Today I excited to kick off a new series here at Childhood 101 – over the next few weeks I will be sharing a series of interviews with a range of child health related professionals, kicking off today with Laura, a Child Psychologist, Mom of two and the blogger behind PlayDrMom.
Please tell us a little about what a Child Psychologist does
Child psychologists can work in a variety of venues, such as private practice, agencies, schools, and hospitals. A child psychologist works with children and their families to help address problematic behaviors, resolve family conflict, process trauma and/or grief, assess developmental delays, enhance social-emotional skills, normalize childhood concerns, and build self-esteem.
Some child psychologists solely do psychological testing to assess intelligence, academic and cognitive abilities, neuropsychological concerns, and for mental illness. Other child psychologists do a variety of assessments for custody and/or child abuse investigations. But most child psychologists work with children through therapy. Out of those that work with children in therapy there are different schools of thought … some use play therapy, cognitive-behavior therapy, and/or talk therapy.
What qualifications do you hold?
I have both a Master (MA) and a Doctorate degree (PsyD) in Clinical and Humanistic Psychology. I am a fully licensed psychologist in Michigan. This means that I have met the clinical and supervision hour requirements, as well as passed the board exam In addition I am a Registered Play Therapist-Supervisor through the Association for Play Therapy (APT).
What sorts of conditions or problems do you help children with?
Quite a variety … developmental delays, Autism (PDD), ADHD (inattention and hyperactivity), anxiety, depression, panic attacks, trauma and grief, adjustment to divorce and other family transitions, oppositional behaviors, eating disorders, trouble in school, and social issues. However, for me personally it is more important to treat each child as the individual they are … not the diagnosis or symptoms that they have.
Could you walk us through a typical work day?
Since I can set my own schedule I try to keep my case load somewhat small; I only see a maximum of 7 clients a day and only work 2 to 3 days a week at my office. This way I can focus my attention on those clients and meet their needs, along with taking care of myself and my family. I typically meet with clients once a week (especially when they are beginning therapy). Depending on their needs I may see children every other week or once a month as well. I will also meet with parents, alone or with the child, and sometimes extended family and/or sibling sessions as needed. Sometimes I do school observations or phone consultations with teachers or medical doctors.
I usually go into the office in the afternoon because this is when children are available to come (after school). Each session lasts 45 to 50 minutes. Between the sessions I take notes, check phone and email messages, and prepare for the next session.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love being able to use play in order to see into a child’s world and connect with them. The process of play therapy is quite amazing; to witness a child know exactly what they need to do to work out a problem and resolve it in a meaningful way is miraculous.
What advice would you give to a parent or guardian looking for a Child Psychologist for their child?
First start by checking with your insurance company to see if you have mental health coverage, and which providers in their network specialize in working with children. In the US, parents can check the APT website for Registered Play Therapists (RPT) and Registered Play Therapist-Supervisors (RPT/S) in their area. If you are comfortable asking for recommendations – teachers, medical doctors or friends can be helpful as well. Always take into consideration insurance coverage and location of the therapist because consistency is key to therapy. If you can’t attend regularly process will be greatly impeded.
Once a therapist is found make sure you meet with them to discuss your child, his/her history, and to ask any questions you may have. It’s important that the therapist is a good fit for you as a parent, for your child, and your family. Not every therapist is right for every child. It’s important to find one that will meet your individual needs.
Can you tell us a little about your blog?
My blog, PlayDrMom, is where I share my experiences of being a mom of 2 kids and a psychologist specializing in children and play therapy. I’m passionate about it because it’s a place I can publicly express the importance of play and why it’s so important. It covers our favorite games, books, toys, crafts, activities, and places as a family, as well as information about parenting and play therapy. You can see all of Laura’s play therapy posts here.
Laura Hutchison is a wife, a mom to Henry (age 8) and Honor (turns 5 in May), a psychologist specializing in children and play therapy, a professor at the Michigan School of Professional Psychology, and blogger at PlayDrMom. You can connect with Laura on her blog, Play Dr Mom, via her Facebook page, Pinterest, Instagram or Google+.