School psychologists are experts in both psychology and education. They provide many services that include the educational, emotional, social, and behavioral challenges that many children, youth, and young adults experience (typically ages birth to age 21 years). Children are their primary clients but they also work collaboratively with teachers, school administrators, parents, and community services to best serve children. School psychologists provide intervention and treatment to reach goals. They assist with trauma and crisis; work with children, teachers, and families to deal with hurdles that are preventing success; educate and expand skills to cope with problems. They utilize prevention and early intervention to limit troubles in children’s lives and in the school environment. School psychologists help create an equal and encouraging school, bring attention to mental health issues and develop ways to deal with issues individually and school-wide, they team up with teachers and parents to address effective behavior plans, and ensure acceptance and value of diversity. School psychologists administer assessments and address difficulties all students face in psychological, social, personal, emotional, and educational/learning development. They also review and revise techniques to deal with problems of students and in schools to maintain a good, safe setting. They provide consultation and case management by ensuring students’ needs are met; speak out for students in and out of the school; make sure all people involved with the student are aware of the needs of the student, what resources are available, and how to get the services; aid in the communication between parents, schools, and community services; and modify achievement plans to best meet needs of student. School psychologists seek assistance from community services in mental health, health, and crisis response; educate the public, parents, and schools through trainings on issues facing students and schools. Finally, School Psychologists are experts in research. As noted by the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP, 2007) and the American Psychological Association (APA, 2007), school psychologists adhere to the scientist-practitioner framework and make decisions based on empirical research. School psychologists must be aware of and contribute to the study of the best approaches to helping students, families, and schools reach their goals. Although school psychologists understand that schools are important in the lives of young people, not all school psychologists are employed in schools. Many school psychologists, particularly those with doctoral degrees, practice in other settings, including clinics, hospitals, forensic settings, correctional facilities, universities, and independent practice (ABPP, n.d.).
The rapid growth in diversity of school districts in the United States has proven that there is an increasing need for new guidelines and standards to be put into practice in able to provide nondiscriminatory assessment procedures to students. Although there is no clear-cut way to appropriately evaluate bias in the assessment of students who are culturally and linguistically diverse, the examiner must carefully consider each situation individually in order to develop an appropriate hypothesis that can be used in the testing procedure. In developing a hypothesis the school psychologist must eliminate any personal or professional bias that may affect their ability to make informative decisions based on the psychometric data obtained during the assessment process. Best practices prove that school psychologists who are culturally and linguistic competent are more effective in communicating to the individual or student in their native language and thus, eliminating the need for an interpreter. The use of standardized testing also must be taken into account when assessing those who are of minority and lower socioeconomic status since they are so culturally loaded. One must be able to recognize that the difference between the scores is not actually related to the ability or aptitude of the child, but to the incorrect interpretations that have been made based on the result of the scores and the significantly different standardized sample. Another important factor in nondiscriminatory assessment is the ability for a school psychologist to recognize the difference in a bilingual assessment and how to assess bilingual individuals. The apparent preference lies in using well-constructed, theoretically comprehensive, native language tests to non-native test takers rather than using limited and poor tests that are available in the test taker's native language.
Because psychologists study human behavior and mental processes by observing, interpreting, and recording how people interact with each other and in various environments, they can find work in many different industries. But psychotherapy and counseling are just a piece of the puzzle; many psychologists are also involved in research, teaching, government, business—and even criminal justice. Here are just a few of the jobs you could get with the right credentials:
A school counselor
is a counselor
and an educator
who works in elementary, middle, and high schools to provide academic, career, college access, and personal/social competencies to K-12 students. The interventions used include developmental school counseling curriculum lessons and annual planning for every student, and group and individual counseling.
Older, dated terms for the profession were "guidance counselor
" or "educational counselor
" but "school counselor" is preferred due to professional school counselors' advocating for every child's academic, career, and personal/social success in every elementary, middle, and high school.
In the Americas, Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Pacific, the terms school counselor
, school guidance counselor, and guidance teacher are also used with a traditional emphasis on career development.
Countries vary in how a school counseling program and school counseling program services are provided based on economics (funding for schools and school counseling programs), social capital (independent versus public schools), and School Counselor certification and credentialing movements in education departments, professional associations, and national and local legislation.
The largest accreditation body for Counselor Education/School Counseling programs is the Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP).
