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School psychology


School Psychology is a field that applies principles of clinical psychology and educational psychology to the diagnosis and treatment of children's and adolescents' behavioral and learning problems. School psychologists are educated in psychology, education, child and adolescent development, child and adolescent psychopathology, learning theories, family and parenting practices, and personality theories. They are knowledgeable about effective instruction and effective schools. They are trained to carry out psychological and psychoeducational assessment, psychotherapy, and consultation, and in the ethical, legal and administrative codes of their profession.


Historical highlights

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Lightner Witmer, often called the 'father of school psychology'[1], opened the first psychology clinic in the U.S. in 1896 at the University of Pennsylvania. Witmer's clinic provided services that combined educational and clinical interventions, and clinic staff treated children with psychoeducational difficulties both at the clinic, and also in school, by consulting with educators at local schools [2] The first person to hold the title 'school psychologist', however, was Arnold Gesell. Dr. Gesell trained education personnel and researched children while employed at the Connecticut Board of Education.

The profession of school psychology in the U.S. grew tremendously following the passing of laws mandating compulsory schooling for children in the early 20th century. These laws led to a spurt in the number of children with physical and mental problems in schools who previously would have not attended school, and educators struggled to serve them. At that time, students who were very atypical were usually educated in separate facilities, and the need arose for experts to assist in this educational segregation. At around the same time, advances were made in educational measurement and test construction, leading to the development of standardized tests such as the Simon-Binet IQ test in France Alfred Binet. Binet's test was brought to the United States in the early 1900s, and was standardized in 1916 by Lewis Terman of Stanford University. Today it is known as the Stanford-Binet test. The primary role of school psychologists was administering and interpreting tests; therapy and treatment were a minor part of their professional role.

Prior to World War II, the practice of psychology was not formally divided into clinical, counseling, school, etc. However, the large number of soldiers returning home from the war led to the appearance of Veterans Administration hospitals to serve them, and to the growth and eventual medicalization of clinical psychology through its interactions with psychiatry. School psychology remained focused on psychoeducational issues. In 1945, Division 16 (School Psychology) of the American Psychological Association was formed [1]. In 1969, the National Association of School Psychologists[2] was founded. State school psychology organizations also were founded, and today there are 52 state organizations.

In 1975, the Education of All Handicapped Children Act (EHA) mandated the free and appropriate public education of all individuals from 3-21 years of age. This act requires that all children should attend school, including children who previously might not have received public education due to their disabilities. Moreover, this act mandated that children should be educated in the least restricted environment appropriate for them (that is, in the regular education classroom, together with their typically-developing peers). These principles were reaffirmed and strengthened in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEIA). Hence, in the U.S. the profession of school psychology flourished as these children needed additional support to be included in the regular school setting.

Theoretical framework and services

According to Division 16 (Division of School Psychology), of the American Psychological Association (APA) school psychologists operate according to a scientific framework. They work to promote effectiveness and efficiency in the field. School psychologists conduct psychological assessments, provide brief interventions, and develop or help develop prevention programs. Additionally, they evaluate services with special focus on developmental processes of children within the school system, and other systems, such as families. School psychologists consult with teachers, parents, and school personnel about learning, behavioral, social, and emotional problems. They may teach lessons on parenting skills (like school counselors), learning strategies, and other skills related to school mental health. In addition, they explain test results to parents and students. They provide individual, group, and in some cases family counseling (State Board of Education 2003; National Clearinghouse for Professions in Special Education, n.d.). School psychologists are actively involved in district and school crisis intervention teams. They also supervise graduate students in school psychology. School psychologists in many districts provide professional development to teachers and other school personnel on topics such as positive behavior intervention plans and achievement tests.

School psychologists are influential within the school system and are frequently consulted to solve problems. Practitioners should be able to provide consultation and collaborate with other members of the educational community and confidently make decisions based on empirical research.

