Certificate in Adolescent Studies

Learn to understand and work with teenagers by better understanding the mind and behavioural inclinations of a teenager.

Course CodeVPS031
Fee CodeCT
Duration (approx)600 hours

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Study teenage psychology and learn more about how teenagers grow and develop during the adolescent period.

This course is suitable for anyone interested in the psychology of adolescents, such as teachers, parents, fosters carers, carers, teaching assistants, coaches and so on.

The course consists of six 100 hour modules.



The certificate requires successful completion of 3 core modules and 3 modules selected from the list of 5 elective modules.  Within each module are a number of lessons.  Each of these culminates in an assignment for submission to the school. The assignment is marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments and, where appropriate, extra reading.


Core ModulesThese modules provide foundation knowledge for the Certificate in Adolescent Studies.
 Adolescent Psychology BPS211
 Child and Adolescent Mental Health BPS214
 Developmental, Learning and Behavioural Disorders in Children and Adolescents BPS215
Elective ModulesIn addition to the core modules, students study any 3 of the following 5 modules.
 Child Psychology BPS104
 Counselling Skills I BPS109
 Educational Psychology BPS105
 Developmental Psychology BPS210
 Life Coaching BPS305

Note that each module in the Certificate in Adolescent Studies is a short course in its own right, and may be studied separately.

The content of each module is outlined below.

1. Adolescent Psychology

The module looks at the theories of human development, taking in all aspects of an adolescents development - including physical, intellectual, emotional, social and moral development.  It considers issues that arise during adolescence such as sexuality, dealing with crises that arise and juvenile delinquency.

The module consists of 10 lessons:- 

  • Introduction (Theories of Human Development)
  • Life Crises
  • Physical Development
  • Intellectual Development
  • Emotional Development
  • Sexuality
  • Social Development
  • Moral Development
  • Delinquency and Crime
  • Adolescents and The Transition to Adulthood


2. Child and Adolescent Mental Health

This is an in depth module which looks at mental health conditions in children and adolescents; from recognising issues to how to treat them.

The module consists of 10 lessons:- 

  • Nature and Scope of Mental Health.  Looking at the difference between adult and child and adolescent mental health
  • Childhood Depression
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Tic Disorders
  • Brain Disorders (injuries and disease)
  • Other Disorders (motor disorders, elimination disorders, feeding and eating disorders)
  • Environmental Problems (abuse, neglect, relationship problems)
  • Problems of Adolescence
  • Holistic and Alternative Approaches to Treatment
  • Special Project – student selected


3. Developmental, Learning and Behavioural Conditions in Adolescents and Children

This module is concerned with looking at behavioural and learning conditions in adolescents and children.  The lessons cover a range of topics which will lead to an understanding of the signs, symptoms and treatment available.

 The module consists of 9 lessons:- 

  • Developmental Disorders (Classification, Causes, Diagnosis)
  • Autism (Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Support)
  • Asperger’s Disorder (Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Support)
  • Other Pervasive Development Disorders (Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Support)
  • Attention-Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorders (Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Support)
  • Conduct Disorders (Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Support)
  • Learning Disorders (Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Support)
  • Communication Disorders & Motor Skills Disorder – focusing on speech and language (Signs, Symptoms, Treatment, Support)
  • Special Project – student selected, which considers signs, symptons, treatment and support in relation to the chosen area

What will you learn about in this course?

In the Child and Adolescent Mental Health module, you will learn to understand how adolescents think.
Below are just some sample course notes to give you an idea of what the module will cover.

Separation Anxiety Disorder
This is characterised by intense fear of being separated from key attachment figures, most usually the parents. Although it is usual for infants and preschool children to experience some level of anxiety when separated from attachment figures the anxiety displayed by children with this condition is much more intense and persists after the preschool period.

Onset is before six years of age, lasts at least for four consecutive weeks, and causes significant disturbances to social, school or other areas of functioning.

Children show excessive concerns that their attachment figures will come to harm if they leave them or that the attachment figure will not come back and leave them for good. If separated they often need to remain in touch through telephone calls, emails, etc. They often cling to their attachment figures when they are present and may insist on sleeping in the same bed or room as them. If they are forced to sleep in their own room they may have disturbed sleep and nightmares. Often they will go to their parents’ bed or may sleep on the floor outside the parent's room if the door is locked.

There are often associated physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach upsets, or sickness and vomiting. Behavioural changes may reveal angry outbursts, temper tantrums, excess crying, or the child may become more withdrawn socially. It is also a strong indicator of refusing to attend school.

