ERIC Identifier: ED390020
Publication Date: 1995-00-00
Author: Short, Rick Jay - Talley, Ronda C.
Clearinghouse on Counseling and Student Services Greensboro NC., American
Psychological Association Washington DC.
Redefining Doctoral School Psychology. ERIC Digest.
Factors outside of psychology, both positive and negative, are pressing
school psychology to re-examine itself (Short & Talley, in press). On the
positive side, we have reported significant opportunities for psychologists in
school-related roles within education reform and health care reform legislation
(Short & Talley, 1994; Talley & Short, 1994; in press). To explore
psychology's place in these reform movements, Division 16 has developed a task
force to examine the specialty of school psychology within the framework of
professional psychology. The Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs
(CDSPP), in collaboration with the APA Center for Education and Training in
Psychology (CETP), is sponsoring a pre-APA convention meeting on redefining
doctoral school psychology. At the same time, the Division 16 Administrators of
School Psychological Services (ASPS) Group and the APA Center for Psychology in
Schools and Education (CPSE) will co-sponsor "Creating a New Vision of School
Psychology: Emerging Models of Psychological Practice in Schools," which will
consider the identity of school psychology from a practitioner's perspective.
On the negative side, we have noted a number of instances where federal
regulatory language specifically excludes school psychology from roles that are
open to other professional psychology specializations (e.g., National Health
Service Corps). There are other instances in which school psychology simply is
not included in lists of psychologists eligible for fellowships (e.g., the most
recent Patricia Roberts Harris Fellowship guidelines). Many of these
possibilities will necessitate a thorough evaluation of school psychology's
nature, identity, and contribution in order to take advantage of these
As we have proposed in a previous paper (Talley & Short, 1994), we
believe that the above factors, among others, indicate that the time is right
for a reconceptualization of doctoral school psychology. This reframing should
take into account the relationship of doctoral school psychology to the larger
fields of both school psychology and professional psychology. Within the context
of the current state of practice of school psychology, we also present a
proposal based on several major premises, all of which have some empirical and
experiential support. These premises are listed below.
1. Recent comprehensive reform initiatives will require
psychological practitioners to possess the skills, credentials, and identity to
cross service boundaries and to integrate services in a facile manner.
Doctoral school psychology provides the skills and credentials to span settings.
Psychology (sometimes called professional psychology) is a doctoral profession
based primarily outside of the schools.
School psychology is a separate, nondoctoral profession based in the schools.
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FROM SOCIAL REFORMS
As we have
noted elsewhere (Talley & Short, in press), reform of the health care
system, including a renewed emphasis on school health, offers psychologists
opportunities for practice that would have been considered highly unusual even
five years ago. For example, with the move toward school-based health clinics
and centers, psychologists are being asked to provide not only traditional
mental health services in the schools, but also systemic services that focus on
broad-based community prevention activities. Health care reform is putting
psychology in its truest sense back into the schools.
As suggested in "Reforming America's Schools: Psychology's Role" (Talley
& Short, 1995), education reform is also providing new challenges for
psychologists. Under education reform, psychologists are being challenged to
assist in reframing schools, providing systemic needs assessment, planning and
evaluation of educational outcomes using new forms of assessment (performance,
functional, etc.) and interjecting behavioral health and child development into
the traditional education service delivery mix. The convergence of health and
education reform in legislation such as the Kentucky Education Reform Act
suggests that not only are new skills needed, but psychology also would benefit
from a new public perception of psychologists involved in such innovative
In addition, a third reform movement, the reform in human services arenas,
like services integration, requires new skills as well as a reconceptualization
of our place in service to America's children and youth. The buzz words of
"collaborative" and "teaming" suggest that in order to meet the "comprehensive"
needs of children, we must partner intraprofessionally, interprofessionally, and
across systems (schools, community mental health, juvenile justice, health
services, etc.) in order to address fully the tremendous human needs. New models
of school-based and -linked, as well as community-based and -linked services,
will require new ways of delivering services across settings that allow
different disciplines and specialties to work in concert rather than in
competition. Psychologists who demonstrate mastery in service integration will
flourish because of their depth of technical competence and their breadth of
DOCTORAL SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGY: MULTIPLE SETTINGS, MULTIPLE
Doctoral education and training in school psychology provides formal
preparation for practice both within and outside of the schools (Reschly &
McMaster-Beyer, 1991). In addition to core school psychology coursework equal to
(at least in hours) specialist training, doctoral school psychology programs are
offering more hours of training in settings other than schools. According to
Reschly & McMaster-Beyer, these additional requirements prepare doctoral
school psychologists both for school-based practice and broader, extra-school
Even though licensed psychologists are credentialed to provide services to
the public, they often cannot be employed by the schools without additional
certification from state departments of education. This constitutes an
interesting mutual exclusion phenomenon: school psychologists (nondoctoral
practitioners credentialed by state departments of education) typically cannot
practice outside of the schools, and licensed psychologists (doctoral
practitioners credentialed by state boards of psychology) typically cannot
practice as employees of the schools. The single exception to this bottleneck is
the doctoral school psychologist, who can be credentialed to practice by both
PROFESSIONAL PSYCHOLOGY AS A DOCTORAL PROFESSION
clear, if not noncontroversial, that the more general practice of psychology
currently requires the doctoral degree and a license. Although some writers have
suggested that there is little empirical support for requiring the doctorate for
independent practice of psychology (e.g., Coulter, 1989), recent articles have
provided some justification for the requirement (Reschly & McMaster-Beyer,
1991; Robiner, Arbisi, & Edwall, 1994). Licensed psychologists typically
practice in a range of settings, with a variety of clients, using an assortment
of treatment techniques within their expertise.
