Click here to download or order a free copy of the brochure "What Is a School Psychologist?". (NASP members can log in to access NASP's Powerpoint presentation on "School Psychology: A Career That Makes a Difference.")
School psychologists help children and youth succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. They collaborate with educators, parents, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments for all students that strengthen connections between home and school.
School psychologists are highly trained in both psychology and education. They must complete a minimum of a Specialist-level degree program (60 graduate semester credits) that includes a 1200-hour internship and emphasizes preparation in the following: data-based decision making, consultation and collaboration, effective instruction, child development, student diversity and development, school organization, prevention, intervention, mental health, learning styles, behavior, research, and program evaluation.
School psychologists must be certified and/or licensed by the state in which they work. They also may be nationally certified by the National School Psychology Certification Board (NSPCB).
School psychologists work to find the best solution for each student and situation; they use different strategies to address student needs and to improve school and district-wide support systems.
School psychologists work with students individually and in groups. They also develop programs to train teachers and parents about effective teaching and learning strategies, techniques to manage behavior at home and in the classroom, working with students with disabilities or with special talents, addressing abuse of drugs and other substances, and preventing and managing crises.
In addition, most school psychologists provide the following services.
Research and Planning
The majority of school psychologists work in schools. However, they can practice in a variety of settings including:
All children and adolescents face problems from time to time. They may:
School psychologists help children, parents, teachers, and members of the community understand and resolve these concerns. The following situations demonstrate how school psychologists may typically approach problems.
The teacher noticed that Carla, an able student, had stopped participating in class discussions and had difficulty paying attention. The school psychologist was asked to explore why Carla’s behavior had changed so much. After discovering that Carla’s parents were divorcing, the school psychologist provided counseling for Carla and gave her parents suggestions for this difficult time. Carla’s behavior and self-esteem improved, and she felt more secure about her relationship with her parents.
School psychologists can be trusted to help with delicate personal and family situations that interfere with schooling.
Tommy’s parents were concerned about his difficulty in reading. They feared that he would fall behind and lose confidence in himself. In school the teacher noticed that Tommy understood what was presented in verbal form, but that he needed the help of his classmates to do written work. After observing Tommy and gathering information about his reading and writing skills, the school psychologist collaborated with his parents and teachers to develop a plan to improve his reading and writing. The plan worked, and both Tommy’s reading and his self-esteem improved.
School psychologists can help prevent future problems when they intervene with learning problems early on.
A Potential Dropout
David was a high school student who often skipped class. He had very poor behavior and had been suspended from school on various occasions for fighting. After establishing a relationship with David, the school psychologist taught him simple techniques to relax and to control his aggressive behavior. David’s mother and his teacher worked together on a plan designed by the school psychologist to establish limits and to improve communication.
School psychologists recognize that changes in the school environment and at home can improve the quality of life for children and their families.
The National Association of School Psychologists:
Suite 402, 4340 East West Highway,
Bethesda, MD 20814;
NASP represents and supports school psychology through leadership to enhance the mental health and educational competence of all children.
This handout was developed by Arlene Silva, University of Maryland school psychology graduate student intern at the NASP office (summer 2003), with contributions from NASP staff and leadership.