November 14-18 is School Psychology Awareness Week! It’s a time where our national association promotes the profession, which is often misunderstood or flies under the radar. So here’s a FAQ on who we are and how we help schools. I am including links if you want more information.
What is a school psychologist? ‘School psychologists are uniquely qualified members of school teams that support students’ ability to learn and teachers’ ability to teach.” NASP definition
What exactly do they do? We usually work within three areas:
- Assessment for special education services- testing kids for learning disabilities, emotional disturbance (kids whose emotional needs impact their learning), autism, and other areas as needed. This involves IQ and academic tests, observations, interviews, questionnaires, and more. Once the assessment is done, a report is written with how to best meet the needs of the student so the school can create a plan.
- Consultation with teachers and schools on how to meet the needs of students who are struggling, either academically or behaviorally. This involves observing the child, conducting interviews and giving questionnaires, looking at work samples, and then using this information to develop interventions. For academic struggles, interventions might involved targeted instruction under Response to Intervention (RtI), while for behavioral problems this could include a behavior plan and reinforcements (individualized rewards and consequences).
- Counseling is also part of many job descriptions. Students diagnosed with emotional disturbance or autism benefit from individual or group counseling that targets their specific needs. Some school psychologists also get to counsel regular education students when they need extra support. We are also often part of crisis response teams, which support schools when there is a major loss (student or teacher death) or other event affecting a large group of students.
- Other areas school psychologists might help are program development and evaluation, school-wide services, student support teams, and staff development.
What type of education does a school psychologist have? The minimum requirement is a masters degree, with most programs changing this to a specialist degree which requires more hours than just a masters. Many school psychologists have their doctorate. School psychologists also have a license or credential, depending on their state.
I’ve never seen a school psychologist on my campus. Why is that? Probably one of two reasons. First, your school psychologist may work just with special education. If none of your students are being tested for services, or getting extra help, there is no reason for you to visit with the school psychologist. 2. Your school psychologist works at many schools, so their interaction with school staff is limited to what is needed to get their work done.
My school would benefit from more help from a school psychologist. What can I do? Talk to your principal, or if you are in administration, talk to your boss. Explain the needs of your campus and how much your students would benefit from mental health support. The more school psychologists a district employs, the more services can be provided to more students.
I’m a high school student/psychology major/educator. How do I become a school psychologist? First, make sure you can put in the required hours for a specialist program. You won’t just be taking classes, but will need experience in schools, first through a practicum, and, after that, a full-time internship. It is possible, but challenging, to complete this degree and work full time. If you are concerned, research the programs near you and see what flexibility they offer. Second, look for a graduate program that is accredited by the National Association of School Psychologists. This will make it much easier to get certified/licensed, and will show that you received a quality education. More information on how to become a school psychologist and what schools offer degrees can be found here.
If you see a school psychologist this week, thank them for their work. We also love cards, hugs, and chocolate 🙂