School psychologists try to help children and adolescents cope with all aspects of their academic and social life, behavior and emotions. The U.S. National Association of School Psychologists defines the aim of school psychologists as: "Helping children achieve their best. In school. At home. In life."
Psychologists are seen as a crucial part of the school team that ensures quality and accessible education for all. They believe that for a school to achieve excellence in education in the 21st century, every student should be ready to learn and every teacher should be empowered to teach.
To achieve their goals, school psychologists work with the child and with his or her parents, educators and other professionals. They seek to shape safe, healthy and supportive environments and to support the academic achievement. Psychologists encourage positive behavior and mental wellness of all students, especially those facing barriers to learning. In that way psychologists aim to strengthen connections between school, home and the community for all students.
School psychologists should be trained in both education and psychology. They usually go through special courses that include preparation in behavior, child development, learning, motivation, assessment, consultation, curriculum and instruction, school law and the school system. Training may also include crisis response, program evaluation, as well as data collection and analysis.
The majority of school psychologists are employed at public and private schools. However, they may also work at universities, school-based health and mental health facilities, juvenile justice centers and other institutions. Some school psychologists run private practices. They must be certified or licensed by the country or state they practice at. In the United States, the National School Psychology Certification Board (NSPCB) also nationally certifies school psychiatrists.
Most children and adolescents have problems from time to time. These problems may include feeling afraid to go to school or having difficulty in organizing their time efficiently. The lack of effective study skills or self-discipline as well as falling behind in their studies may also turn into serious issues. Other problems include worries about family matters such as the death of a relative or parents divorcing; depression and anxiety; drug and alcohol experiments and abuse; suicidal thoughts and worries about sexuality. The job of school psychologists is to help students overcome any difficulties they may experience.
In order to meet individual student needs, school psychiatrists apply a number of different strategies. They may provide counseling and mentoring to students who have social, behavioral or emotional problems, or try to improve their understanding and acceptance of diverse cultures and backgrounds. Another method is to promote wellness and resilience in students by improving their communication and social skills, problem solving, anger management, self-regulation and self-determination.
Assessing barriers to learning and determining the most suitable instructional strategies to improve learning are methods used by school psychologists to bolster students' achievements. There are some cases in which school psychologists need to work with the student and his or her family. Together they may identify and address learning and behavior issues interfering with school performance; may seek to support the student's social, emotional, and behavioral health; evaluate eligibility for special education services; or teach parenting skills and try to improve home-school collaboration.
When working with teachers, school psychologists may aim to design and introduce academic and behavioral interventions; identify and resolve academic barriers to learning; design and introduce student progress monitoring tools and create a positive classroom environment. School psychologists and teacher can work together to motivate all students to engage in learning. Another role is to support effective individualized instruction.
As part of their crucial role in a school, psychologists team up with a school's administration to collect and analyze data connected to school improvement, student outcomes and accountability issues; introduce prevention plan in the whole school to help keep positive school climates; promote school policies and practices to curb school violence, bullying and harassment; design and implement support for comprehensive school mental health programming; provide leadership, direct service and co-ordination with the relevant community services in case of crises.
The collaboration between school psychologists and community providers may include activities such as the co-ordination of the delivery of services to students and their families in and outside of school; helping students transition to and from school and community learning environments. This includes juvenile justice programs and residential treatment.