About School Psychology
A question I am often asked is, "What is a school psychologist?" I used to try to explain it in terms of our typical role within the school system and theoretical service models, but I quickly learned that isn't what most people want to know. Most people want to know what we do for students. Because I hear this question so often, and I want to give a standardized response each time, I decided I would create standardized way to respond. Maybe my response can help you better understand as well.
First, school psychologists are not school counselors, as I've addressed on another page.
Admittedly, when I first entered graduate school to become a school psychologist, I had several misconceptions about the profession. For example, I recall in my introductory course to school psychology, the professor asked us to all write down one thing we knew about school psychology, and one thing we were unsure about. My "factual" statement was that school psychologists are able to diagnose mental health disorders and write prescriptions for psychotropic medication. I now realize that was a gross misrepresentation about school psychology; school psychologists are not (usually) credentialed to diagnose mental health disorders, or (usually able to) prescribe medications. I've learned about about school psychology since that time.
Providing a written description about school psychology is a challenge, and could never fully describe the scope of responsibilities, challenges, or rewarding experiences of the profession. However, below I have outlined some key elements of a typical school psychologist's job description and duties:
School psychologists are mental health professionals who work in the school system
School psychologists know more about education than any other psychologist and know more about psychology than any other educator
School psychologists are generally licensed by the State Department of Education in his or her state
School psychologists know a little about a lot of things (examples of school psychologists' knowledge are below)
providing school counseling
knowledge of local/state/federal education laws
crisis intervention, planning, and response
identification of students' mental health concerns
For additional information, I highly suggest you read a more thorough description from the National Association of School Psychologists. To read from another school psychologist's perspective, we are not the folks who "put people into special ed."
After several years of practice, I started using a single sentence to describe my job as a school psychologist. If you're read few others pages on this site (such as the About Me page), you'll know that I'm no longer a practicing school psychologist. However, the following single-sentence description of the school psychology profession is so dynamic that I believe it still captures the essence of school psychology today. Without further delay, I am pleased to share a response you can use when someone asks, "What is a school psychologist?" You can respond pragmatically and describe your role with grace:
I work on a team of professionals who design and implement an educational program to meet your child's unique learning needs.