Child and Family Psychology - College of Education, Health and Human Development - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

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Child and Family Psychology

What is the Child and Family Psychology Programme?

It is a postgraduate programme of study in Child and Family Psychology, taught by academic and clinical staff from the University of Canterbury’s School of Health Sciences together with other teaching staff as appropriate. Our masters programme was established to meet the teaching needs of the large number of students interested in learning about or doing research into this important and useful area. Our overlapping limited entry PGDipChFamPsyc programme was established to meet the market demand for registered psychologists specifically trained to work with children, adolescents and families. As such it stands alongside existing Psychology training courses such as Educational Psychology and Clinical Psychology. This programme is an exciting innovation of the University of Canterbury and the first of its kind offered by a New Zealand University.

Is Child and Family Psychology for me?

In the words of a graduate: “The Child and Family Psychology programme is a course that I would highly recommend to anyone interested in working in the area of children and families. For those going into the limited entry programme and seeking registration in New Zealand as a psychologist, the training and the job itself can be challenging at times but this is outweighed by the endless rewards and opportunities and the fact that every day is different.”

Our programme places a strong emphasis on considering the child within an eco-contextual setting, with consideration of strengths and resiliencies as well as challenges and difficulties. We focus on children’s mental health and emotional well-being as well as their learning. We also aim to reflect the social and political context of children in Aotearoa (New Zealand) with an appropriate bicultural emphasis. We also include areas such as parenting, adult mental health and relationships in recognition that children and adolescents do not exist in isolation but are part of family and wider community systems.

During the limited entry training programme, placement and internship opportunities have been offered in settings including Child, Youth and Family, Special Education Services, Mental Health Services, Paediatrics Department, Seabrook McKenzie Centre, Family Court, early intervention services, and residential settings with specialist populations.

Why study Child and Family Psychology at UC

Graduates will have grounding in the theory and skills required for work with children, and their entire families in all the contexts within which they present for help and support. These contexts include health, education, welfare, non-governmental organisations and the private sector.

The content of the programme aims to be:

  • intellectually rigorous
  • based on recent international and national theory, research and trends
  • evidence- based
  • reflective of children’s ecology and contexts
  • focused on the strengths, resiliencies and protective mechanisms of children and families
  • informed by the social and political context of children in Aotearoa (New Zealand)

In addition, the ‘Pukemanu – Dovedale Centre is run within our Child and Family Psychology Programme. This Centre is managed by registered psychologists and operates as part of our professional training for students currently undertaking the limited-entry PGDipChFamPsyc. Students are involved with all Centre activities, working with our senior registered psychologists providing assessments and interventions on a short-term basis for children and families/whānau. Where appropriate, thesis students also have access to the Pukemanu – Dovedale Centre.

Students wanting to study Child and Family Psychology, but who do not undertake the limited-entry PGDipChFamPsyc, can complete a MA or MSc (or approved MEd) in Child and Family Psychology through the School of Health Sciences. This qualification provides a thorough grounding in the principles, theories and applications of Child and Family Psychology as an academic discipline. It can also lead to doctoral study in this field.

What does the UC Programme consist of?

The Programme offers two awards: The MA or MSc in Child and Family Psychology (or an approved MEd) are post-graduate degrees which can be completed alone or in combination with the limited entry Postgraduate Diploma in Child and Family Psychology (PGDipChFamPsyc) which leads to registration as a psychologist in New Zealand.

  • The Masters degree (MA or MSc in Child and Family Psychology or an approved MEd) consists of a two-year programme, open to graduates with an appropriate background in Psychology, consisting of 150 points of prescribed 400-level coursework, and a 120 point Masters thesis. This programme does not lead to Psychologist Registration. Instead it provides an equivalent qualification to an MA or MSc in Psychology for students who have a special academic, vocational or research interest in Child and Family Psychology. It is also possible for students to complete the coursework and a relevant thesis within a Master of Education (MEd) degree. (*For students wishing to complete only 1 year of study, a 120-point Postgraduate Diploma in Science in Child and Family Psychology is available from Part I of the Masters schedule);
  • The professional training programme is the limited-entry Post Graduate Diploma in Child and Family Psychology (PGDipChFamPsyc). This provides a further pathway for interested students who would like to apply and study towards becoming eligible for professional registration as a psychologist with the New Zealand Psychologists’ Board under the Health Practitioner's Competence Assurance Act (2003). Students ordinarily enrol in the first year of the Masters degree then apply for selection to this limited-entry programme in October of that year.
  • After completing their masters degree and the first year of the PGDipChFamPsyc, students undertake a 1500-hour internship year alongside further academic papers. They then graduate with a PGDipChFamPsyc and are eligible to apply for registration as a psychologist with the NZ Psychologists’ Board.

