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Advice Needed: Child/Adol or adult track?

Discussion in 'Psychology [Psy.D. / Ph.D.]' started by ilikepsych, Apr 25, 2007.

  1. ilikepsych

    ilikepsych 5+ Year Member

    Dec 26, 2006
    Next year I will be attending a clincal ph.D. program that offers a child/adolescent focus through coursework. Essentially, first years would take a developmetal psychopathology course instead of a psychotherapy course and so forth in the coming years. Personally, I am interested in internalizing disorders broadly, and my experience is looking at these disorders in an adolescent population. However, I really have no interest in developmental disorders or working with children under the age of about 14 (basically I like working with teens and young adults). I was wondering if anyone had any advice about whether I should do the child/adol. track or just the regular coursework. Does it make much of a difference? I would imagine that it would come into play when I apply for externships, and then the internship. Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated!
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  3. Therapist4Chnge

    Therapist4Chnge Neuropsych Ninja Faculty Faculty Moderator Emeritus 10+ Year Member

    Oct 6, 2006
    The Beach
    Great question....not sure if I have a solid answer. :laugh: My choice population is similar (12-18+), though I decided to be a generalist. I had exposure to kids as young as 2-4 (testing / research) and up from there. It gave me a great perspective on the challenges of each range, and it let me know which populations I really enjoyed working with.....and which ones throw shoes at you and call you Doodie Head.
    Last edited: Jan 28, 2011
  4. psychanon

    psychanon 7+ Year Member

    Feb 20, 2005
    My interests are similar to yours. Personally, if I had to choose, I would choose adult, primarily because I have no real interest (like you) in working with young children. I think adolescents are more like adults than children, especially if you're interested in internalizing disorders. Depression in adolescence is much more like depression in adulthood than in childhood.

    I agree that the generalist model is preferable. I'm not a fan of programs that break up training into child/adol tracks vs. adult tracks. Children have parents that you will need to deal with, adults often have kids with problems that exacerbate their own difficulties. Either way, you can't really get away with only working with one population or another. Hopefully whichever you choose, you'll get some training in both.
  5. clearcolor

    clearcolor Junior Member 2+ Year Member

    Jul 5, 2006
    I strongly recommend you ask students ahead of you in the program (3rd/4th year) because they prob have the most experience knowing how your specific school's child track influences externship/internship.

    At my school, many of the students have said you don't have to feel pressured to complete the child track if you want to work with kids because you can pick and choose the classes and try to get an externship with kids for experience. So having "child track" written somewhere on your resume (I don't even think it is on the transcript, but I'm not sure) isn't very meaningful. The externship or outside jobs working with kids is helpful.

    However, if anybody at my school wants to see adolescents (or children) through the school's clinic, they have to say they are on the child track. Otherwise, you only get adult patients. That kind of thing at your school might be a major draw for you.
  6. Logic Prevails

    Logic Prevails Member 5+ Year Member

    Aug 19, 2005
    I would say take the child/adolescent track. Working with kids is not an easy thing to do; having the training/supervision early on will make it easier for you to do so later down the road when you are looking for a job and you decide you want to branch out from treating just adults. You may also find an area of specialization within this population that becomes a pull for you intellectually and financially (I've been told that working with the younger populations is more lucrative than working with adults). It is much easier to have experience working with children and then expand your knowledge "upward" to adults, than the other way around, partially due to the more sensitive ethical issues working with these younger populations.

    Even though you think you won't use the training, I'd say do it... read the threads on income and the need for specialization. Go with your gut, but with the info you provided, my gut is saying: do it.
  7. spyspy

    spyspy 2+ Year Member

    Jan 21, 2007
    I think the smartest thing to do is ask your advisor or the other students...we don't know the specifics of your program or their guidelines.
  8. InYourHead

    InYourHead 7+ Year Member

    Apr 1, 2010
    This seems like an older thread, but I'm faced with the same decision. I've been able to get a little experience with each population and I still do not know which one to chose. I've made some pros/cons for each option, but I was wondering if anyone has experience that they would like to share. Any of your pros and cons would be extremely helpful too. Thanks!

    Pros: potentially more rewarding, more chance for assessment, more fun to work with
    Cons: a big one that concerns me is the environment the child goes home to, if I can't change that, how much can I help? also, is it exhausting trying to relate to children all day everyday (there has to be a better way to phrase that, but hopefully you understand what I mean)

    Pros: more likely to want to change, invested in their treatment, but less likely to come in for assessment on their own?
    Cons: (I don't have my list in front of me, I'll update it later!)

    Any additions to the list and advice would be helpful! Thanks!
  9. AcronymAllergy

    AcronymAllergy Neuropsychologist Moderator Psychologist Gold Donor Classifieds Approved 7+ Year Member

    Jan 7, 2010
    There are likely equal opportunities for assessment in both populations (I'm an "adult person" myself, and I focused entirely on assessment the first two-ish years). There's definitely a different degree and type of change that seems to occur, though. As for adults being less likely to come in on their own, that would HEAVILY depend on the setting--if there's some external incentive (e.g., academic/testing accommodations, disability income), if there is a fee for cancellations, if the clients are self- or physician-/court-referred, etc.

    One child "pro" I can add, however, is that the job market for child psychologists appears to be stronger at the moment than for general adult psychologists (of which there are many, many more).

