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How do I Become an Adolescent Psychologist?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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Adolescent psychology is a specialized field. It is not quite child psychology, since teenagers are not children. Yet neither is it adult psychology because teens are assuredly not adults, either. Nevertheless, those wanting to become an adolescent psychologist will study child psychology, and should probably choose a program of doctoral study that offers focus on treating the adolescent.

The path to become an adolescent psychologist begins with obtaining an undergraduate degree and the best major to choose is psychology. Many graduate programs will have will expect a thorough beginning knowledge in this subject. Grades will also need to be excellent, because people will have fewer options when choosing a graduate school and need to it narrow it down to those schools that can offer them considerable instruction in child and adolescent psychology.

While in late junior year in college, students will need to begin the process of selecting a graduate school. This requires research and also a decision. Students may choose to a get a PhD (doctor of philosophy) or a PsyD (doctor of psychology). Sometimes students choose an EdD (doctor of education) instead, but licensing may be more difficult. If the goal is to treat patients, a PsyD may be preferable, since orientation in the PhD is often more on research. However, a number of excellent schools exist that offer PhDs and considerable training in child/adolescent psychology.

Once students have researched schools and narrowed the field, they will need to do some additional research by contacting the schools. Getting program guides, talking to advisors, and perhaps even touring campuses and meeting faculty are all good ideas. Students should plan on submitting applications to several schools to increase likelihood of getting accepted to at least one.

Acceptance to a graduate program means people are truly advancing on the path to become an adolescent psychologist. They will spend the next three to six years in graduate school training for this profession. Students should take every opportunity to take classes that have to do with child or adolescent psychology, or they may be in a program specific to this subject. Psychology students can also expect to undergo personal counseling while they are studying, and they will need to submit a final dissertation in order to graduate.

It’s actually not over when people graduate. They then must get licensing to work as an adolescent psychologist. This will mean another year or two of performing supervised therapy prior to being eligible for licensure.

People tend not to become an adolescent psychologist when they get a license. They just become a psychologist. They can claim they have specialized in adolescence, and they could belong to organizations that exist for child and adolescent psychology. Theoretically this means anyone who is a psychologist can be an adolescent psychologist, but having the extra work and study in this specific area would certainly be beneficial to the population of patients a person wants to treat.

Practical Adult Insights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen , Writer
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.

Discussion Comments

By christensen — On Feb 09, 2011

The healthy teens who do not need counseling are having an identity crisis, at least according to Erickson, but many of the teens treated in therapy are missing key elements of maturity they might have gotten earlier-- such as being able to trust, understanding how to be autonomous and when to respond to authority.

Alternately, these teens are manifesting signs of mental illness, have struggled with trauma and abuse, learning disorders etc. Most of them are nowhere near close to establishing an identity because they aren't emotionally teenagers yet, but the world expects it of them, which makes therapeutic intervention at this point all the more vital!

By GreenWeaver — On Feb 09, 2011

I would imagine that becoming a psychologist and treating patients this age is particularly challenging because teens are caught in an identity crisis because they are not children but they are not adults either.

They usually want to be treated as adults but most are still too immature to fully understand the responsibilities of being an adult.

Also, teens do not have the proper perspective on life that only comes with age. It is really a difficult time in the teen's life and I am glad that there are psychologists that are available to treat this age group because it takes a considerable amount of compassion to really understand teens in general.

Tricia Christensen

Tricia Christensen


With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a Practical Adult Insights contributor...
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