Counseling is highly valued by school psychology faculty and practitioners but represents a small area of concentration within many graduate training programs, often comprised only of two or three survey courses without a supervised practicum experience. This multiple baseline, across subjects, study involving nine school psychology trainees suggests that more attention to the potential of self-instruction modules may provide some direction to address the challenge. Results, consistent with two earlier investigations involving special education teachers and school psychology trainees, indicated positive change in relationship building skills, problem solving skills, and overall performance with all content delivered outside of the typical classroom didactic setting.
School psychologists are well positioned to provide comprehensive mental health services to children and adolescents within school settings (Dwyer, 2004). Both pre-doctoral and doctoral standards require students to be trained in the delivery of comprehensive services, including a wide array of indirect and direct psychological and educational services. For example, pre-doctoral accreditation requirements specify that programs will provide a minimum of 60 semester hours of preparation covering 11 separate domains. Students must take at least 54 of these credit hours prior to their internship, a full-time course sequence that lasts a minimum of two years (NASP, 2002). Many programs surpass these minimum standards by requiring at least 70 semester hours on average with more being common (Smith, 1995). In short, school psychology programs at all levels are expected to cover a large amount of content in a relatively brief period of time.
Instruction in Counseling
Counseling represents an important professional practice domain at all levels in the practice of school psychology. Training programs are currently required to teach knowledge and skills in intervention techniques related to the development of behavioral, affective, adaptive, and social skills. Counseling, along with consultation and behavioral assessment/intervention, is an essential direct intervention technique in professional practice. Some coursework in counseling is included in essentially all training programs in school psychology. Programs have a great deal of discretion regarding how to deliver this content. For example, counseling theories and methods can be offered through specific course sequences or as content infused into general intervention or practicum courses.
At present, few studies have examined the methods used by school psychology programs to administer training in counseling and the efficacy of these methods. The available information suggests that training consists primarily of didactic coursework and that additional experiences may be necessary to adequately prepare students to utilize counseling as part of their professional practices. In a national survey of school psychology programs, Sinclair (1997) found that counseling preparation is highly valued by program faculty. However, training most commonly consisted of two or three survey courses covering theory and basic counseling methods. The majority of programs in this study did not require supervised practicum experiences involving counseling. This suggests that many school psychologists are taught about counseling but are likely to have had very little supervised experience providing this service.
Though survey courses may meet the minimal requirements for training, this training model appears insufficient to fully meet the needs of graduates once they begin their professional practices. Approximately 80% of practicing school psychologists provide counseling services to students (Curtis, Hunley, Walker, & Baker, 1999), and school psychologists have identified group and individual counseling interventions among the areas where continuing professional development are most needed (Fowler & Harrison, 2001). …