WHAT IS A SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGIST?

              Who Are School Psychologists?

                School psychologists have specialized training in both psychology and
                education. They use their training and skills to team with educators,
                parents, and other mental health professionals to ensure that every child
                learns in a safe, healthy and supportive environment. School
                psychologists understand school systems, effective teaching and
                successful learning. Today’s children face more challenges than ever
                before. School psychologists can provide solutions for tomorrow’s
                problems through thoughtful and positive actions today.

                The training requirements to become a school psychologist are a
                minimum of 60 graduate semester hours including a year-long internship.
                This training emphasizes preparation in mental health, child development,
                school organization, learning, behavior and motivation. To work as a
                school psychologist, one must be certified and/or licensed by the state in
                which services are provided. School psychologists also may be nationally
                certified by the National School Psychology Certification Board
                (NSPCB).

              What Do School Psychologists Do?

              School psychologists tailor their services to the particular needs of each
                child and each situation. School psychologists use many different
                approaches, but most provide these core services:

              Consultation

                   give healthy and effective alternatives to teachers, parents, and
                     administrators about problems in learning and behavior
                     help others understand child development and how it affects
                     learning and behavior
                     strengthen working relationships between educators, parents and
                     community services

              Assessment — use a wide variety of techniques at an individual, group,
                and systems level to evaluate:

                   academic skills
                     learning aptitudes
                     personality and emotional development
                     social skills
                     learning environments and school climate
                     eligibility for special education

              Intervention

                   work face-to-face with children and families
                     help solve conflicts and problems in learning and adjustment
                     provide psychological counseling for children and families
                     provide social skills training, behavior management, and other
                     strategies
                     help families and schools deal with crises, such as separation and
                     loss

              Prevention

                   identify potential learning difficulties
                     design programs for children at risk of failure
                     provide parents and teachers with the skills to cope with disruptive
                     behavior
                     help foster tolerance, understanding, and appreciation of diversity
                     in the school community
                     develop school-wide initiatives to make schools safer and more
                     effective

              Education

              develop programs on topics such as:

                     teaching and learning strategies
                     classroom management techniques
                     working with students who have disabilities or unusual talents
                     substance abuse
                     crisis management

              Research and Planning

                   evaluate the effectiveness of academic programs, behavior
                     management systems, and other services
                     generate new knowledge about learning and behavior
                     contribute to planning and evaluating school-wide reform and
                     restructuring

               Health Care Provision

                   collaborate with school and community-based personnel to
                     provide a comprehensive model of school-linked health services
                     work with children and families to provide integrated community
                     services focusing on psychosocial wellness and health-related
                     issues
                     developing partnerships with parents and teachers to create
                     healthy school environments

              Where Do School Psychologists Work?

              The majority of school psychologists are employed in public and private
                school systems. However, school psychologists practice in a variety of
                settings including:

                   public and private schools
                     school-based health centers
                     clinics and hospitals
                     private practice
                     university, community and state agencies, and other institutions

                Growing Up Isn’t Easy

              All children and adolescents face problems from time to time. They may:

                     have fears about starting school
                     manage their time poorly
                     fall behind in school work
                     be upset about family events such as divorce and death
                     feel depressed
                     lack self-discipline
                     experiment with drugs or alcohol
                     think about suicide
                     lack study skills
                     worry about their sexuality
                     face a tough decision about college or work
                     consider dropping out of school
                     not be aware of their aptitudes and abilities

              School psychologists are there to help parents, educators, and the
                community understand and solve these problems.

              School psychologists:

                   understand how schools work and how children learn
                     provide easily accessible, cost-effective mental health services to
                     children
                     promote positive mental health and a safe and effective learning
                     environment

                      The following example situations show you how
                      school psychologists typically approach a problem so
                      you will know what to expect.
 

              A Slow Reader

                Tommy’s parents were concerned about his slow reading. They worried
                he might fall behind and lose confidence.

                At school the teacher noticed that Tommy understood the work when it
                was presented orally but he relied on classmates to help him do written
                work. The school psychologist worked with Tommy’s parents and
                teachers to develop a plan to improve his reading and writing. The plan
                worked and Tommy’s reading and confidence improved.

                By dealing with learning problems early on, school psychologists can help
                prevent further difficulties.
 
 

              A Family Problem

                The teacher noticed that Cara, an able student, stopped participating in
                class discussions and had trouble paying attention.

                The school psychologist was asked to explore why Cara’s behavior had
                changed so much. After learning that her parents were getting a divorce,
                the school psychologist provided counseling for Cara and offered
                recommendations to her parents during this difficult period. Cara’s
                behavior and self-esteem improved, and she felt more confident about
                her continuing relationship with her parents.

                School psychologists can be trusted to deal in confidence with sensitive
                personal and family matters.
 
 

              A Potential Dropout

                David was a high school sophomore who frequently skipped classes. He
                was disruptive in class and had been suspended several times for fighting.

                After building a relationship with David, the school psychologist helped
                him learn simple relaxation and anger control techniques. David’s mother
                and teacher worked together on a plan developed by the school
                psychologist to provide consistent limits and open communication.
                Changes in school and home environments can improve the quality oflife
                for children and family members.
 
 

              The National Association of School Psychologists represents more than
             24,000 school psychologists and related practitioners who serve the
             education and mentalhealth needs of children, adolescents, young adults,
             and families.

                For more information, contact:

                     The National Association of School Psychologists
                     4340 East West Highway, Suite 402
                     Bethesda, Maryland 20814
                     (voice) 301/657-0270
                     (FAX) 301/657-0275
                     (TDD) 301/657-4155
                     (e-mail) nasp8455@aol.com
 

Copyright 1999 NASP (used with permission)