A psychologist is a person who has completed doctorate level training and then achieved licensing so that they may offer counseling and treat those with mental health issues or illnesses. Any psychologist can treat children, but sometimes the term child or adolescent psychologist is used. This is not a protected title in most cases. People don’t get additional certification claming their merits to treat kids or teens, but what most people mean by adolescent psychologist is that their focus of study in doctoral training was primarily on adolescents. Some may even have done a research study or a dissertation on some aspect of mental health and teenagers.
Adolescence is viewed as having its own set of emotional issues and problems. In depth understanding of these can help inform treatment of this group of people. Treatment might not be the same for a 16 year old as it is for a 25 year old, since intense developmental work is occurring in the former. As a group, teens can be studied to see how they respond to different types of treatment, and also how they manifest symptoms of mental distress or illness. There are even some mental disorders particularly associated with the teenage years, like eating disorders.
When choosing a therapist for a teen, many people look for an adolescent psychologist, since they want that special expertise that can come with a person well trained in this subject. It may be easier to find a child psychologist, though, and this may also suggest a person trained in working with teens. Certainly childhood and adolescence are two distinct developmental periods, but those who study child psychology (which is also not a protected title) have often spent a fair amount of time studying teen psychology. The best way to find out the psychologist’s expertise is to ask.
An adolescent psychologist isn’t limited in terms of how they might work. Some of these practitioners do primarily practice therapy. Others might work in mental health institutions, particularly ones for teens, treatment or rehab centers for teens, or children’s hospitals. Psychologists of this type might also work in schools, as educators, or they may do research.
Something that may confuse many people is the difference between the terms adolescent psychologist and adolescent psychiatrist. Typically, psychologists are not medical doctors (though some medical doctors have a degree in psychology), and they cannot prescribe medication. When teens require medication for various mental illnesses, parents might want to look for an adolescent psychiatrist, who may offer therapy in addition to managing medications.