide assessment and treatment services for children with special needs. In this setting, psychologists might work one-on-one with special education students to improve control of emotions, facilitate social skills growth, or treat common childhood disorders like depression, ADHD, and autism. School-based adolescent psychologists may also work with social workers, teachers, and other school personnel to develop intervention and prevention programs that aim to improve the social, emotional, or physical health of students.
Many adolescent psychologists work for state or private institutions, such as group homes, juvenile detention centers, or treatment facilities. There might be a focus on behavior modification and management for psychologists working in these settings. Adolescents that have a history drug or alcohol abuse, anger issues, eating disorders, or criminal records tend to be the bulk of the clientele in institutional settings. Therefore, adolescent psychologists in these environments may have further training and specializations in treating addictions, criminality, or abuse.
Private practice is also an option for clinical psychologists that specialize in offering services to adolescents. In this setting, diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders would be the primary focus area. Adolescent psychologists might administer personality or intelligence testing in order to develop a better understanding of the adolescent’s needs. Based upon their findings, a clinical psychologist would then design and implement a treatment program, which, depending on the needs of the child, may include individual, group, or family therapy. The type of therapy will depend as well on the psychologist’s theoretical orientation. In some states, doctor-level psychologists are able to prescribe medication, which might be a duty of a psychologist in private practice.
What is the Job Outlook for Adolescent Psychologists?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for psychologists specializing in working with children and adolescents will remain strong for the foreseeable future. Through the first half of the next decade, demand for psychologists is expected to grow at an annual rate of 11%. Driving demand for adolescent psychologists will be families and school systems that seek services for teens that have behavioral issues, a learning disability, or some other special need. With more than 16,000 jobs set to become available for clinical and counseling psychologists nationwide in the next decade, specialization in working with adolescents is a good choice from a job outlook perspective.
What is the Salary for an Adolescent Psychologist?
PayScale.com places the median annual salary for a clinical psychologist at a little more than $71,000 per year. However, the pay band extends from a low median salary in the mid-$40,000 range to upwards of $100,000 per year. Because there are so many areas of specialization within clinical psychology – of which adolescent psychology is one – it is somewhat difficult to determine a specific pay range for that particular area of specialization. However, PayScale.com references the fact that psychologists who both specialize and who go into private practice earn the most money, with a potential annual salary in the $250,000 range.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of clinical, counseling and school psychologists is $72,710 (BLS data as of May 2013).
What Education is Needed to Become an Adolescent Psychologist?
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.
From there, students must then attend graduate school, where they receive advanced clinical training. 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. However, some states allow master’s level psychologists to obtain licensure. It is recommended to check with your state of residence to determine requirements for licensure in your area.
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