Education and certification in the United States

Unlike clinical psychology and counseling psychology, which are doctoral-only fields, school psychology includes Educational Specialist (Ed.S.), Master's, and doctoral-level (Ph.D., Psy.D. or Ed.D) professionals. The National Association of School Psychologists (NASP), which is the largest professional organization in school psychology, maintains that the minimum acceptable education in school psychology is specialist-level training. In contrast, Division 16 (School Psychology) [3] of the American Psychological Association recognizes only the doctoral degree as acceptable for psychologists. According to the National Association of School Psychologists Research Committee (2007)[3], in 2004-05, 33% of school psychologists possessed Master's degrees, 35% the Educational Specialist (Ed.S.) degree, and 32% doctoral (Ph.D., Psy.D., or Ed.D.) degrees.

Most school psychology training programs are housed in university schools of education. School psychology programs require courses, practica, and internships that cover the following domains: data-based decision-making and accountability; consultation and collaboration; effective instruction and development of cognitive/academic skills; socialization and development of life skills; student diversity in development and learning; school and systems organization, policy development, and climate; prevention, crisis intervention, and mental health; home/school/community collaboration; research and program evaluation; school psychology practice and development; and information technology. Specialist-level training typically requires 3-4 years of graduate training including a 9-month (1200 hour) internship in a school setting. Doctoral-level (Ph.D., Ed.D., and Psy.D.) training programs typically require 5-7 years of graduate training including a 12-month internship (1500+ hours), which may be in a school or other (e.g., medical) setting. Doctoral level training differs from Specialist training in that it requires students to take more coursework in core psychology and professional psychology (Fagan & Wise, 2000). In addition doctoral programs typically require students to involve themselves in advanced statistics and research endeavors within the department, complete a dissertation and comprehensive examination.

Graduate programs in school psychology may be accredited by NASP and/or the American Psychological Association. The National Association of School Psychologists accredits specialist- and doctoral-level university training programs; the American Psychological Association accredits doctoral programs. Approximately 100 programs are accredited by NASP, and 58 are accredited by APA. Another 11 programs accredited by the APA are combined (clinical/counseling/school, clinical/school, or counseling/school).[4]

School psychologists trained at the Ed.S. and M.S. levels are eligible for certification to practice in schools by their respective states' departments of education. NASP also offers an optional national credential (National Certificate in School Psychology) for those who have completed the equivalent of a specialist-level degree, a minimum of a 1200-hour supervised internship, and have a passing score on the Praxis-II Exam, a standardized test administered several times each year by the Educational Testing Service. The NCSP credential facilitates professional mobility from one state to another. School psychologists trained at the doctoral level are also eligible for licensure as health service psychologists by their states' psychology licensing boards, in which case they may practice in a wider variety of settings.[5]

Journals and other publications related to School Psychology

Journal of Psychoeducational Assessment

Journal of School Psychology

NASP Communiqué

Psychology in the Schools

School Psychology Forum: Research in Practice

School Psychology International

School Psychology Quarterly

School Psychology Review

The School Psychologist


American Psychological Association (2007). Accredited internship and postdoctoral programs for training in psychology: 2007. American Psychologist, Vol 62(9), Dec 2007. pp. 1016-1040.

American Psychological Association Commission for the Recognition of Specialties and Proficiencies in Professional Psychology (n.d.). Archival description of school psychology. Retrieved on December 29, 2007 from

Committee on Accreditation (January 1, 2008). Guidelines and principles for accreditation of programs in professional psychology. Washington D.C.: APA. Retrieved on June 6, 2007 from,

Fagan, T. K. (1996). Witmer's contributions to school psychological services. American Psychologist, 51.

Fagan, T. K. & Wise, P. S. (2000). School Psychology: Past, present, and future, (2nd ed.). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

Merrell, K. W., Ervin, R. A., & Gimpel, G. A. (2006). School psychology for the 21st century. NY: Guilford.

National Association of School Psychologists (July 15, 2000). Standards for Training and Field Placement Programs in School Psychology / Standards for the Credentialing of School Psychologists.

National Association of School Psychologists (2007). A Career in School Psychology: Selecting a Master’s, Specialist, or Doctoral Degree Program That Meets Your Needs. Bethesda, MD: NASP. Retrieved on June 4, 2007 from

National Association of School Psychologists Research Committee (2007). Demographics of the profession of school psychology. Retrieved on December 29, 2007 from

United States Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH), 2006-2007 Edition.

See also

  • Education
  • Educational Psychology
  • Internship
  • School Counselor
  • School Social Worker
  • Special Education
  • Specialist degree
  • Teacher

This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "School_psychology". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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