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A child psychotherapist is a mental health professional who works primarily with the mental and emotional issues of children. Psychotherapists specializing in the treatment of children may use a variety of techniques to assist their patients, including cognitive behavioral adaptations and group therapy. A child psychotherapist may be called in to assist with any number of issues common to children and adolescents, including behavioral disorders, depression, and grief management.
In most regions, a child psychotherapist must be a licensed professional with a long educational history. Many possess at least a master's degree in a mental health discipline, and many regions require psychotherapists to undergo licensing examinations and periodic retraining. A child psychotherapist may continue his or her education throughout a career, reading medical journals and attending classes and seminars that teach new techniques. Staying on top of the latest studies and developments allows a psychotherapist to provide a wide range of treatment possibilities for their clients.
In some ways, the job of a child psychotherapist is more difficult than a therapist who manages adult patients. Younger children may have difficulty understanding or expressing emotional issues, and psychotherapists may need to rely on help from parents and teachers to get a full background on a child's history and behavior. Adolescents are often pushed into therapy at the insistence of their parents, which may create a barrier of hostility and defensiveness against the therapist that needs to be broken down before productive therapy can occur.
A child psychotherapist may be called in to assist with a child or adolescent who has experienced a traumatic event. Deaths in the family, severe illness, car accidents or serious injuries, and any form of abuse may stir up psychological trauma in a child that can manifest in a variety of ways. Some psychotherapists specialize in the treatment of young trauma victims, including those subjected to extreme situations such as war, terrorist attacks, or physical and sexual abuse.
The tactics a child psychotherapist uses will vary from case to case. Each client may benefit from a different strategy, and experts say one of the keys to success in the field is a flexible approach to therapy. Psychotherapists tend to train and study many different styles and methods of mental health assistance, so that they can be prepared to meet a variety of cases. For a child psychotherapist, it is also extremely important to have a deep love and understanding of children. By assisting young people at an early stage of life, child psychotherapists have an opportunity to help them create effective coping mechanisms that can serve them well throughout their entire lives.