What are the entry requirements?

Students entering the masters programme typically have completed a three-year undergraduate degree with a major in Psychology (eg. BA, BSc), which requires achieving a pass in PSYC 206 Research Design and Statistics or an equivalent research methods course. In addition, all prospective students will normally be expected to have at least a B average in their 300-level undergraduate courses. Students with a degree in Teaching or Education can enrol in an approved MEd if they have a minor in Psychology, including PSYC 206 or its equivalent.

Apart from the Research Methods paper requirement, we encourage a broad base in your undergraduate study of Psychology or Psychology and Education. As well as the obvious papers in child development, family psychology, abnormal psychology, counselling and applied behaviour analysis, papers considering inclusive practice and education provide an excellent and relevant preparation.

Specific entry requirements are outlined below, in accordance with the chosen Masters award a student wishes to enrol in:

The entry requirements for the MA in Child and Family Psychology are:

  1. A Bachelors degree with a major in Psychology; or
  2. A Bachelors degree with a major in Education and at least 135 points in Psychology, with at least 45 points in Psychology at 200 level, and 60 points in Psychology at 300 level or above: or
  3. Any relevant Bachelors degree and a Graduate Diploma of Arts or Science in Psychology;
    and
  4. PSYC 206 Research Design and Statistics or other research methods paper deemed equivalent.

The entry requirements for the MSc in Child and Family Psychology are:

  1. A Bachelors degree with a major in Psychology; or
  2. Any relevant Bachelors degree and a Graduate Diploma of Science in Psychology;
    and
  3. PSYC206 Research Design and Statistics or other research methods paper deemed equivalent.

The entry requirements for an approved MEd (preparatory for an application for entry to the PGDipChFamPsyc) are:

  • a Bachelors degree with a major in Education or Teaching and a minor in Psychology, provided that the candidate is also enrolled in an approved Master of Education degree.

The entry requirements for the PGDipChFamPsyc are:

  1. Either
    1. A bachelors degree with a major in Psychology; or
    2. A bachelors degree with a major in Education and at least 135 points in Psychology, with at least 45 points in Psychology at 200 level, and 60 points in Psychology at 300 level or above, or
    3. Any relevant bachelors degree and a Graduate Diploma of Arts or a Graduate Diploma in Science in Psychology; or
    4. A bachelors degree with a major in Education or Teaching and a minor in Psychology, provided that the candidate is also enrolled in an approved Master of Education; AND
  2. Achieved a pass in PSYC 206 Research Design and Statistics, or an equivalent research methods course; AND
  3. Completed CFPY 601, CFPY 602, CFPY 603 and CFPY 604, HLTH 472 and an approved research methods course; or equivalent, as approved by the Director, Health Sciences Centre; AND
  4. Either
    1. be currently enrolled in, or have completed a Master of Arts in Child and Family Psychology or a Master of Science in Child and Family Psychology, or equivalent
    2. be currently enrolled in, or have completed a PhD approved by the Director, Health Sciences Centre; AND
  5. Been approved as a candidate by the Dean of Education.

Enrolment

New students apply to enrol in the six foundation year courses within either an MA or MSc in Child and Family Psychology (or as part of an approved course of study within an MEd degree). On rare occasions, students assessed to have completed equivalent coursework or a relevant thesis may gain approval to complete fewer courses within either a Postgraduate Diploma of Science or a Postgraduate Certificate in Health Sciences or Education.

To apply for the Master of Arts in Child and Family Psychology you can Apply to Enrol online from 7 October.

To apply for the Master of Science in Child and Family Psychology you can Apply to Enrol online from 7 October.

To apply for an approved Master of Education enrolment details can be found on the College of Education, Health and Human Development website.Please note, the approved MEd has a specific course of study that is not covered by other MEd degrees. See MA or MSc in Child and Family Psychology or approved MEd for further details on the required structure for this degree.

Postgraduate Diploma in Child and Family Psychology (limited entry)

Applications for the limited entry, registration-track Postgraduate Diploma in Child and Family Psychology close around 2nd October each year .