International Counselor Education programs are accredited through a CACREP affiliate, the International Registry of Counselor Education Programs (IRCEP)
In some countries, school counseling is provided by educational specialists (for example, Botswana, China, Finland, Israel, Malta, Nigeria, Romania, Taiwan, Turkey, United States). In other cases, school counseling is provided by classroom teachers who either have such duties added to their typical teaching load or teach only a limited load that also includes school counseling activities (for example- India, Japan, Mexico, South Korea, Zambia).
The IAEVG focuses primarily on career development with some international school counseling articles and conference presentations.
In the United States
, the school counseling profession began with the vocational guidance movement at the beginning of the 20th century now known as career development. Jesse B. Davis
was the first to provide a systematic school guidance program. In 1907, he became the principal of a high school and encouraged the school English teachers to use compositions and lessons to relate career interests
, develop character, and avoid behavioral problems. Many others during this time also focused on what is now called career development. For example, in 1908, Frank Parsons
, "Father of Vocational Guidance" established the Bureau of Vocational Guidance
to assist young people in making the transition from school to work.
From the 1920s to the 1930s, school counseling
grew because of the rise of progressive education in schools. This movement emphasized personal, social, moral development. Many schools reacted to this movement as anti-educational, saying that schools should teach only the fundamentals of education. This, combined with the economic hardship of the Great Depression, led to a decline in school counseling. In the 1940s, psychologists
selected, recruited, and trained military
personnel. This propelled the school counseling movement in schools by providing ways to test students and meet their needs. Schools accepted these military tests openly. Also, Carl Rogers
' emphasis on helping relationships and a move away from directive "guidance" to nondirective or person-centered "counseling" influenced the profession of school counseling.
The 1960s was also a time of great federal funding for land grant colleges and universities in establishing Counselor Education programs.
School counseling shifted from an exclusive focus on career development and added personal and social issues paralleling the rise of social justice and civil rights movements. In the early 1970s, Dr. Norm Gysbers began shifting the profession from school counselors as solitary professionals into having a comprehensive developmental school counseling program for all students K-12.
He and his colleagues' research evidenced strong correlations between fully implemented school counseling programs and student academic success; a critical part of the evidence base for the profession based on their work in the state of Missouri.
Dr. Chris Sink & associates showed similar evidence-based success for school counseling programs at the elementary and middle school levels in Washington State.
But school counseling in the 1980s and early 1990s was absent from educational reform efforts.
The profession was facing irrelevance as the standards-based educational movement gained strength with little evidence of systemic effectiveness for school counselors. In response,
consulted with elementary, middle, and high school counselors and created the ASCA Student Standards with three core domains (Academic, Career, Personal/Social), nine standards, and specific competencies and indicators for K-12 students.
A year later, the first systemic meta-analysis of school counseling was published focused on outcome research in academic, career, and personal/social domains.
In the late 1990s, a former mathematics teacher, school counselor, and administrator, Pat Martin, was hired by The Education Trust
to focus the school counseling profession on closing the achievement gap that harmed children and adolescents of color, poor and working class children and adolescents, bilingual children and adolescents and children and adolescents with disabilities. Martin developed focus groups of K-12 students, parents, guardians, teachers, building leaders, and superintendents, and interviewed professors of School Counselor Education. She hired a school counselor educator from Oregon State University, Dr. Reese House, and they co-created what emerged in 2003 as the National Center for Transforming School Counseling (NCTSC).
The NCTSC focused on both changing school counselor education at the graduate level and changing school counselor practice in local districts to teach school counselors how to prevent, intervene with, and close achievement and opportunity gaps. In the focus groups, they found what Hart & Jacobi
had indicated—-too many school counselors were gatekeepers for the status quo instead of advocates for the academic success of every child and adolescent. Too many school counselors used inequitable practices, supported inequitable school policies, and were unwilling to change.
This professional behavior kept many students from non-dominant backgrounds (i.e., students of color, poor and working class students, students with disabilities, and bilingual students) from getting the rigorous coursework and academic, career, and college access skills needed to successfully graduate from high school and pursue post-secondary options including college. They funded six $500,000 grants for six Counselor Education/School Counseling programs, with a special focus on rural and urban settings, to transform their school counseling programs to include a focus on teaching school counselor candidates advocacy, leadership, teaming and collaboration, equity assessment using data, and culturally competent program counseling and coordination in 1998 (Indiana State University, University of Georgia, University of West Georgia, University of California-Northridge, University of North Florida, and Ohio State University) and then over 25 other Counselor Education/School Counseling programs joined as companion institutions in the following decade.
