When is it beneficial to take your child to see a psychologist or an ed psych?

People often associate visits with a psychologist with an individual reaching ‘breaking point’ or dealing with a severe life problem causing stress. However, psychologists can have a range of functions and provide a variety of supports.

Taking care of your mental health and learning more about the coping strategies, routines and communication styles that work best for you are very important in helping to navigate the world in a way that suits your unique needs.  This can often help avoid the issues and challenges we all face from time to time from becoming big obstacles or major stressors.

We have discussed some of the impacts school life and educational challenges can have on mental health.  In reverse, challenges in home life and emotional wellbeing outside of the classroom can significantly impact the ability to learn.

When can your child benefit from sessions with a psychologist?

Your child is undergoing a life transition – Children rely on routine to make sense of the world and to feel secure. Times of upheaval (even positive change) can be quite destabilising and confusing, so providing a space where the child can work through their emotions and find strategies to establish a new routine can be very beneficial.

Issues with Peers – If your child is frequently having issues with peers, whether they are being bullied, are finding communicating with their friends and classmates challenging, or are even displaying some bullying behaviours themselves, support from a psychologist could be very useful. Psychologists are able to work on communication strategies and relationship-building, helping people to find their own patterns of behaviour, the communication strategies that work for them, and develop the skills to express their wants, needs and emotions effectively. Therapists can be a good ‘impartial’ person for a young person to problem-solve with.

Personal Growth – As touched on in the last point, therapy sessions can focus on giving people the tools to understand themselves, others and the world around them. This can range from navigating interpersonal relationships, problem solving, learning coping strategies for stress or managing emotions.

Education Psychologists

Visiting a psychologist can also have a great educational benefit for students and some psychologists specialise in educational support. Educational psychologists are able to work on all areas regarding learning and development, from very young infants in the early stages of their cognitive development, through to adults and people with specific learning needs, including people on the ‘gifted’ side of the spectrum.

Early Years – With children from 0 to 2, an educational psychologist will focus on play therapy; observing how the child interacts with objects and working to identify any early markers of learning challenges or differences. As they enter into pre-kindy, school readiness assessments can be conducted as well as a focus on emotional, social and behavioural assessment and support.

School Support – In middle and upper primary, educational psychologists continue to focus on the areas above, but can also begin to include study skills and strategies as students begin to work within time frames, and are developing their understanding of concrete concepts. Help organising their schedules, learning the skills of studying, processing and retaining information and navigating tests can all be supported.

Career Pathways –  In adolescents, the skills needed in education intensify and educational psychologists can continue to build on this, incorporating a focus on increased independence, managing stress and competing work priorities. They can also work with teenagers to support their decision-making when it comes to subject selection and developing their career goals and how to get there.

 IQ Assessments –  When parents feel their child is excelling in school across all learning areas, and perhaps aren’t finding their educational needs are able to be met in a traditional classroom with so many other students for the teacher to focus on, an educational psychologist is the best port of call. While general psychologists can and do make an assessment on children’s abilities, these assessments cover a broader variety of skills than those relevant to school and academic settings. This can cause confusion when a child is understood to be particularly gifted in, perhaps, emotional intelligence and interpersonal skills, but is scoring low in tests at school.

When seeking answers surrounding academic abilities and your child’s style of learning, it’s important that assessments and recommendations from an educational psychologist are sought. Their expertise puts them in the best place to understand how a student can really excel within the classroom, and what specific supports they may need; whether that is at extension level or support understanding certain foundational areas of knowledge.

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