Child psychotherapist: job description

Child psychotherapist: job description

Child psychotherapists use language and play to observe, assess, help and treat children and young people who are experiencing behavioural, emotional, social and psychological difficulties.
Child psychologists must have excellent listening and observation skills.

What does a child psychotherapist do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Child psychotherapists work with children who are suffering from symptoms including depression, aggression, phobias, anxiety, physical/psychosomatic disorders, learning difficulties and behavioural problems. They perform controlled sessions (oneto five times per week) with individuals, groups and/or families where verbal interaction, toys, puppets, dolls, art materials etc. are used to explore the child’s behaviour, attitudes and emotions. Their aim is to help children understand and address their inner conflicts. Typical duties include:

  • liaising with professionals such as teachers, psychiatrists, psychologists, paediatric nurses, social workers, family therapists and health visitors
  • supervising trainees
  • keeping up-to-date with developments within the profession by attending appropriate courses, conferences and meetings

Typical employers of child psychotherapists

  • National Health Service (NHS)
  • Hospitals
  • Mental health services
  • Primary and secondary schools
  • Social services

Opportunities are advertised via the internet, in national newspapers and a variety of publications including Opportunities, the Association of Child Psychotherapists Bulletin and NHS trusts lists of vacancies.

Qualifications and training required

All candidates wishing to work as child psychotherapists must gain a qualification approved by the Association of Child Psychotherapists. Relevant degree subjects include psychology, sociology, medicine, nursing, social work and teaching.

Qualification is a lengthy, expensive process – there are few grants available and training takes four to six years on a part time basis. In addition to a relevant qualification, it is essential to have substantial paid or voluntary experience of working with both normal and disturbed children of all ages and their families. Consequently, child psychotherapy is not normally a first career choice. Many people enter the profession later in life, having already been employed in a similar field.

Key skills for child psychotherapists

  • Listening skills
  • Observation
  • Sensitivity and empathy
  • Sincerity
  • Discretion
  • Ability to build rapport
  • Positive outlook
  • Excellent communication skills