School Psychology Program - M.S./Ph.D. Philosophy and Training Model

Since the foundation of American public education, a societal emphasis has been placed on schools to provide a better future for children and adolescents through a life-long educative process.  In their professional roles, school psychologists are sensitive to the needs of a culturally diverse community, value the importance of children and adolescents to the future of society, and advocate on the behalf of children.  As an integral part of human services available to children, adolescents, adults, and families, school psychologists function across multiple settings with a focus on educational institutions.  School psychologists provide varied services, such as psychoeducational assessment, consultation, counseling and other interventions, inservice education, administrative services, research, and evaluation.

The primary distinction that separates school psychology from other psychological specialties is the combining of education and psychology in the study and delivery of services to children, adolescents, families, and learners of all ages. The additional focus of education to this area of psychology stems from the assumption that schools play a primary nurturing and socializing role in the lives of all individuals. School psychologists focus on the natural ecologies of children, adolescents, families, learners, and persons involved in schooling as well as the process of schooling in multiple settings.  (See http://www.apa.org/ed/graduate/specialize/school.aspx) Because they receive training in both education and psychology, school psychologists are in a unique position to coordinate educational, psychological, and behavioral health services to learners across the life span.  The curriculum of the program is an integrated course of study in areas of psychology and education (in addition to specialized school psychology courses) that contributes to the preparation of school psychologists.

The philosophy of the school psychology programs at The University of Memphis reflects an ecological, evidence-based model that focuses on the multiple systems in which children exist.  This perspective recognizes the complex interaction of person variables within and across multiple systems. This philosophy also acknowledges that the manner in which problems are defined influences the subsequent use of assessment and intervention strategies. 

The doctoral program model reflects the scientist–practitioner approach that balances knowledge and competencies in both research and practice (Frank, 1984; Raimy, 1950). Students draw upon the scientific literature to make decisions regarding practice with a focus on evidence-based services. Students are also instructed regarding basic program evaluation techniques and treatment monitoring and evaluation in order to determine the effectiveness of their assessments and interventions. Students are taught to use a scientific problem-solving model to make clinical decisions by operationalizing problems, identifying appropriate data collection techniques, analyzing and interpreting data collected, and utilizing the findings to determine the target variables for intervention. Students are also trained in design and statistical techniques to produce scientific knowledge for the practice of school psychology.  

The doctoral program seeks to prepare school psychologists whose contributions will be through research and academic careers, future trainers of school psychologists, and future leaders in the field of school psychology. The research preparation for students is based on a “scientist as producer” model. Clinically, students are also trained to develop skills as case managers, clinicians in comprehensive school and mental health settings, and supervisors of others who provide educational and psychological services to children, adolescents, and families. The doctoral program also seeks to produce graduates who have specialized skills designed to match their interests and perceptions of training needs.

The overall goal of the doctoral program is that students will complete the requirements of the program, obtain credentialing for school-based practice, become licensed for independent practice as psychologists and health service providers, and contribute to the field through service, research, and teaching.