Credentialling for the independent practice of psychology by state boards of
psychology almost mirrors the aforementioned state department of education
school psychology credentialling guidelines. Whereas most state departments of
education recognize only the nondoctoral degree for credentialling as a school
psychologist, most state licensing boards acknowledge only the doctoral degree
for full credentialling as a psychologist. Although licensing boards typically
require some designation of specialty (e.g., clinical, counseling, school) by
the licensee, most psychology licenses are generic (Prus, Curtis, Draper, &
Hunley, 1995). With a few exceptions, psychologists are licensed to practice as
psychologists, rather than as practitioners of their specialization.
NONDOCTORAL SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGY
Many writers have concluded
that school psychology, similar to counseling and social work, has gained such
focus and articulation that the nondoctoral level now defines the discipline. In
a recent theme section of "School Psychology Review," entitled "Will the Real
School Psychologist Please Stand Up: Is the Past a Prologue for the Future of
School Psychology?" (Fagan, 1994), Jack Bardon asserted the following: "I cannot
tell you if we school psychology will be around in 2010. I think we will be, but
we may not. Our hope is to take seriously that we are now a separate nondoctoral
profession..." (Bardon, 1994, p. 587).
Although we believe that doctoral school psychology makes a vital
contribution to psychology, our examination of evidence from the literature and
from our own experience forced us to conclude that Bardon's statement has
considerable support. Questions of who practices school psychology in the
schools, what training these practitioners receive, what these practitioners do
in the schools, and who is eligible for credentialling as a school psychologist
all point toward Bardon's concept of a nondoctoral profession -- that
nondoctoral school psychology represents the primary, the sufficient, and indeed
the only required, level of training for practice in the schools.
EDUCATION AND TRAINING FOR SCHOOL PRACTICE
mid-1970s, the accepted level for education and training for practice in the
schools has advanced from the master's level to the specialist level (Reschly & McMaster-Beyer, 1991). Specialist-level training in school psychology
typically consists of two years of coursework, plus one year of full-time
internship. Adopting this level of training as the standard has resulted in a
cadre of professionals with more training than any other group of practitioners
in the schools. Whereas doctoral practitioners often practice in the schools and
bring considerable expertise to their roles as school psychologists, most
school-based practitioners have been trained at the nondoctoral level.
CREDENTIALLING AND REGULATION FOR SCHOOL PRACTICE
state departments of education, school-based practice of school psychology has
been set for a number of years at the nondoctoral level. A recent summary of
data (Prus et al., 1995) shows that almost all state education agencies (47, or
over 92 percent) grant full use of the title "school psychologist" to
appropriately-credentialed nondoctoral school practitioners. Most states (38, or
almost 75 percent) do not list the doctoral level in their credentialling
standards, suggesting that the ceiling for credentialling in school psychology
in those states is the nondoctoral degree. In these states, the nondoctoral
degree appears to be not the entry level, but the only level credentialed for
practice. State credentialling for school-based school psychology is almost
entirely nondoctoral and, perhaps more important for doctoral school psychology,
THE NATURE OF SCHOOL PRACTICE
Despite at least two decades
of efforts to expand the practice of psychology in the schools, the predominant
practice model continues to be that of the special-education-related
psychoeducational examiner (Reschly & Wilson, 1995). Within this model, the
psychologist primarily performs technical roles of assessment and participation
in team decision-making concerning problems in student learning and achievement.
