Dr. Rachelle Robinson
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Dr. Rachelle Robinson is a clinical psychologist in San Diego who has been working in the field for eight years and specializes in family therapy for both children and parents. She received a Master’s in Social Work from St. Louis University and holds a doctoral degree in Marital and Family Therapy from Alliant International University. She now runs her own practice called Strategy and Solution and aims to help her clients feel and act differently by introducing a small change into their environment and hoping that small change inspires more widespread change.
The calling to work with children and families is very strong for some. For others working with children can be a bit daunting, children can be something we as individuals have a difficulty in trying to understand.
Q: Why did you choose Child Psychology? What was the draw? Is there a reason why you chose this area of specialization over others?
I was initially drawn to the field of child psychology because my family was friends with a child psychologist and she and I were very close when I was in high school. She was this amazing, kind-hearted, supportive person and I was deeply affected by her ability to connect with others while simultaneously being a totally cool woman. Unfortunately, she passed away when I was just beginning college. Her passing was the push I needed to decide what path to head down and I never really looked back. Later on, after working with children and their families in different positions, I discovered how preventative the work can be and how change can occur much faster if therapy has a systemic focus. There is something so fascinating about the simple yet complex mind of a child or adolescent, and helping parents develop strategies to effect change and to understand their children in a more sophisticated manner was my reason to specialize in family therapy.
Q: What is it like being a Child Psychologist?
I really consider myself to more of a family psychologist. It can be tough working with families and taking on whoever is most important in the child’s life, but if the right strategy is implemented at the right time, change can happen quickly and the family’s life can move on with hopefully little disruption. Teaching parents to be more effective problem-solvers, focusing on solutions, and creating the expectancy that change will occur if they try different things is a truly powerful approach to helping children. The process of family therapy is teaching caregivers to be co-therapists in treatment and strengthening their abilities to be both empathic and supportive while creating action to get their family unstuck.
Q: What are some of the common general disorders or problems you have to treat in the field of Child Psychology?
I commonly treat anxiety and depressive disorders, but I also see children who have experienced sexual abuse and most times their families have been torn apart. I practice a specialized strategic family therapy approach with children who have been sexually abused and I work to bring families back together to break generational cycles of abuse and trauma. I also love working with children and adolescents who are pretty tricky and oppositional and seem to turn their parents upside down by their behaviors. With the more disruptive disorders, I get to pull out my strategic tools and teach parents the art of strategy and integrating more fun and playfulness back into the home.
Q: What methods or strategies do you find to be most effective in your practice?
I find that more strategic and solution-oriented strategies are most effective with children and their families. Helping parents think more preventatively and anticipating potential issues ahead of them seems to reduce stress and help them adapt to new circumstances. I also practice a brief therapy approach, which means focusing on the here-and-now and teaching people to be better problem solvers in general. Another tool I use in treatment is clinical hypnosis. Hypnosis is especially valuable as a means of shifting peoples’ focal points, helping people learn how to deeply relax, and as a tool that builds receptivity to new ideas. It is also an experiential process and fun to implement with children.
Q: Did you find it difficult to start a practice? What kind of difficulties did you encounter and what advice could you give to young students who are interested in starting their own practice?
I think the most challenging part is learning how to sell and market yourself. In school, therapists are not taught how to be business minded, so any networking events or networking organizations therapists can get involved in can be really helpful in building business skills and learning how to talk about what they do. You also have to be patient with the process and keep moving along at times when business slows down. There is an ebb and flow sometimes, but specializing in certain areas is a great way to maintain flow. For example, I specialize in the treatment of eating disorders and have built a practice around it because there is a small community of therapists who treat that particular disorder.
Q: What is an average day of work like in your practice?
I average between 3 -7 people per day and try to mix up who I see each day to keep myself stimulated and energized. I may see 2 family therapy cases and shift to working with a client who is struggling with an eating disorder. I am also fully responsible for the business and administrative side of my practice, so I spend each day taking care of the business side and building potential clientele.
Q: Is there anything about the field of child psychology that a young professional should be prepared for if he or she is planning on pursuing it as a career?
A young professional should get as much training and competency in family therapy approaches if they choose to work with children and teens. An internship that allows the student to work with the family and gain that experience is priceless. I also suggest seeking out training in effective approaches to treatment and practicing those skills with as many cases as possible.
Q: What is your favorite part of being a child psychologist?
I enjoy moving people along as quickly as possible and value short-term approaches to therapy. One of my favorite parts of being a child psychologist is helping families take small steps (but different steps) to create an avalanche of change later.
Q: Any final tips to students out there that are pursuing this type of education?
Seek out training that builds solid therapeutic skills.