By 2008, NCTSC consultants had worked in over 100 school districts and major cities and rural areas to transform the work of school counselors.
In 2002, the American School Counselor Association released the first edition of the ASCA National Model: A framework for school counseling programs, written by Dr. Trish Hatch and Dr. Judy Bowers (2003),
comprising key school counseling components: the work of Drs. Norm Gysbers, Curly & Sharon Johnson, Robert Myrick, Carol Dahir & Cheri Campbell's ASCA National Standards, and the skill-based focus for closing achievement and opportunity gaps from the Education Trust's Pat Martin and Dr. Reese House into one document. In 2003, the Center for School Counseling Outcome Research and Evaluation (CSCORE)
was developed as a clearinghouse for evidence-based practice with regular research briefs disseminated and original research projects developed and implemented with founding director Dr. Jay Carey. One of the research fellows, Dr. Tim Poynton, developed the EZAnalyze
software program for all school counselors to use as free-ware to assist in using data-based interventions and decision-making.
In 2004, the ASCA Ethical Standards for School Counselors was revised to focus on issues of equity, closing achievement and opportunity gaps, and ensuring all K-12 students received access to a school counseling program.
Also in 2004, Pat Martin moved to the College Board and hired School Counselor Educator Dr. Vivian Lee. They developed an equity-focused entity on school counselors' role in college readiness and admission counseling, the National Office for School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA).
NOSCA developed research scholarships for research on college counseling by K-12 school counselors and how it is taught in School Counselor Education programs.
On January 1, 2006, the USA Congress declared the first week of February National School Counseling Week, which grew out of advocacy from ASCA members.
In 2008, the first NOSCA study was released by Dr. Jay Carey and colleagues focused on innovations in selected College Board "Inspiration Award" schools where school counselors collaborated inside and outside their schools for high college-going rates and strong college-going cultures in schools with large numbers of students of non-dominant backgrounds.
In 2008, ASCA released School Counseling Competencies focused on assisting school counseling programs to effectively implement the ASCA Model.
Also in 2008, in support of the ASCA Model and new vision
school counseling, Dr. Rita Schellenberg introduced standards blending
as a cross-walking approach to align school counseling with the academic achievement mission of schools as well as two data-based reporting systems, SCORE and SCOPE.
In 2009, NOSCA released a national study under the leadership of Dr. Vicki Brooks-McNamara addressing the school counselor/principal connection with specific recommendations for best practices in collaborative leadership in school counseling.
In 2010, the Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership (CESCAL) co-sponsored the first school counselor and educator conference devoted to the needs of lesbian, bisexual, gay, and transgendered students in San Diego, California.
In 2011, Counseling at the Crossroads: The perspectives and promise of school counselors in American education,
the largest survey of high school and middle school counselors in the United States (over 5,300 interviews), was released by the College Board's National Office for School Counselor Advocacy, the National Association of Secondary School Principals, and the American School Counselor Association. The study shared school counselors' views on educational policies, practices, and reform, and how many of them, especially in urban and rural school settings, are not given the chance to focus on what they were trained to do, especially career and college access counseling and readiness for all students, in part due to high caseloads and inappropriate tasks that take up too much of their time. School counselors made strong suggestions about their crucial role in accountability and success for all students and how school systems need to change so that school counselors can be key players in student success. Implications for public policy and district and school-wide change are addressed.
The National Center for Transforming School Counseling at The Education Trust released a brief, Poised to Lead: How School Counselors Can Drive Career and College Readiness,
challenging all schools to utilize school counselors for equity and access for rigorous courses for all students and ensuring college and career access skills and competencies be a major focus of the work of school counselors K-12.
In 2012, the CSCORE assisted in evaluating and publishing six statewide research studies assessing the effectiveness of school counseling programs based on statewide systemic use of school counseling programs such as the ASCA National Model and their outcomes in Professional School Counseling.