Eligible students will have completed (or are completing) Part 1 of  an MA or MSc in Child and Family Psychology, or an approved MEd and can email for an application form, from August each year, to Lorraine McKeown.  If you are unsure about your eligibility to apply please contact Karyn France or Michael Tarren-Sweeny.

The limited entry stage of the Child and Family Psychology programme follows the first year of the masters degree. It consists of a twenty-seven month Postgraduate Diploma in Child and Family Psychology (PGDipChFamPsyc) running alongside the thesis and culminating in an internship once the thesis has been submitted. Successful completion of the masters degree together with this award leads to eligibility for registration as a psychology in New Zealand with the New Zealand Psychologist’s Board. The limited entry years can also be completed part-time. Acceptance cannot be deferred. Selection is based  on written applications, academic records, referees’ reports and interviews.

Please note: Successful applicants will be required to consent to a check of their Police record, either in New Zealand and/or their country of origin. You must also include certified copies of ALL previous tertiary academic transcripts with this application. Current UC transcripts are not required to be included.

Thesis Enrolment

If you are already enrolled in Part 1 of a Master of Arts or Master of Science in Child and Family Psychology you will need to submit your application to the relevant College for admission to the Thesis CFPY690 or CFPY695. To enrol in Part 2, there is a two-component process. The first is gaining topic approval and being put on the Child and Family Psychology (CFPY) database. To do this, all CFPY or CFPY approved masters students fill in the School of Health Sciences masters thesis enrolment application form, which can be found here. Your supervisor and his or her Head of School sign this, and the CFPY programme coordinator signs also to approve your topic. Finally, the Head of School, School of Health Sciences signs and becomes your MA or MSc Head of Studies. The appropriate College enrolment form is attached to this and it is sent to the appropriate college. The second component of enrolment is dependent upon the masters degree and its appropriate College (see websites below).

If you are enrolled in the MEd pathway Thesis application details can be found on the College of Education, Health and Human Development website.

If you are enrolled in the Master of Arts please refer to enrolment details on the College of Arts website.

If you are enrolled in the Master of Science (ChFamPsyc) please refer to thesis information on the College of Science website.

What career opportunities do Child and Family Psychologists have?

Graduates with a masters degree have similar employment opportunities to students with a masters degree in psychology but with a focus on children and families. Examples are behaviour support work or work in research or policy.

Working as a Registered Psychologist is a busy and rewarding career. Combine that with the challenges of working with the complexities of children, adolescents, families, school systems, mental health systems and welfare systems and you have the everyday experience of those who graduate from the Child and Family Psychology programme.

At this point in time we have had graduates employed within all sectors (i.e. Health/Mental Health, Education, Child Welfare as well as within a number of Non-Governmental Agencies). A number are also overseas, particularly in Australia. There are a number of agencies that are attracted to graduates and psychologists with child and family qualifications and have even created new positions to accommodate graduates.

Here is a selection of the variety of New Zealand settings in which our graduates, now working as Registered Psychologists, have been employed:

  • Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS)
  • Special Education / Ministry of Education
  • Early Intervention Centres
  • The Champion Centre
  • Richmond Fellowship
  • NGOs
  • ProCare Psychological Services (Auckland)
  • Indigo Assessment and Counselling Services (Auckland)
  • CYFS Specialist Services in Auckland
  • Church based agencies (e.g. Methodist Community Services, Presbyterian Support Services)
  • Te Oranga Care and Protection Residential Unit, CYFS
  • PHO West Coast
  • The STOP Adolescent Programme
  • Seabrook McKenzie Centre
  • Cholmondeley Children’s Home
  • Private Practice (in various locations in Christchurch, as well as in Australia)
  • Triple P training consultant in a number of locations worldwide.

Further study

The MA or MSc in Child and Family Psychology can lead to doctoral study. The University of Canterbury offers a Doctor of Philosophy degree. Students wishing to follow this route should contact the programme coordinator.

More Information

Please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions specific to Child and Family Psychology Programme

For students beginning to plan their thesis, please read our Preparing to do a Child and Family Psychology Thesis: A Guide to choosing a research methods course, thesis topic and supervisor. Once you have read this information, students with enquiries about the Child and Family Psychology programme or their eligibility to enter are welcome to contact:

For Undergraduate Students (University of Canterbury):

For Postgraduate Students, other NZ Universities or International enquiries: