In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Counseling Services in School Psychology

  • Introduction
  • Overview: Challenges and Competencies
  • The Primacy of the Therapeutic Relationship
  • Counseling and Psychological Maltreatment
  • Group Counseling
  • Legal Issues in School Practice
  • Summary and Conclusions

Psychology Counseling Services in School Psychology
Tony D. Crespi, Mikayla Alicandro
  • LAST MODIFIED: 15 January 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199828340-0257


School psychologists can provide an important contribution through the provision of counseling services. While psychological assessment remains a foundation area separating school psychologists from other disciplines, counseling services offer school psychological service models an important juncture for impacting a multiplicity of psychological, familial, and school problems. Given the diversity of counseling services provided within modern schools, though, school psychologists and support professionals often lack critical information on the role school psychologists can play in providing a wide spectrum of counseling services. This article considers contemporary mental health issues impacting children, examines individual and group counseling models, considers newer research involving family counseling within the schools, and discusses legal challenges.

Overview: Challenges and Competencies

Children face a wide array of societal, familial, and personal challenges. Looking at child maltreatment alone—physical, sexual, and emotional abuse and neglect in children—Lusk, et al. 2015 notes that more than 3 million children in the United States are impacted. Still, while compelling, such areas as physical, sexual, and emotional abuse outside the schools do not represent the only avenues in which children’s emotional well-being are impacted. Looking within the schools, Spakowski and Crespi 2017 suggests that approximately 9.6 percent of children—or more than 3.5 million children—may experience inappropriate sexual contact with teachers. In fact, looking at this latter issue, US Department of Education 2004 reports that 9.6 percent of children in grades 8 to 11 report unwanted educator sexual advances. Fundamentally, school psychologists can help children cope with issues stemming from both outside as well as inside the schools. Still, these points only capture part of the spectrum of problems that have faced and continue to face children. Further, the number of children in need of counseling is significant. In fact, several million children are in need of psychological services. As an illustration, La Salle, et al. 2017 argues that school psychologists can be invaluable in identifying at-risk youth in the general population, and Miller and Eckert 2009 highlights the ethical responsibility to identify children at risk for suicide. Truly, from general psychological problems to teacher sexual contact, the need for counseling services is significant. Fortunately, school psychologists are well positioned to offer assistance. Spakowski and Crespi 2017 makes the point that school psychologists are in a key position to offer counseling. In fact, more than two decades have passed since schools were described as a perfect vehicle for the provision of counseling services (Leaf, et al. 1996, p. 620). Indeed, Roberts, et al. 2003 indicates that, given the number of children with severe psychological issues, the need for counseling services for children is notable.

  • La Salle, T. P., C. Wang, L. Parris, and J. A. Brown. 2017. Associations between school climate, suicidal thoughts, and behaviors and ethnicity among middle school students. Psychology in the Schools 54.10: 1294–1301.

    DOI: 10.1002/pits.22078

    A study investigating the relationship between suicidal thoughts and behaviors, school climate, and student demographics. The role of school psychologists in identifying and advocating for at-risk students and implementing appropriate interventions within school systems is considered.

  • Leaf, P. J., M. Alegria, R. Cohen, et al. 1996. Mental health service use in the community and schools: Results from the four-community MECA study. Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry 35:889–897.

    DOI: 10.1097/00004583-199607000-00014

    This article discusses results from the NIMH Methods for the Epidemiology of Child and Adolescent Mental Disorders (MECA) Study. The survey was designed to identify patterns in children and adolescents’ reported use of mental health and substance abuse services among four communities. Results varied, indicating that techniques for the increase of mental health service use among this population should be further considered.

  • Lusk, V. L., J. Zibulsky, and K. Viezel. 2015. Child maltreatment identification and reporting behaviors of school psychologists. Psychology in the Schools 52.1: 61–76.

    DOI: 10.1002/pits.21810

    Due to the prevalence of child maltreatment, identifying best practices in mandatory reporting is crucial. This article addresses the unique role of school psychologists in identifying and reporting child maltreatment through methods such as consultation, evaluation, prevention, and intervention.

  • Miller, N. D., and L. T. Eckert. 2009. Suicidal behavior: An introduction and overview. School Psychology Review 38.2: 153–167.

    While school psychologists have an ethical and legal responsibility to prevent youth suicide, they often lack proactive strategies to deal with those at risk. This article offers an overview of youth suicidal behavior, as well as the implications regarding the practice of school psychology in relation to this issue.

  • Roberts, M. C., A. K. Jacobs, R. W. Puddy, J. E. Nyre, and E. M. Vemberg. 2003. Treating children with serious emotional disturbances in schools and community: The Intensive Mental Health Program. Professional Psychology: Research and Practice 34:519–526.

    DOI: 10.1037/0735-7028.34.5.519

    Children with serious emotional disturbances are often considered by school personnel to be the most difficult students to educate and maintain. Considering that 5 percent of all children exhibit serious emotional disturbances, the implementation of effective interventions within school systems is needed. This article describes an integrated model of service and therapy—the Intensive Mental Health Program—that is designed to appropriately serve the needs of students with serious emotional disturbance (SED) in relation to their psychological functioning, behavioral management, and educational success.

  • Spakowski, A. M., and T. D. Crespi. 2017. Sexual abuse with children: Educator infractions and counseling considerations. Online Journal of Counseling and Education 6.1: 30–40.

    Teacher sexual misconduct toward students is a critical problem within schools, but it often goes unreported and unresolved. Therefore, understanding the prevalence and profound impact that such abuse has on students and school systems is crucial. This article examines these issues and considers preventative interventions that school psychologists can utilize to ensure safe school environments for students.

  • US Department of Education. 2004. The condition of education 2004. Washington, DC: National Center for Education Statistics.

    The National Center for Education Statistics serves as a federal entity for the collection, analysis, and reporting of educational data relative to the Department of Education in the United States and Territories. Statistics regarding US school systems’ conditions and students’ progress can be considered via this online source.

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