Research indicated strong correlational evidence between lower school counseling ratios and better student success academically, in terms of career and college access/readiness/admission, and for various personal/social issues including school safety, reduced disciplinary issues, and better attendance in schools with fully implemented school counseling programs.
Also in 2012, the American School Counselor Association released the third edition of the ASCA National Model.
Also, the National Center for Transforming School Counseling (NCTSC) created a School Counselor Educator Coalition to further transform graduate School Counselor Education programs in the new vision of school counseling for K-12 school counselors. Twenty universities were represented and four School Counselor Educator faculty mentors were named: Dr. Carolyn Stone, University of North Florida, Dr. Trish Hatch, San Diego State University, Dr. Stuart Chen-Hayes, City University of New York/Lehman College, and Dr. Erin Mason, DePaul University.
Both the IAEVG and the Vanguard of Counsellors have promoted school counseling internationally.
Professional school counselors ideally implement a school counseling program that promotes and enhances student achievement (Hatch & Bowers, 2003, 2005; ASCA, 2012).
A framework for appropriate and inappropriate school counselor responsibilities and roles is outlined in the ASCA National Model (Hatch & Bowers, 2003, 2005; ASCA, 2012).
School counselors, in most USA states, usually have a Master's degree in school counseling from a Counselor Education graduate program. In Canada, they must be licensed teachers with additional school counseling training and focus on academic, career, and personal/social issues. China requires at least three years of college experience. In Japan, school counselors were added in the mid-1990s, part-time, primarily focused on behavioral issues. In Taiwan, they are often teachers with recent legislation requiring school counseling licensure focused on individual and group counseling for academic, career, and personal issues. In Korea, school counselors are mandated in middle and high schools.
School counselors are employed in elementary, middle, and high schools, and in district supervisory settings and in counselor education faculty positions (usually with an earned Ph.D. in Counselor Education in the USA or related graduate doctorates abroad), and post-secondary settings doing academic, career, college readiness, and personal/social counseling, consultation, and program coordination. Their work includes a focus on developmental stages of student growth, including the needs, tasks, and student interests related to those stages(Schmidt,
Professional school counselors meet the needs of student in three basic domains: academic development
, career development
, and personal/social development
(Dahir & Campbell, 1997; Hatch & Bowers, 2003, 2005; ASCA, 2012) with an increased emphasis on college access.
Knowledge, understanding and skill in these domains are developed through classroom instruction
, and collaboration
. For example, in appraisal, school counselors may use a variety of personality
and career assessment methods (such as the
(based on the
) to help students explore career and college needs and interests.
School counselor interventions include individual and group counseling for some students. For example, if a student's behavior is interfering with his or her achievement, the school counselor may observe that student in a class, provide consultation to teachers and other stakeholders to develop (with the student) a plan to address the behavioral issue(s), and then collaborate to implement and evaluate the plan. They also provide consultation services to family members such as college access, career development, parenting skills, study skills, child and adolescent development, and help with school-home transitions.
School counselor interventions for all students include annual academic/career/college access planning K-12 and leading classroom developmental lessons on academic, career/college, and personal/social topics. The topics ofcharacter education
, diversity and multiculturalism (Portman, 2009), and school safety are important areas of focus for school counselors. Often school counselors will coordinate outside groups that wish to help with student needs such as academics, or coordinate a program that teaches about child abuse
, through on-stage drama
School counselors develop, implement, and evaluate school counseling programs that deliver academic, career, college access, and personal/social competencies to all students in their schools. For example, the ASCA National Model (Hatch & Bowers, 2003, 2005; ASCA, 2012)
includes the following four main areas:
- Foundation - a school counseling program mission statement, a beliefs/vision statement, SMART Goals; ASCA Student Standards & ASCA Code of Ethics;
- Delivery System - how school counseling core curriculum lessons, planning for every student, and individual and group counseling are delivered in direct and indirect services to students (80% of school counselor time);
- Management System - calendars; use of data tool; use of time tool; administrator-school counselor agreement; advisory council; small group, school counseling core curriculum, and closing the gap action plans; and
- Accountability System - school counseling program assessment; small group, school counseling core curriculum, and closing-the-gap results reports; and school counselor performance evaluations based on school counselor competencies.
The model (ASCA, 2012) is implemented using key skills from the Education Trust's Transforming School Counseling Initiative: Advocacy, Leadership, Teaming and Collaboration, and Systemic Change.
