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School Psychologists and Child Behavioral Diagnoses

School Behavioral Psychologists have an exciting career founded on the dual educational principals of clinical psychology and educational psychology. While their main focus is working directly with children to diagnose both behavioral and learning disabilities, they also work with schools, teachers, and parents to facilitate better education choices and support. Their supportive role enables them to assist schools and parents to find effective education programs for all children, but especially with those whom carry the burden of a learning or behavioral disability.

What Do School Psychologists Do?

Educational Psychologists apply the principles of psychology, child development, learning theories, personality theories, child psychology, family dynamics, parenting theories, and behavioral problems to find effective pathways to developing well-rounded and well-adjusted children. They are also trained in legal, ethical, and administrative codes and carry out psychological and psycho-educational assessments, counseling and consultations.

school psychologist

Although they do focus on one particular age group while completing clinical hours, their education goes beyond elementary or pre-school children. Many find that their careers enable them to work with patients from birth to age 21, students who have learning disabilities, children of broken or abusive homes, students with higher than average intelligence (which can be a barrier to social integration), and students from minorities or diverse cultural backgrounds.

This type of psychologist addresses many of the issues facing children in both education and social dynamics. Their services include behavioral, educational, emotional, and social services to address the challenges, learning disabilities, and other issues which may hinder children from fully integrating with society.

Primarily, they provide intervention and treatment plans to help students, parents, teachers, and community services reach educational and social goals for the students. They also work with trauma and crisis cases as well as those with behavioral, physical, or mental barriers to learning. They are best known for early intervention and prevention techniques to limit trouble or barriers in children lives.

How Do School Psychologists Screen Potential Patients?

While in the field, School Behavioral Psychologists work closely with parents, teachers, and students, watching for and identifying issues that may be overlooked by either teachers or parents before they become problems. These psychologists are highly trained to perceive and discover behavioral and emotional changes in students long before they become noticeable by other staff or parents. They also rely on the keen eyes of teachers and teachers’ aides, as well as concerned parents, to identify issues in students.

Many students may face difficulty adjusting to new schools, new teachers, new curricula, mental and emotional barriers, and even family issues. Any of these may hinder them from reaching their full potential or becoming well-adjusted young adults. It is the passion and desire of psychologists working in this field to assist in identifying patterns of behavior and helping facilitate effective plans to ensure students and children get back on track to leading fuller lives.

However, consultation and communication with students, teachers, and parents is the primary focal point for identifying any behavioral or psychological issues. The school counselors, as school psychologists are often called, also review and revise techniques used in the school and at home for addressing issues before, during, or after identification to both individual students and groups of students. They take both case-by-case and age group assessments to make sure the students’ needs are met and the school provides an uplifting and safe setting for the students.

Are All School Psychologists Employed in Schools?

Many find exciting careers working outside of the school setting. Those with doctorate degrees often find themselves working in clinics, correctional facilities, colleges, universities, and as independents with their own practice. Other exciting fields include forensics, summer camps, camps for the disabled, hospital wards, public speaking, and teaching.

How Does the Field Measure Up Financially?

This field of child psychology is a growing market. The recent growth in diversity of school districts, forensics, and disabilities shows a dire need for new hires. Those with bilingual and cultural education and diversity will find even more available positions open to them. Although school psychologists are traditionally seen as gatekeepers of special education, the market for those with master’s and doctorate degrees is certainly far broader in scope and availability. Recent studies indicate there are only roughly 90,000 school psychologists worldwide in a population of nearly 7 billion.

Child, school, and behavioral psychologists can expect to earn anywhere from $60,000 to $80,000 per school year contract. While those who work year-round on salary or on a per-patient basis may earn from $40,000 to over $100,000 per year. (Nasponline.org salary information.

What Does it Take to Become a School Psychologist?

Psychology programs in this field require more than just associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. Typically, preliminary education to be a specialist consists of three to four years of graduate training along with a nine-month internship with 1,200 hours of hands-on experience. Specialists receive training in data-based decision making, accountability, consultation, collaboration, instruction and development of child learning, socialization and social dynamics, school programs (organization, policies, and climates), prevention, crises and intervention, mental health, community collaboration, research, child development, psychology practice, field placement, and practice development.

Doctorate level educations require five to seven years of education and 12 months of internship with a minimum of 1,500 hours of hands-on training. Doctorate degrees typically include everything from the specialist levels plus more coursework in core child and behavioral psychology, advanced statistical and research training, and professional psychology training. Before obtaining their degrees, students must complete dissertation using original research and pass an exam to obtain their license.


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