What Is A School Psychologist? Who Do They Help?

Updated April 8, 2024by MyTherapist Editorial Team

What exactly is a school psychologist? The title itself is actually quite self-explanatory. A school psychologist is a professional psychologist who works at a school or a university. They provide guidance and help for students and staff who are experiencing problems. Not just problems in school performance, but social, emotional, and personal issues too. They work with teachers, students, and parents to make a child as happy and healthy as possible.

Are you in school and in need of mental health support?

While you might have guessed what a school psychologist does, you might be surprised at how relatively new the concept of a school psychologist is. NASP, the National Association of School Psychology, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2018. The presence of school psychologists in education settings is growing as more students need academic and emotional support to get through their day.

The practice of school psychology

There are ten services that a school psychologist may provide for staff and students at an educational institution. Below is a closer look at these services.

Decision making

There are many areas in which school psychologists may weigh in. If a child is referred for services, the school psychologist will use their vast knowledge of methods of assessment and detail gathering to determine what might be best for that child. They are likely to be in charge of assessing the child and reporting the results back to the team, which might include parents, teachers, and administrators. It is part of the school psychologist's job to make recommendations about how the child might best receive support. 

Consultation and collaboration

A school psychologist is going to talk to many students on a daily basis. Some of those students may need just one conversation. This is referred to as a consultation. Some students may need repeated sessions to help with any issues they may be experiencing. This is known as a collaboration. Sometimes, a student may come in for what they think is a one-time consultation, and it turns into collaboration. The school psychologist is prepared to help students with academic, emotional, or social needs.

Interventions and instructional support for academic skills

Sometimes, a student is not doing well when it comes to their grades. The student may be bright but may be going through a rough patch or having difficulty with their assignments. A school psychologist can work with a student to help them figure out why they may be having a hard time and help them improve their grades. The school psychologist can then monitor their progress and intervene if more help is needed or simply help celebrate the student's success.

Interventions of social and life skills

A student may not be as social as they, their parents, or their teachers wish they were. Perhaps they are a new student or they are going through something else. Sometimes, students need to learn some valuable life skills. A school psychologist can help students learn how to socialize and improve their overall quality of life. In some cases, work with life skills may be done as a group with other students.

Examples of life skills include:

  • Being empathetic towards others
  • Teaching how to express one's feelings
  • Teaching how to have higher self-esteem
  • How to know if you are being bullied
  • How to cope with a tragedy
  • How to get along with others
  • How to handle peer pressure
  • Sexuality and how to deal with it
  • Staying healthy
  • How to be safe on the Internet

School-wide learning practices

Sometimes, a school psychologist may work with the entire school to make the learning environment as conducive to growth as possible. They may try to improve the techniques used by certain teachers to help them be more effective with students, introduce new mental health programs to the school, or do whatever else it takes to create the best learning environment.

Preventive and response services

The last thing a school wants is a tragedy, be it an assault, a fight, a shooting, or anything else that can result in others being hurt. A school psychologist can try to prevent situations like this from happening by spreading awareness and helping troubled students. When a tragedy strikes, a school psychologist is likely to be there to provide support and counseling for all those who were affected, be they student, staff, or administrative officials.

Family-school collaboration services

School psychologists will help facilitate the relationship between a child's family and their school to achieve the most success possible. There may be unresolved issues as a home that are contributing to the student's performance, and the school psychologist can recommend the family make changes to improve the student's grades. Sometimes, all parties will work well together. Other times, the school psychologist can act as the mediator between school and family when opinions clash.

Diversity in development and learning

One of the flaws of many public schools is it is a one-size-fits-all approach to learning. Some schools act like one style of learning will benefit the entire school, when in reality, students learn in different ways. This can depend on how their brain is wired and what their background is, along with many other factors. A school psychologist studies the many ways people learn and gives suggestions to teachers and parents based on their professional knowledge.

Research and program evaluation

When a new learning program is introduced, it must be studied and researched. If a program shows no improvement in student performance, it must be tweaked or scrapped altogether. If there is an improvement, then the program should carry on and perhaps be tweaked so that progress can continue onward and upward. A school psychologist is in a position to study how programs are working and make recommendations for improvements or changes.

Legal, ethical, and professional practice

A school psychologist will give out advice on what is legal and ethical in a school and help to keep each practice as professional as possible. If there is an ethical problem in the school, the school psychologist will work to respond to and collaborate with others to fix it.

How school psychologists help a student over the years

As a student grows, a school psychologist needs to grow with the student. Here are some examples of how a psychologist's services grow.

Elementary school

A child has a unique mind, and a psychologist who works at the elementary school level needs to understand how to best communicate with young children. At this age, the importance of teaching basic life skills is emphasized, such as teaching right from wrong. An elementary-school-based school psychologist may observe a child's mental health and their learning abilities. They may then bring concerns to teachers and parents and advise them on the best ways to help that child.

Middle school

Middle school is when a child is beginning to grow into adolescence. Many changes are happening to the child's body, and personalities can change at this age too. A school psychologist working at the middle school level may help monitor students' growth and teach them about the changes in their body. This is also a stage where learning needs may change, and a school psychologist can help ensure a child gets what they need to be academically successful.

High school

Changes continue to happen in the adolescent's body throughout high school. High school is the period where many students become sexually active and begin having relationships that extend beyond friendship. At this age, some students may become delinquent or rebel against authority. A school psychologist needs to monitor any changes in students and then, if there are issues, act accordingly.

High school is also the time when students start thinking about their future, including college and careers. A school psychologist can offer advice about the options available after high school and help students make a realistic plan to achieve their goals.


The students at this level are now young adults, and a school psychologist is still there to offer advice. Some students reconsider their major as they progress through school or still haven't decided yet. A school psychologist can help them decide on the path that's right for them. A school psychologist at a university can help students deal with any stress that comes with college and help them create a plan to find a career, pay off their debts, and succeed in the world.

Requirements to be a psychologist in a school

Like any psychologist, a school psychologist requires quite a few certifications. In most cases, a school psychologist will need a master's and will require licensing. It's a tough process, but most school psychologists are glad to do it. Not just for the money, but because it's a rewarding career. School psychologists enjoy building relationships with students and watching them grow. School, especially early schooling, can shape how a child grows in the future, and a school psychologist can help them get on the right track to succeed and lead a healthy and productive life.

Are you in school and in need of mental health support?

Mental health support is available online

Students of all ages can benefit from help from a psychologist. A psychologist is trained to help individuals who are experiencing all types of issues, whether they are academic, social, or emotional. Even you're not in school, it's never too late to seek support with a mental health concern—help is out there.

Therapists are available both in person and online. Many individuals have turned to online therapy in the recent past because it's especially convenient. There's no reason to travel to a physical office or schedule an appointment that may interrupt your workday. Online therapy eliminates these barriers to getting help.

You can find a therapist who is right for you and make the changes you deserve at BetterHelp. From treating your mental illnesses to improving your overall well-being, the licensed therapists at BetterHelp can change your life in many ways. All you need to do is fill out a questionnaire, and you'll be matched to someone who can help.


Even if you don't have any mental health problems, therapy can help strengthen your relationships and assist you in accomplishing your goals. You may be surprised at all they can do for you.

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