School Counselors around the world are affiliated with national and regional school counseling associations including: Asociacion Argentina de Counselors (AAC-Argentina), American Counseling Association (ACA-USA), African Counseling Association (AfCA), American School Counselor Association (ASCA-USA), Associacao Portuguesa de Psicoterapia centrada na Pessoa e de Counselling (APPCPC-Portugal), Australian Guidance and Counselling Association (AGCA), British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP-UK), Canadian Counseling Association (CCA)/Association Canadienne de Counseling (ACC), Center for Excellence in School Counseling and Leadership(CESCaL) (USA), Center for School Counseling Outcome Research (CSCOR-USA) Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP-USA and international), Counselling Children and Young People (BACP affiliate, UK), Counseling & Psychotherapy in Scotland (COSCA), Cypriot Association of School Guidance Counsellors (OELMEK), European Counseling Association (ECA), France Ministry of Education, Federacion Espanola de Orientacion y Psicopedagogia (FEOP-Spain), Department of Education-Malta, Hellenic Society of Counselling and Guidance (HESCOG-Greece), Hong Kong Association of Guidance Masters and Career Masters (HKAGMCM), Institute of Guidance Counselors (IGC) (Ireland), International Association for Educational and Vocational Guidance (IAEVG)/Association Internationale d'Orientation Scolaire et Professionnelle (AIOSP)/ Internationale Vereinigung für Schul- und Berufsberatung (IVSBB)/Asociación Internacional para la Orientación Educativa y Profesional(AIOEP), International Baccalaureate (IB), International Vanguard of Counsellors (IVC), Kenya Association of Professional Counselors (KAPC), National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC, USA), National Center for Transforming School Counseling (NCTSC) at The Education Trust (USA), National Office for School Counselor Advocacy (NOSCA) at The College Board (USA), New Zealand Association of Counsellors/Te Roopu Kaiwhiriwhiri o Aotearoa (NZAC), Counseling Association of Nigeria (CASSON), Philippine Guidance and Counseling Association (PGCA), Overseas Association of College Admissions Counselors (OACAC, an affiliate of National Association of College Admissions Counselors-USA), Singapore Association for Counseling (SAC), and the Taiwan Guidance and Counseling Association (TGCA).
School Counselors are expected to follow a professional code of ethics in many countries. For example, In the USA, they are the American School Counselor Association (ASCA) School Counselor Ethical Code,
the American Counseling Association (ACA) Code of Ethics.,
and the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) Statement of Principles of Good Practice (SPGP).
academic, career, college access, and personal and social competencies and planning to all students, and individual and group counseling for some students and their families to meet the developmental needs of young children K-6.
Transitions from pre-school to elementary school and from elementary school to middle school are an important focus for elementary school counselors. Increased emphasis is placed on accountability for closing achievement and opportunity gaps at the elementary level as more school counseling programs move to evidence-based work with data and specific results.
School counseling programs that deliver specific competencies to all students help to close achievement and opportunity gaps.
To facilitate individual and group school counseling interventions, school counselors use developmental, cognitive-behavioral, person-centered (Rogerian) listening and influencing skills, systemic, family, multicultural,
narrative, and play therapy theories and techniques.
released a research study showing the effectiveness of elementary school counseling programs in Washington state.
counselors provide school counseling curriculum lessons
on academic, career, college access, and personal and social competencies, advising and academic/career/college access planning to all students and individual and group counseling for some students and their families to meet the needs of older children/early adolescents in grades 7 and 8.
Middle School College Access curricula have been developed by The College Board to assist students and their families well before reaching high school. To facilitate the school counseling process, school counselors use theories and techniques including developmental, cognitive-behavioral, person-centered (Rogerian) listening and influencing skills, sytemic, family, multicultural,
narrative, and play therapy. Transitional issues to ensure successful transitions to high school are a key area including career exploration and assessment with seventh and eighth grade students.
Sink, Akos, Turnbull, & Mvududu released a study in 2008 confirming the effectiveness of middle school comprehensive school counseling programs in Washington state.
academic, career, college access, and personal and social competencies with developmental classroom lessons and planning to all students, and individual and group counseling for some students and their families to meet the developmental needs of adolescents (Hatch & Bowers, 2003, 2005, 2012).
