Thriving School Psych Thriving Students


We all dread the question.

We dread it the most on public transit.

We dread it more on an airplane when we are trapped.

That’s right, the question, “So, what do you do for a living?” can be a dreaded question for psychologists. When I say I’m a school psychologist, I get:

-Wow! So you teach? What grade? (“School” must trip people up)
-Whoa! What am I thinking RIGHT NOW (um, psychologist, not psychic)
-Are you analyzing me right now? (Yes. Unless I’m tired.)
-I have a daughter/son with X problem……
-That must be so rewarding (Erm….most days…)
-I totally need a psychologist (Darn. My expertise ends at age 18, unless you are super immature).

and my favorite (someone really asked this):

-What is your favorite kid problem? (ooh! ooh! I love when they can’t read!)*

It is sometimes hard to say what exactly it is that a school psychologist does, because we have 8 hojillion hats to wear, but I usually go with “It’s like a child psychologist in the school setting. If there is a student who isn’t learning, I try to understand why, and I provide interventions or recommendations. I specialize in what gets in the way of learning (e.g. emotional problems, behavior problems, disabilities) and what helps learning. I do some prevention activities, but mostly I do interventions with kids, like testing students for disabilities, counseling, and consulting with teachers and parents.” I’m sure NASP has a better definition, but that is my “elevator speech” about my job. But sometimes, after the job description, you get trapped in a very long and unwelcome discussion about your profession…

In case you missed me posting this on my Facey Face page, I recently did this interview for the New York Times about psychologists trapped on airplanes in uncomfortable situations. Enjoy. In a schadenfreude kind of way.

Cornered: Therapists on Planes.**

*Like my friend Beth, I really wish there was a universal sarcastic font.
** I love this article. I love all of it. The only thing that made me have a Dr. Evil moment was reading “Ms. Branstetter” instead of Dr. Branstetter. (In Dr. Evil voice): “I did not go to 6 years of evil graduate school to be called Ms.” But who am I to criticize the New York Times? THE New York Times. I feel lucky to even be referred to incorrectly in it at all. And in true Me-Monstery fashion, I got a bunch of copies when it came out in print. Stocking stuffers, maybe?

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Comments on Trapped.

  1. Cathy says:

    It's not technically incorrect. NYTimes style only refers to medical doctors by Dr. It's annoying, yes, but not an error.

  2. Sioux says:

    People DO ask stupid questions, don't they?

    I would so love to have a sarcastic font to use. (A snarky one would be nice, too.

  3. Rebecca says:

    @Cathy: Good knowledge! "Real Doctors": 1, "Feeling Doctors: 0. I suppose if I went to evil medical school for 10 years, I'd want the NYT to draw the line too.

    Sioux: Let's make millions and invent these fonts….

  4. Lisa says:

    The reaction I get most often I get most often after I tell people my major (I'm still a grad student) is "Oh, so you're a counselor!" To which I reply "No, then I'd be a school counseling major".

    I like your elevator speech. I just tell people I fix kids who aren't doing well in schools, but yours is much more comprehensive. I enjoy your blog.

  5. Aimee says:

    Ditto, to everything. I blogged about the same issue in my first entry, but in less sarcastic font. At least I remembered the "Dr." when I plugged your description of a school psych… silly NY Times.

  6. I actually found your blog on Kindle and figured I'd check out the on-line version. And no, not because it's free here.

    Okay, maybe that was part of it.

    Still, I really enjoy your writing and your perspective. Great stuff!

  7. Anonymous says:

    I am a senior in college and was planning on applying to grad schools to get a masters in school psychology. My advisor informed me that school psychologists mostly just test the students and if I love working with children I may want to pursue another career if I can't see myself testing all day. I don't like the idea of doing tests. Do you have any advice for me?

  8. Anonymous says:

    Congrats on the NY Times! I love your blog. You make me laugh.

    -Ruby Slippers

  9. Jana says:

    Congrats on New York Times as well!!! But you're MRS. Branstetter… not MS.! Just saying…

    Shoot… even with a bacelors in Psych I've had people ask me questions… so I can only imagine having a profession in it…

  10. Unknown says:

    I just wanted to leave my 2 cents about how I respond when people here the word psychologist. Usually, people say to me somethign along the lines of, "well you've got someone right here who could use your services." (Awkward!) Anyways, in response I have taken to saying, "I'm sorry, I try to be as insensitive as possible when I am not at work, otherwise it feels to much like I am working." That usually shuts people up.

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