MA in Clinical Psychology

Child Studies specialization

Antioch University Los Angeles established the Child Studies Specialization in 1999 as the first dedicated program of its kind in Los Angeles at the level of a master’s degree. From the first cohort of 12, the Child Studies Specialization has grown to serve approximately 50 students annually, all of whom are preparing for the California MFT (Marriage and Family Therapy) license, as well as specifically dedicating additional study to the service of children and adolescents.

The Child Studies Specialization prepares students in state-of-the-art assessment, diagnosis, and effective interventions with young children, school-age children, and adolescents. In addition to the now-traditional approaches to interventions with children and teens (play therapy and family therapy), the Child Studies Specialization emphasizes both scientific and humanistic perspectives, and supports evidence-based practice in the context of a flexible and integrative multi-modal, multicultural, and multi-systemic approach. Our vision is to approach understanding and healing children and teens by focusing our efforts on the whole child and children’s multiple ecologies: family, peers, school, spirituality, neighborhood, and community. To that end, we facilitate and promote inter-professional and pedagogical collaboration with other psychology specializations at AULA: Spiritual Depth Psychology, LGBT Psychology, Applied Community Psychology, and Psychological Trauma.

The Child Studies Specialization prepares potential psychotherapists to work in a wide variety of settings, including private practice, community mental health centers, hospitals, schools, and social agencies devoted to advocacy. The specialized coursework includes work in developmental psychopathology, cross-cultural infant observation, child advocacy and social policy, and developmental neuroscience. In addition, students have elective courses and workshops available to them covering a broad array of clinical skills and concerns. These include art therapy and play therapy, foster care and adoption, attachment issues, psychodrama, parenting, cultural diversity, eating disorders, sexual development, trauma assessment and intervention, and evidence-based practice.


Courses in the Child Studies Specialization at AULA are integrated with the Master of Arts in Clinical Psychology program, and are part of our Comprehensive Professional Development Approach. Each required course provides students with a set of skills necessary to work effectively with children and adolescents in a wide variety of post-degree settings. In addition, students complete their required clinical training hours at a site designated as appropriate for child studies, so that a minimum of 50% of the clinical training hours are spent directly with children and adolescents, either individually or in the context of family therapy.

Core courses include:

  • Cross-Cultural Infant Observation: In this class, students learn about the sociocultural matrix of infant development through sensitive, structured observation of a primary caretaker-infant pair over time. Cultural universals and variability are considered in terms of observations of societal/parental expectations.
  • Developmental Psychopathology II; Intervention: Building on developmentally and culturally-sensitive diagnoses, this class explores a broad spectrum of treatment interventions for children, adolescents, and their families. Students will be exposed to state-of-the-art, evidence-based treatments for the full spectrum of childhood disorders. Careful consideration is given to issues of social context in treatment decisions.
  • Brain and Behavior; The Child: This course provides an orientation to genetic, environmental, and biological bases of child and adolescent disorders, with particular emphasis on understanding brain mechanisms that may underlie psychological problems. Emphasis is also placed on approaches to drug therapies for children and adolescents.
  • Child Advocacy and Social Policy: This course explores fundamental tenets of child advocacy and social policy. As a professional discipline, child advocacy fosters children’s access to resources, power, and education within society. Topics include ethnic violence, drugs, poverty, the juvenile justice system, health and mental health care, and child abuse. The class is designed to assist students in building an ongoing professional commitment to advocating for the welfare and rights of children in society.

Professional Development Approach

In order to ensure student success while in residency and in their post-degree career development, the Child Studies Specialization has organized a number of activities to support professional development.


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