Emphasis is on college access counseling at the early high school level as more school counseling programs move to evidence-based work with data and specific results
that show how school counseling programs help to close achievement, opportunity, and attainment gaps ensuring all students have access to school counseling programs and early college access activities.
The breadth of demands high school counselors face, from educational attainment (high school graduation and some students' preparation for careers and college) to student social and mental health, has led to ambiguous role definition.
Summarizing a 2011 national survey of more than 5,300 middle school and high school counselors, researchers argued: "Despite the aspirations of counselors to effectively help students succeed in school and fulfill their dreams, the mission and roles of counselors in the education system must be more clearly defined; schools must create measures of accountability to track their effectiveness; and policymakers and key stakeholders must integrate counselors into reform efforts to maximize their impact in schools across America".
Transitional issues to ensure successful transitions to college, other post-secondary educational options, and careers are a key area.
The high school counselor helps students and their families prepare for post-secondary education including college and careers (e.g. college
) by engaging students and their families in accessing and evaluating accurate information on what the National Office for School Counselor Advocacy calls the 8 essential elements of college and career counseling: (1) College Aspirations, (2) Academic Planning for Career and College Readiness, (3) Enrichment and Extracurricular Engagement, (4) College and Career Exploration and Selection Processes, (5) College and Career Assessments, (6) College Affordability Planning, (7) College and Career Admission Processes, and (8) Transition from High School Graduation to College Enrollment.
Some students turn to private college admissions advisors but there is no research evidence that private college admissions advisors have any effectiveness in assisting students attain selective college admissions.
Lapan, Gysbers & Sun showed correlational evidence of the effectiveness of fully implemented school counseling programs on high school students' academic success.
Carey et al.'s 2008 study showed specific best practices from high school counselors raising college-going rates within a strong college-going environment in multiple USA-based high schools with large numbers of students of nondominant cultural identities.
The education of school counselors (school counsellors) around the world varies based on the laws and cultures of countries and the historical influences of their educational and credentialing systems and professional identities related to who delivers academic, career, college readiness, and personal/social information, advising, curriculum, and counseling and related services.
In Canada, school counselors must be certified teachers with additional school counseling training.
In China, there is no national certification or licensure system for school counselors.
Korea requires school counselors in all middle and high schools.
In the Philippines, school counselors must be licensed with a master's degree in counseling.
Taiwan instituted school counselor licensure for public schools (2006) through advocacy from the
In the USA, a school counselor is a certified educator with a master's degree in school counseling (usually from a Counselor Education graduate program) with school counseling graduate training including qualifications and skills to address all students’ academic, career, college access and personal/social needs.
About half of all Counselor Education programs that offer school counseling are accredited by the Council on the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs (CACREP) and all are in the USA with one in Canada and one under review in Mexico as of 2010. CACREP maintains a current list of accredited programs and programs in the accreditation process on their website.
CACREP desires to accredit more international counseling university programs.
According to CACREP, an accredited school counseling program offers coursework in Professional Identity and Ethics, Human Development, Counseling Theories, Group Work, Career Counseling, Multicultural Counseling, Assessment, Research and Program Evaluation, and Clinical Coursework—a 100-hour practicum and a 600-hour internship under supervision of a school counseling faculty member and a certified school counselor site supervisor (CACREP,
When CACREP released the 2009 Standards, the accreditation process became performance-based including evidence of school counselor candidate learning outcomes. In addition, CACREP tightened the school counseling standards with specific evidence needed for how school counseling students receive education in foundations; counseling prevention and intervention; diversity and advocacy; assessment; research and evaluation; academic development; collaboration and consultation; and leadership in K-12 school counseling contexts.
Certification practices for school counselors vary around the world. School counselors in the USA may opt for national certification through two different boards. The National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS) requires a two-to-three year process of performance based assessment, and demonstrate (in writing) content knowledge in human growth/development, diverse populations, school counseling programs, theories, data, and change and collaboration.
As of February, 2005, 30 states offer financial incentives for this certification.
Also in the USA, The National Board for Certified Counselors (NBCC) requires passing the National Certified School Counselor Examination (NCSC), including 40 multiple choice questions and seven simulated cases assessing school counselors' abilities to make critical decisions. Additionally, a master's degree and three years of supervised experience are required. NBPTS also requires three years of experience, however state certification is required (41 of 50 states require a master's degree). At least four states offer financial incentives for the NCSC certification.