    As for cons, for all the child-focused students I've worked with, the one universal complaint is always the parents. This obviously isn't a problem in every case, but whenever there's been some sort of issue, they've said that it generally stems from the mother/father and not from the child.
  10. docma

    docma 10+ Year Member

    Oct 27, 2007
    I think you really need to look at the curriculum and quality of the instructors/instruction on a question like this. A good background in developmental psychology is invaluable for working across the lifespan. And much of what you learn about working with children and family systems can map very well onto working with adults with serious mental health problems. Our adult system, for example, is very pleased to get applications from folks who have worked in adolescent residential placements because you learn so much about working with emotional dysregulation, effective limit setting, crises, etc. Child/adolescent training also opens up options of working in school/college counseling settings. My impession is that many child/family tracks end up emphasizing adolescent/family work in any case. You definitely need to interview current students on both tracks and look at course content and where students do their pre-doc
  11. psydog


    Jan 21, 2011
    From hearsay child psychs and pediatricians aswell spend more time talking to the parents than to the children^^ Someone with more knowledge could comment on this.

    I also think an issue is that there is more and more responsibility as you move down in ages. An adult has a certain personality, habits etc. Maybe you can change some of the habits. But a child is a child, you could potentially screw up their personality...
  12. starsinnight

    starsinnight 7+ Year Member

    Sep 30, 2008
    I really don't think you can weigh the pros & cons now without actually experiencing it for yourself. Unfortunately, it sounds like you need to decide before you actually begin. I like the recommendations that others have given you regarding contacting grad students ahead of you and asking them for advice on the specifics of your program in particular. As well as checking the guidelines/rules whether you can change your track at a later time or get experience first, etc. Or what to do if you really want to change after you don't like it, if that is something common.

    I've worked hands-on with children for 7 years now, in schools, doing developmental research, and then lastly clinically. I HATED working clinically with kids doing therapy with them. No thanks, I loved the research part and in the schools - but not with therapy. But I had no clue I would until I tried it out during my practicum. And that's when I realized too I loved working with adolescents and that adults weren't so bad either. But it differs depending on you and what you will be doing with them (research or clinical). And honestly you can't really know until you try it. Most people in my practicum got to realize who and what they liked working with and we couldn't have known that just from classes alone. So it'd be nice if you could ask the options if you change your mind or get more experience volunteering, by current grad students in your program, or through research before you make up your mind.

    Good luck!
  13. psydtobe

    psydtobe 2+ Year Member

    Jan 25, 2011
    this was a great resurrected thread. i have been struggling with this for the past few days myself. i will be posing these questions to the current students at my interview for their opinions. i currently work with adults (and sometimes adolescents) and i am still undecided if i want to entirely exclude children. i would love to learn more about play therapy as well as do some work with families.
  14. arsesta

    arsesta Junior Member 10+ Year Member

    Jan 23, 2006
    I've done externships with child/adols (1 year) and adults (2 yrs). I was originally a "child" person but then after my externship w/ child/adols, I decided it wasn't for me. My disclaimer is that I *LOVE* working clinically with kids. Here are 3 reasons why I converted to be an "adult" person:

    1) It was hard at times to engage kids and adols, mostly because I worked with externalizing d/o kids (ADHD, ODD, Conduct, etc). generally, adults are more willing to share in groups. you can do more traditional "talk therapy" with adults, whereas with kids, you have to be comfortable w/ playing uno, checkers, candyland, sitting on the ground, and doing more directive styles. I love this approach and helped me be more creative when engaging SMI adults in therapy. But it took me a few months to be comfortable with therapeutic activities vs. traditional talk therapy.

    2) I would say 80% of your job will be working with parents/caregivers, so it's important that you know how to communicate effectively with adults, w/o offending them too much when you instruct them on how to parent (because parents will get P/O when you tell them how they're parenting is NOT working). I worked with a LOT of foster parents, and you just never know what kind of foster parents you get. They can be loving, dedicated folks, or the ones you hear about on the news who are in it to make $ and have no idea how to set boundaries, parent, or discipline (or they discipline too harshly!)

    3) Systems systems systems. You have to learn about how to navigate working with ACS (or Child Protective Services), schools, legal systems (law guardians, family courts), and case managers. There are tons of service providers out there for kids, and a lot of times, no one talks to each other! I am also coming from a large metro area so maybe in smaller communities, that isn't the case.

    So overall, I like direct clinical work with kids, but I got jaded because I felt there was little I could do with their family systems and social/economic systems--they were way beyond my control. I think for most adults, you can work with their sense of agency (kids- they don't have much in the sense that are dependent on their careproviders/parents/families).
  15. starsinnight

    starsinnight 7+ Year Member

    Sep 30, 2008
    I agree 100%. This is exactly why I found out it wasn't for me either. I love kids but not working with them because of these reasons, among others.

    My #1 reason though was because I found that most problems stemmed from the parents, and working with the kids alone was tough. While I am always up for the challenge, I thought the kids would benefit more from family therapy and well, I was bored playing checkers, Sorry, and candyland - hoping today was the day they wanted to open up and tell me why they hated their mom or why they said their father was a liar, etc. I have TONS of patience, but I found adolescents are in control of their lives more and able to make changes to benefit themselves, and I wasn't bored. But that's just me. And while working directly with children clinically (I still do research with them) isn't for all of us, it is for some. What's my trash is your treasure and what bores me, may excite you!
  16. InYourHead

    InYourHead 7+ Year Member

    Apr 1, 2010
    Thanks for your responses, everyone! Just to clarify, I do have some experience with each population from my program. We have been able to do intakes with both children (and their parents) as well as adults. Unfortunately, this has not given me a clear idea as to which I prefer (I enjoy both), and that is why I am trying to look at the big picture for each group.

    Thanks again!

    Also, this is an easy question to answer, but what are some common settings where child psychologists typically work?

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