Students identified as having an emotional disturbance present a significant challenge for school psychologists. This article describes an in-school treatment approach for school psychologists serving students with emotional disturbance and behavioral disorders. It involves a simple and practical model of mental health services provided at the school site by the school psychologist.
The model described utilizes both a specialized setting and a specific methodology to help students identify and evaluate their behaviors and choices, while reducing the number of disciplinary actions. The intervention then assists the student to develop a plan for improvement which, if successful, results in a return to the classroom. The setting for this intervention is an in-school support room (ISSR), which in this case is a small classroom which has become the school psychologist's office, and the methodology is reality therapy (RT).
Review of the Literature
Behavioral strategies such as time out have been utilized for many years, for students with disabilities (Brown, Nesbitt, Purvis, & Cossairt, 1978) and without (Flanagan, Adams, & Forehand, 1979), at home (Gardner, Forehand, & Roberts, 1976), and school (Clarke, Rowbury, Baer, & Baer, 1973). Time out has been described by Clarke et al. (1973) as time away from positive reinforcement. Parents are often advised by professionals to employ a time-out technique when children require removal from a situation or setting (Olson & Roberts, 1978). Teachers are also encouraged to utilize time way from their classrooms in the form of office referrals which are designed to change the students' behavior before returning to the classroom (Axelrod, 1983).
These office referrals traditionally result in a visit to the school principal or assistant principal. However, for students with emotional and behavioral challenges, traditional discipline methods are generally not effective in reducing problem behavior (McConaughy & Ritter, 1995; Bear, 1998; Miller, Grehm, & Whitehouse, 1998).
A more therapeutic intervention is required for students with an emotional disturbance, and the school psychologist is a resource who could provide it. One form of intervention that can be utilized by the school psychologist is RT.
RT was developed in the 1960s by psychiatrist William Glasser. It provides a conceptually simple yet effective method for working with emotionally challenged youth. It requires those working with the student to develop a positive, friendly relationship, especially with those who do net want such a relationship. RT is different from some psychological models because it encourages everyone who works with the student to enter into a counseling relationship with them, not just the psychologist.
Research on the use of RT and an ISSR for students with emotional disturbances conducted by Coats (1991) has demonstrated a positive effect on student behavior, as measured by teacher perceptions. However, Coats (1991), in his recommendations for future research, suggests that additional studies should be conducted on the integrated use of RT and ISSR, using student outcome indicators to evaluate the effectiveness of the interventions.
If the school psychologist were to provide this service on a school campus it would be an extension of their current, primarily regulatory responsibilities. The most appropriate roles and functions of school psychologists have been a topic of considerable discussion within the profession for many years. Gutkin and Conoley (1990), Tapasak and Keller (1995), and Sheridan and Gutkin (2000) state that school psychology practice has not kept up with the times and recommend that the field undergo a broad reconceptualization--and soon. Others recommend expanded roles for school psychologists such as teaching social and emotional intelligence (Quinn & McDougal, 1998), offering various prevention and treatment programs (Adelman & Taylor, 1998), and ongoing teacher consultation and collaboration (Wiest & Kreil, 1995, 1997). …