What is a School Psychologist?
School psychologists help children and youth succeed academically, socially, behaviorally, and emotionally. They collaborate with educators, parents, and other professionals to create safe, healthy, and supportive learning environments that strengthen connections between home, school, and the community for all students.
School psychologists are highly trained in both psychology and education, completing a minimum of a specialist-level degree program (at least 60 graduate semester hours) that includes a year-long supervised internship. This training emphasizes preparation in mental health and educational interventions, child development, learning, behavior, motivation, curriculum and instruction, assessment, consultation, collaboration, school law, and systems. 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). The National Association of School Psychologists sets ethical and training standards for practice and service delivery.
What do School Psychologists do?
School Psychologists Work With Students to:
- Provide counseling, instruction, and mentoring for those struggling with social, emotional, and behavioral problems
- Increase achievement by assessing barriers to learning and determining the best instructional strategies to improve learning
- Promote wellness and resilience by reinforcing communication and social skills, problem solving, anger management, self-regulation, self-determination, and optimism
- Enhance understanding and acceptance of diverse cultures and backgrounds
School Psychologists Work With Students and Their Families to:
- Identify and address learning and behavior problems that interfere with school success
- Evaluate eligibility for special education services (within a multidisciplinary team)
- Support students' social, emotional, and behavioral health
- Teach parenting skills and enhance home–school collaboration
- Make referrals and help coordinate community support services
School Psychologists Work With Teachers to:
- Identify and resolve academic barriers to learning
- Design and implement student progress monitoring systems
- Design and implement academic and behavioral interventions
- Support effective individualized instruction
- Create positive classroom environments
- Motivate all students to engage in learning
School Psychologists Work With Administrators to:
- Collect and analyze data related to school improvement, student outcomes, and accountability requirements
- Implement school-wide prevention programs that help maintain positive school climates conducive to learning
- Promote school policies and practices that ensure the safety of all students by reducing school violence, bullying, and harassment
- Respond to crises by providing leadership, direct services, and coordination with needed community services
- Design, implement, and garner support for comprehensive school mental health programming
School Psychologists Work With Community Providers to:
- Coordinate the delivery of services to students and their families in and outside of school
- Help students transition to and from school and community learning environments, such as residential treatment or juvenile justice programs
Where School Psychologists Work
The majority of school psychologists work in schools. However, they can practice in a variety of settings including:
- Public and private schools
- School-based health and mental health centers
- Community-based day-treatment or residential clinics and hospitals
- Juvenile justice centers
- Private practice
How do School Psychologists make a difference in schools?
All children and adolescents face problems from time to time. They may:
- Feel afraid to go to school
- Have difficulty organizing their time efficiently
- Lack effective study skills
- Fall behind in their school work
- Lack self-discipline
- Worry about family matters such as divorce and death
- Feel depressed or anxious
- Experiment with drugs and alcohol
- Think about suicide
- Worry about their sexuality
- Face difficult situations, such as applying to college, getting a job, or quitting school
- Question their aptitudes and abilities
School psychologists help children, parents, teachers, and members of the community understand and resolve these concerns. Following are examples of how school psychologists make a difference.
Helping Students With Learning Problems
Tommy's parents were concerned about his difficulty reading and writing. They feared that he would fall behind and lose confidence in himself. In school the teacher noticed that Tommy often struggled to understand what he was reading and often needed the help of his classmates to do related written work. After observing Tommy, consulting with his teacher, and gathering specific information about his skills, the school psychologist collaborated with his parents and teachers to develop a plan to improve his reading and writing. The plan worked, and Tommy's reading, writing, and confidence as a learner improved.
Helping Students Cope With Family and Life Stressors
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 emotional wellbeing improved, and she felt more secure about her relationship with her parents.
Helping Students With Behavior Problems Learn New Ways to Respond
David was a high school student who often skipped class and got into fights with others. He acted out in class and had been suspended from school on various occasions. After establishing a relationship with David, the school psychologist taught him simple techniques to relax, recognize his needs, 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, recognize David's escalating tension, and improve communication. David's relationships with peers and adults improved and he began to make steady progress towards graduation.
NASP represents and supports school psychology through leadership to enhance the mental health and educational competence of all children.