Career Story: School Psychologist And Counselor

School Psychologist And Counselor

Job Title: School Psychologist

Type of Company: I work for a school district in a suburb of Nashua, New Hampshire.

Education: BS, Psychology, Merrimack College •• M.Ed., UMass-Boston •• CAGS, School of Psychology at UMass-Boston

Previous Experience: I worked as a half-way house manager for several years right out of college. Also worked as a social and recreational coordinator in a day program for a short time. I volunteered at a school while in grad school, then did practicum work at a school and later at a community mental health center.

Job Tasks: My primary job is testing: cognitive and social-emotional testing. I am based at a large elementary school with a student population of close to a thousand. Because of recent reductions in funding to public schools, class room sizes are growing. This increases referrals for testing, as children get less attention from the teacher when classes are larger. Each child is also re-tested at least every three years, by law. The types of assessments I use are general intelligence tests, neurological tests, projective tests, and rating scales. After testing comes the write-up of the report: numerical scores, interpretation to identify strengths and weaknesses, and recommendations. Eventually everyone who's tested the child, along with his parents and his classroom teacher, meet to discuss results and determine if the child has special needs not available in the mainstream classroom.

I am also responsible for doing the "record review" (a fairly detailed account of a child's educational history), which is part of any good assessment. Sometimes I am the person to do the classroom observations, another important (and mandated) part of assessment, but usually this is done by the special education teacher. I also have a small counseling caseload. It could easily be larger but my assessment responsibilities take up about 80 % of my time and I therefore have little time for counseling. Usually, counseling focuses on improving social skills, self-esteem, or the ability to manage emotions adaptively. In order to this job effectively, you need to have adequate prep time and good resources and materials.

I also consult with teachers, sometimes when things just come up, though other times consultation is written into a student's IEP (Individual Education Program).

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is when I have been able to do something that contributes to assessing special needs. Maybe I have made a recommendation that was particularly helpful or maybe I enabled others to take a different outlook on the child or child's situation that helped them to see or understand things differently.

The worst part of my job is having to do much of my report-writing at home, after school and on weekends.

Job Tips:
1. Talk with and listen to people who are already school psychologists.

2. Talk with other people who work in schools (teachers, special educators, administrators) about their jobs and perspectives.

3. Try to limit jargon talk or convert it immediately to straight talk when talking with others, especially parents.

4. Validate people's issues/problems and try not to judge them, before beginning to try to help.

Additional Thoughts: It can get boring, I guess like any job, because it's the same thing over and over. It can also be mentally draining because there is a lot to know, and dealing with people, sometimes over tense and personal issues, can be draining. On the flip-side, because it can be such a difficult job, it can be very rewarding when it goes well. The pay is okay, the vacation time is excellent.

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