What is School Psychology?

J.M. Densing

School psychology is a discipline that combines elements of clinical psychology and educational psychology for the purpose of helping students overcome behavior problems and learning difficulties that interfere with the educational process. Professionals in this psychology specialty typically are employed in K-12 schools in the U.S. and in equivalent educational systems in other countries, and are usually called school psychologists or school counselors. School psychology is an expanding field because increasing numbers of students are facing problems at school. Professionals also are involved in crisis intervention and violence prevention efforts and work with other school personnel to create a positive environment for learning.

A school psychologist can intervene in situations involving bullying.
A school psychologist can intervene in situations involving bullying.

The primary purpose of the school psychology specialty is to help children in an educational setting to succeed academically, emotionally, and socially. One of the ways this is implemented is by diagnosing and treating behavioral issues and learning difficulties, thus helping students overcome these barriers to academic success. Another aspect of school psychology includes counseling students with emotional difficulties and helping them process their feelings without interfering with social or academic functioning. In most settings, this specialty encompasses assisting the students with socialization issues and helping them learn how to navigate tricky social situations such as standing up to peer pressure or dealing with bullying behavior.

School psychologists may be interested in social interactions at different functions.
School psychologists may be interested in social interactions at different functions.

Professionals in the field of school psychology are usually called school psychologists, counselors, or social workers. The minimum education required for entry into the profession is a specialist-level degree which requires at least 60 credit hours at the graduate level as well as an internship that lasts approximately nine months. In order to be employed in most schools, certification by the appropriate regional or local authority is usually required. Most school psychologists work in K-12 schools where they fulfill a vital role with important responsibilities. The field of school psychology is expanding due to a variety of factors, and the discipline now includes much more than educational testing.

The important contributions school psychologists make to the educational environment are receiving increased recognition. A growing number of students have issues that affect their learning, thus causing an increased need for school psychology services. Students with physical and emotional issues, as well as those with learning disabilities, are often mainstreamed and frequently need the support of the school psychologist to meet academic goals. With rising school violence in many localities, the school psychology department often provides vital crisis intervention services and leads violence prevention efforts. In many cases, schools are trying to meet needs that were previously the domain of parents, and all personnel including psychologists are involved in creating a supportive environment for students.

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