One explanation for the prevalence of the psychoeducational examiner model
undoubtedly lies in the organization and structure of American schools. Another
probably has to do with role specifications derived from federal and state
special education legislation. Regardless of the reasons for the resilience of
this model for school-based practice, it seems clear that acceptable practice
within the model does not require doctoral training. A review of several surveys
concerning who practices school psychology in the schools indicates that an
impressive majority of these practitioners hold a nondoctoral degree (Smith,
Many doctoral-level school
psychologists work effectively and happily as practitioners in the schools.
However, many other school-based doctoral practitioners migrate to
administrative positions in the schools, and many doctoral-level practitioners
choose not to practice in the schools (Short & Rosenthal, 1994). At least
part of the reason for this choice is the lack of incentives from the schools
for professionals with doctorates. Schools and school systems often provide
little or no financial rewards for the advanced degree. Also, there often is
little distinction between doctoral and nondoctoral school psychologists in
terms of job duties and expectations from teachers, administrators, and parents.
As did Bardon, we have concluded that school
psychology, as a setting-based discipline, is nondoctoral. The entry level is
nondoctoral and modal practice is nondoctoral. Nondoctoral education and
training in school psychology appears to be at least adequate for current
practice, as well as for that of the immediate future. Credentialling in school
psychology is predominantly uni-level, nondoctoral, and separate from
credentialling in psychology.
However, we also have suggested (Talley & Short, 1994) that psychological
services to children, including services to and in the schools, must change to
meet the demands of national systemic social reforms. These reforms constitute
perhaps the best opportunity in many years to redefine psychological service
delivery. In any case, reformed service delivery will require integrated
communication and services across many community agencies, including the
schools. Practitioners who are prepared and credentialed to negotiate across
settings to provide these services will be critical to the success of social
reform. Doctoral school psychologists may be unique among all psychological
service providers at all levels in their skills and credentials -- at this very
moment -- to provide services across settings.
However, at least two changes in doctoral school psychology may need to be
considered to prepare us for reformed service delivery. First, we propose a
re-evaluation of our identity at the doctoral level. Acknowledging the
nondoctoral nature and identity of school psychology begs the question of the
identity of doctoral school psychology. We believe that the training that
doctoral school psychologists receive prepares them for roles within and outside
of the schools, as well as giving them perspectives and expertise to handle
these roles effectively. Often, however, this versatility gets lost in the
school psychology title and identity, sometimes relegating well-trained doctoral
practitioners to artificial limitations.
The identity of doctoral school psychology should extend beyond setting to
reflect the broad range of skills and competencies -- systemic and individual --
that most doctoral school psychologists possess. This reconceptualization of
identity also would allow us to "bring home" the large number of doctoral school
psychologists who practice outside of the schools. These psychologists often do
not consider themselves school psychologists because of their current practice
setting, yet they value their school psychology training and provide services to
children, youth, and families (Short & Rosenthal, 1994). As we have said
earlier (Talley & Short, 1994), the identity of the doctoral school
psychologist may need to evolve beyond school psychology to some type of school
psychology-plus. School psychology should be setting-based while doctoral-level
psychology that incorporates school psychology should not be setting dependent.
It may be that we should consider calling doctoral-level psychology that serves
schools, children, youth, and families something other than school psychology,
although the school component should remain prominent. A term previously used by
one of us in this context is "professional child psychology."
Second, we must maintain our school psychology core identity and training in
order to ensure our ability to move across settings, yet be able to use the
advanced training that the doctorate represents to develop new educational,
public health, and primary health competencies and identity (Talley, Short,
& Kolbe, 1995). Training in professional child psychology should subsume
credentialable school psychology in its core, and all doctoral psychologists
within this specialization should be required to be credentialable in school
psychology. Thus, the first two years of a doctoral program in psychology would
constitute quality preparation in school psychology. Subsequent training and
education would move away from school psychology in both identity and content.
In this way, school psychology credentialling needs would always be filled, but
unique and relevant preparation also would be provided. As a result, all
professional child psychologists would be prepared and credentialable for
service delivery both within and outside the school as they care for children,
youth, and families.
Bardon, J. I. (1994). The identity of school
psychology revisited. School Psychology Review, 23(4), 584-588.
Coulter, A. (1989). The entry level for professional school psychology: A
modest proposal. School Psychology Review, 18, 20-24.
Fagan, T. K. (1994). Guest editor's comments. School Psychology Review,
Prus, J., Curtis, M. J., Draper, A., & Hunley, S. (1995). A summary of
credentialing requirements for school psychologists in public school settings.
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roles? Doctoral school psychologists in traditional vs. nontraditional practice
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