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Psych 101

What is a School Psychologist anyway? Personally, I don’t recall any school psychologists in the schools I attended growing up. Perhaps I wasn’t the type to be referred to said psychologist as I LOVED SCHOOL. I do seem to recall there being counselors who helped you pick your schedule, but I was certainly unaware there was such a field as “School Psychology“.

I stumbled upon school psychology as a profession in Reno, from a Gypsy. I’m not crazy, read on.

I come from a family of 158,439,753 teachers (including my mom) and one engineer (sorry, dad, you’re outnumbered). Education was the clear choice as I always loved working with children. This decision was further solidified by my one summer in high school clerking with my father’s engineering company as a “traffic engineer” cross checking how many pipes were needed in Uzbekistan for a gold mine…zzzzzz. I complained to my father that the only exciting thing that happened all day was the small social interaction I got when the Airborne Express delivery boy came. Also once I saw a memo that someone was trying to sneak gold out of the mine in a thermos. That day was pretty exciting.

It was clear I needed to work with people, not paper.

Initially, I went to college to be a teacher. I quickly ruled it out as the first class one had to take was public speaking. I was not shy, but it sounded horrible. So I loaded up on courses in child psychology and anointed myself the prestigious title “Psych Major” with the aim of being a child psychologist.

My junior year I conducted a research study for my psychology class that tackled the ubiquitous burning research question: “Do members of the Greek system cheat?” Deep stuff. Remarkably, this study was accepted for a presentation at a psychological conference in Reno, NV. So off I went, alone, to this conference. I was only 19 at the time and therefore could not partake in the delightful world that is Reno’s nightlife, other than going out to dinner. I went to the nearest restaurant that advertised “European Style” seating, which turns out, is code for “share that table over there with that stranger.” I sat next to a woman who was also attending the conference–a woman named Gypsy, who was a school psychologist. As we shared our Euro meal together, it became abundantly clear that school psychology was the career for me. As she spoke about how school psychology blended the fields of education, teaching, child development, and counseling, I found myself getting excited. It seemed to me that if a teacher and a child psychologist had a baby, it would be a school psychologist. And it would be perfect.

Plus you have summers off.

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Comments on Psych 101

  1. Anonymous says:

    Loved this article. sounds like the reason I became a “school counselor”. Still love what I do, too!

  2. vanessa says:

    Hello Dr. Bell,

    I am going to be a senior in college majoring in psychology and have found my self with a dilemma. I do not know if I want to go into school psychology or clinical psychology??? I am very confused, however I know for sure that I love children and would love to provide therapy and counseling to this specific population, however, I have heard that school psychologists mostly do testing, which I don't mind, but my primary interest is providing counseling. On the other hand, clinical psychology specializes in mental health and counseling, however they are not allowed to work in schools. In your about me section, I see that you are a clinical psychologist as well as a liscensed educational psychologist. Does this mean that you obtained 2 degrees? I would really appreciate your response via this blog or my email- I would really love to be qualified for both, however, I am aware that it takes a quite amount of time, as well as very expensive.

  3. Bea says:

    Hi, Rececca. I went to high school with your engineer father, and I really enjoy reading your blog! Good luck with your chosen profession and with this new exciting venture.


  4. Bea says:

    Hi, Rebecca. I went to high school with your engineer father, and I really enjoy reading your blog! Good luck with your chosen profession and with this new exciting venutre. Bea

  5. Rebecca says:

    Small world! Thanks Bea!

    Go Handcock Wildcats!

  6. Anonymous says:

    This blog is a Godsend, thank you for providing your insight and humor into the field! I wonder what your thoughts are on NASP vs APA accreditation of schools–it seems there's an odd tension between the two. For instance, the APA proposing to eliminate the exemption of doctoral degrees for school psychologists? Some school psychology programs only have NASP or APA approval. How important is it to the quality of training a student can expect to obtain? Also, how does NASP or APA approval affect job opportunities? Is it all just hype or are there real issues at hand?

  7. Rebecca says:

    Godsend. I blush.

    I don't really have a position on APA vs. NASP other than to share my own experience. I went to an APA approved doctoral program and not a NASP approved one. I think it was because the school felt that in the hierarchy of accreditations, APA trumps NASP, but that is conjecture on my part.

    To that point, I am a bit removed from academia and am not up on the latest controversy other than the APA is uncomfortable with M.A. level specialists calling themselves "psychologists" (albeit, "school psychologists") because the level of training to be called a "psychologist" is much more intensive. (I know this from first hand experience, as I got my clinical psych license on top of the school psych credential–it takes a Ph.D. and 3000 more supervised hrs and training, and two evil board certification exams).

    That being said, no one has ever asked me in a job interview if my school was accredited by APA or NASP. The only hindrance to going to a non-NASP program is that it makes it a large pain in the you-know-what to get the National School Psych credential that NASP offers, but I think you only need be nationally certified if you travel between states and/or your district pays more for national certification (mine don't).

    I don't know if that helps or confuses, but that's my 2 cents. 🙂

  8. Anonymous says:

    Hi All!

    I am a school psych in the San Diego area. I know that the hot button issue is the APA objecting to school psychs using the term "psychologist." Call me a school psychologist or call me a school educational assessment technician or call me an educational specialist…regardless, the important thing is that all of us masters level specialists keep showing up to work every day trying to make a difference!

  9. Mik says:

    Hi Rebecca,

    I just stumbled upon your blog and I'm so happy I found it. Did you get your clinical psych license after you finished your PhD in school psych? I also wanted to be a child psychologist and then discovered school psych. I'm applying to school psych programs but eventually want to have my own practice. Is that what you did? You can write me back here or my email: Thanks!

  10. Rebecca says:

    @Mik: Yes, I got my PhD in school psych, then went on to get the clinical license after that by doing the additional supervised hours, coursework, and taking the state and national exams. If you are applying to school psych programs and want to do private practice, you will likely need a PhD. In California, you can do some limited private practice with a Licensed Educational Psychologist credential and you do not need the PhD. for that.

    Best to you as you start out in this profession! Glad you found the blog. You should also join the Facebook Page for the blog if you want to connect with a bunch of other school psychs!

  11. Rickeena Gresham says:

    Hello Dr. Bell, I see that back in 2009, the young lady Vanessa asked you the EXACT questions that I have today!! Would you mind emailing your response to her exact same questions to my email as well? I would greatly appreciate it, I am over here stressing completely out!

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