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Youth and families focus of new qualifications

Children, youth and their families focus of new qualifications

Two new Canterbury University qualifications in child and family psychology will help answer market demand for psychologists specifically trained to work in the increasingly demanding field of children, youth and their families and in a wide range of settings.

Programme co-ordinator Karyn France says the Masters in Education in Child and Family Psychology and the Postgraduate Diploma in Child and Family Psychology will respond to recent professional training literature which emphasises the need for comprehensive, integrated training preparing psychologists to work with families within health, social welfare, education, and justice settings.

The three year programme involves two masters years — a foundation year and a limited entry practicum year — and a further internship year for students who want to gain the postgraduate diploma which leads to registration as a psychologist with the New Zealand Psychologists’ Board.

Currently six students are in the internship year, and if they complete the programme successfully, will be the first in the country to graduate with a PGDipChFamPsych. A further seven students are in the practicum year. The interns are working in settings as varied as special education, mental health, paediatrics, a behaviour support team for families of children with complex needs and within the private sector. Interns are as far away as Greymouth and Auckland.

In the foundation year students study courses such as child and adolescent disorders, evidence-based interventions, paediatric psychology, and the theory and skills of psychology and counselling. The practicum year is a demanding year both academically and practically. Students undertake professional development, a research dissertation and work in practical placements in various settings. These include the Paediatrics Department at Christchurch Hospital, Children, Young Persons and their Families Service (CYFS), Special Education Services, the Family Court and other agencies working with children and families considered to be “at risk”.

The dissertation provides opportunities for students to conduct research within the child and family area. Topics have included interventions with families concerned about sleep problems in infants or children with anxiety or developmental disorders, with high-risk parents, with parents struggling with homework problems, and with parents struggling to balance university studies with good parenting. Other topics have included recording the experiences of Chinese parents of children with special needs, the experience of teenage immigrants, and the parenting of young fathers.

Students who have successfully completed the two masters years can enter the internship year which is a combination of academic study and professional development while working full-time as a psychology intern.

Dr France said that during training all students gained input and orientation to bicultural practices and were encouraged to work in a culturally safe manner with cultural advisers whenever available.

A team from the University’s Department of Education teaches at all levels of the programme. This team comprises clinical, educational and developmental psychologists and specialists in counselling, disabilities, applied behaviour analysis and psychometrics. Considerable work has been done in establishing liaisons with agencies and organisations involved in providing placements opportunities and internships.

“There has been a very welcoming and enthusiastic response from agencies and individuals beyond the University who are involved with the programme,” Dr France said.

Student supervision during practical placements and internships placed extra demands on psychologists already in the field, “and it has been extremely heartening to witness the willingness of those in the field to take on the extra responsibilities involved in training the child and family psychologists of the future”.

“This programme is answering the market demand for psychologists specifically trained to work in the very complex area of children, youth and their families.”

The Child and Family Psychology Programme is being officially launched with a function at the University Staff Club on 21 August.

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