Dr. Cathy on Becoming a Child Psychologist

When I’m asked what made me decide to become a child psychologist, the answer is very simple. I really have always enjoyed helping others, especially children. Like Dr. Dawn, I did not have any life-changing experiencing that led me to this career choice. Actually, my initial career aspiration was to be a pediatrician. After a few volunteer rounds at local hospitals when I was in high school, however, I knew I did not have the stomach for the more serious medical things that can happen to children. I did not want to witness the harder aspects of human suffering. During my volunteer experience though, I was instantly attracted to spending time with children and their families and hearing about their experiences. My goal was to try to make them laugh or forget about their problems for a little while. So, l was fortunate that I had a career path set and declared psychology as my major from day one of college. Fortunately, I did not experience the long deliberation that many go through when they enter college about career choices; I jumped right in and enjoyed every minute of it.

In graduate school, I was so very lucky to have been accepted to the Clinical Child Psychology Program at the University of Kansas where I was trained exclusively as a child psychologist with a particular emphasis in pediatric psychology. Pediatric psychologists are concerned with the relationship between psychological and behavioral factors and the overall physical health of children. These psychologists often work with children who have medical illnesses. So, this field allowed me to combine my initial interest of working with children who were dealing with an unfortunate medical issue while focusing my real curiosity in their psychological adjustment to these conditions. I was most interested in understanding how they were adjusting and dealing with their life circumstances. I wanted to learn the techniques that were supported by science to help them. Over the years, my work as evolved and now includes treating children who are dealing with physical health conditions, children who have mental conditions that affect their physical health, and ones who have other behavioral or emotional issues.

So, my career after graduate school has given me wonderful opportunities to do what I love to do. I believe that loving what you do in life is central to happiness. That happiness, in turn, translates to really caring about providing the best care possible for my patients and their families. Finding that happiness in my work makes me want to continue to learn more and continue to provide the best care to my patients. Also, much of my learning about life has come from my patients and their families, who have shown amazing strength when faced with adversities. I am grateful to them for allowing me to be part of their life experiences!