Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Social-Emotional Intervention in Schools: Current Status, Progress, and Promise. (Special Topic)

Academic journal article School Psychology Review

Social-Emotional Intervention in Schools: Current Status, Progress, and Promise. (Special Topic)

Article excerpt


This article provides introductory comments and definitions regarding the area of social-emotional interventions in schools, an endeavor that has experienced increased interest and important empirical advances in recent years. At the present time the area of social-emotional prevention and intervention activities in schools has the potential to open the door for school psychologists to focus their efforts on solving important problems and affecting educational systems in a major way. Introductory comments regarding the six articles in this issue on the topic of social-emotional intervention in schools are provided. These comments are framed within the overall "big ideas" that are encompassed in the collection of articles. Although there have been significant advances in school-based social-emotional intervention programming, future efforts are needed to help practitioners customize and implement programs effectively across school systems, and to take into account cultural, socioeconomic, and linguistic differ ences of children, youth, and their communities.


I am very pleased to provide a few preface comments regarding the topic of social-emotional intervention in schools, and to introduce six excellent articles on this topic that appear in this issue. It may first be useful to define what is meant by social-emotional assessment or social-emotional interventions. What exactly does the term social-emotional mean? Does it differ from behavioral assessment or intervention? If so, how? In my view, the social-emotional domain includes but is perhaps more broad than the behavioral domain (Merrell, 1999). Although it may include behavior-oriented concepts such as classroom management, behavior support, and positive behavior supports, we usually use the term social-emotional to include other concepts that may not be considered as falling under the behavioral umbrella in the traditional sense. These other concepts include but are not limited to self-concept, affect, emotional resilience, peer relations, social withdrawal, social status, social competence, and antisocial behavior. Given this attempt at a definition, it is obvious that social-emotional assessment would involve methods and procedures to measure these constructs, whereas social-emotional intervention would involve efforts to have a positive effect on deficits or problems in these areas.

In a special School Psychology Review mini-series on School Psychology in the 21st Century, Shapiro (2000) made a compelling argument that school psychologists should strive to solve big, not little problems, and that we should aim to impact systems rather than directing our efforts solely on solving problems 'one student at a time.' In this article he stated: "The need to build academic competence and resilience among future generations of children through early intervention and prevention programs should become a key component of school psychology practice" (p. 560). I was inspired by this article, which is currently a required reading for students who enter the University of Oregon School Psychology Program, as they take my introduction to school psychology course. Although Shapiro's article primarily addressed instructional and academic issues, I believe that the same argument holds true for the domain of social-emotional assessment and intervention of children and youth. Through prevention programs, cons ultation, and interventions that affect entire classrooms, schools, and systems, we should aim to solve some of the big problems presented by students with significant social-emotional problems.

There has never been a better time for school psychologists to address big problems in the domain of children's social and emotional behavior. During the past two decades there has been something close to an explosion of knowledge regarding effective techniques for making positive progress with children and youth with emotional problems, social skill deficits, and problem behavior excesses. …

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