  • Prevalence and Course - it is thought to affect around 3-4% of children aged 7-11 years. Symptoms usually alleviate with age but can become worse if there are upheavals to the child's life or usual routine e.g. moving to a new school, moving house, death of a pet. Separation anxiety disorder can predispose the child to panic disorder or agoraphobia in adolescence.
  • Causes - onset may be triggered by persistent frightening experiences e.g. living through a war, emigrating, or on-going parental conflict, or by brief frightening experiences e.g. death of a relative, an illness. Occasionally it might occur in children with overprotective parents. Also, some children seem to have an anxiety-prone temperament in that they overreact to everyday stressors rendering them more susceptible. There is also a higher incidence amongst children who have a mother with a history of panic disorder and amongst first degree biological relatives.
  • Treatment - this usually involves an assessment of all the contributing factors. Children must be encouraged to discuss their concerns and the family should be involved in treatment. Parents should be educated about how their own worries and possible overprotection can contribute. Stressors need to be alleviated where feasible. If specific situations where the anxiety occurs are found then these might be addressed using behavioural therapy techniques. Rarely, anxiolytic medication may be prescribed for a brief period.


Phobic Anxiety Disorder (Specific Phobia)
Many children experience minor symptoms of phobia and these often revolve around insects such as spiders, animals such as snakes, darkness, death, and sometimes school (which some authors refer to as school phobia). In some cases symptoms of anxiety associated with situations or objects of fear become prolonged and exaggerated and the child develops a specific phobia. The response to specific objects or situations can be in the form of a panic attack. Unlike adolescents and adults, children who experience phobic anxiety disorder do not recognise that their fear is unreasonable. Often phobic stimuli are avoided but if not they may be endured with accompanying feelings of dread and apprehension.

It is quite common for children to have fears associated with particular objects or situations but these may not cause significant impairment in their level of functioning. A child might express intense fear of snakes in the presence of a snake but if they do not encounter them in daily life and their activities are not limited by a fear of snakes. Diagnosis is made only if the fear associated with the stimuli, in encountering it, avoiding it, or through thinking about it, causes significant disruption to the child's social life or other areas of functioning.  Diagnosis may also be made if the child is significantly distressed by having a specific phobia.

Specific phobias are often given a subtype e.g. animal type, natural environment type, blood-injection-injury type, situational type, or other type where it does not fit into any of the former types e.g. fear of contracting an illness.

  • Prevalence & Course - around 2% of children aged 11 years have a specific phobia. Severe and persistent fears of animals and insects usually have onset before the age of 6 years. Most childhood phobias alleviate with age so the rate significantly declines during adolescence, however many specific phobias found in adults had their onset in childhood. Often, the fear-arousing object or situation caused some amount of distress before it became a specific phobia.
  • Causes - there seem to be several potential causes including observing others expressing fear when confronted with a particular object or situation (especially a role model e.g. parent or teacher), being continually warned about danger by parents (e.g. don't pat dogs they might attack you), hearing constant bad news about something (e.g. plane crashes), experiencing an unexpected panic attack in a given fear-provoking situation, or having a traumatic experience (e.g. being attacked by a dog, being locked in a classroom). 
  • Treatment - whilst many childhood phobias alleviate with age, those that do not may be treated using behavioural techniques. These involve hierarchical exposure or systematic desensitisation. The child is encouraged to begin by thinking about the feared object or situation and gradually over a number of weeks they eventually confront the object or situation having conquered their fears to some extent along the way. Parents may be involved to reassure the child and offer support.


Social Anxiety Disorder 
In the ICD social anxiety disorder of childhood is characterised by marked anxiousness of children in the presence of strangers. They tend to try and avoid meeting new people. In some cases this is restricted to a fear of unknown adults but in other cases it may be a fear of other unknown children. It occurs before the age of six years and is much more pronounced than the typical fear of strangers shown by infants aged 6-12 months. Often children who develop this condition were inhibited during infancy. The child does not also experience acute anxiety if separated from attachment figures.  

The DSMs most similar condition is social phobia which is characterised by a persistent fear of social performance situations and which will be reviewed in the next section since onset is more often in adolescence.

  • Prevalence & Course - there are no clear estimates of prevalence in the general population
  • Causes & Treatment - these are similar to other anxiety disorders of childhood

Who Can Gain From Studying This Course?

Young people are caught between childhood and adulthood and as such have a unique set of circumstances to cope with in their everyday lives. Many youngsters sail through adolescence, but for some problems emerge. This certificate equips students with a deeper level of understanding of issues affecting young people as well as the typical developmental stages they pass through.  Students will become aware of how to recognise problems and the types of interventions which are most likely to be of help. Whether you are a parent or carer, or you interact with adolescents in your daily work, this course may be of use to you.

People who take this course are likely to be working in, or aiming to work in:

  • Youth work
  • Child counselling
  • Child care
  • School counselling
  • Teaching
  • Youth coaching
  • Child psychology


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Gavin Cole

Psychologist, Educator, Author, Psychotherapist. B.Sc., Psych.Cert., M. Psych. Cert.Garden Design, MACA Gavin has over 25 years of experience in psychology, in both Australia and England. He has co-authored several psychology text books and many course
Tracey Jones

B.Sc. (Psych), M.Soc.Sc., Dip.Social Work, P.G.Dip Learning Disability, Cert Editing, Cert Creative Writing, PGCE. Member British Psychological Society, Member Assoc. for Coaching, Member British Learning Assoc. 25 years industry experience in writing,
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