How School Psychologists Can Maintain Professionalism

by Angela Stevens on August 27, 2009

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When you work closely with students and families, such as a school psychologist does, you might encounter situations where it’s important to keep your professionalism in check. However, that can sometimes sound easier than it really is.

sunbelt-school-psychologist

I’ve encountered families where it’s emotionally draining to be in contact with them. While I can’t go into specifics, it’s pretty safe to say that, with some families and students, I’ve wanted to reach out to them and offer more than my services as a psychologist. I believe it’s human nature to want to help those in need, and that’s part of what drove me to get into psychology. Still, you must maintain a level of decorum so that you can do your job and serve the students and schools to the best of your ability. Allowing yourself to get pulled in by the family and the students emotionally can cause a lack of judgment that can be dangerous to everyone involved. It’s difficult at times to distance yourself emotionally, but it’s a must if you’re going to be successful at your job and at serving the community and the schools you work with.

In order to keep yourself from risking your professionalism, take these rules of professional conduct into consideration whenever you feel that you’re getting too close to the situation.

  • You are an advocate to the school, the community, and the students you serve. It’s in everyone’s best interest to protect students’ identities when conducting research or working with a family and school.
  • You make a distinction between what you say as an individual and as a professional representing the school, community, or students you’re working with. There is a difference between speaking as a private person (individual) and as a representative of the school and students you work with. As you go through training and different situations, you will learn with how to distinguish between the two and when it’s appropriate to be one or the other.
  • Refrain from using your position as a school psychologist to enlist new clients from the students and families you serve or to partake in an inappropriate relationship. Your position should not be abused in such a way that would infringe upon your licensing or work to your personal advantage. Your first priority should always be serving the schools and community.

At times you may feel that you may be able to help a family or student through your private practice, but it could be considered a conflict of interest if the person(s) you are helping are part of another ongoing situation that you are also involved in within the schools. In a case such as that, it’s better to refer the family or student to a neutral party or counselor.

Much of maintaining your professionalism is learned through situations you encounter as well as staying current on the ethical standards of the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) or the American School Counselor Association. As the times and technology changes, even school psychologists are subject to the flux in standards and practices of today’s schools and communities. I’ve often considered the personal and professional ramifications of becoming personally involved before I do so. Obviously, it’s always in my best interest not to let my emotions or personal views stand in the way of my professional opinion, but as anyone who works closely with families and children can attest, it can be a struggle at times.

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Ashley 01.13.12 at 3:48 pm

American School Counselor Association? What about the National Association of School Psychologists (NASP)? In my opinion, school psychologists should look within their own professional organization for guidance, rather than within the school counseling ethical standards. Just a thought, but enjoyed the article.

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Howard Gerber 01.19.12 at 9:03 am

We agree, Ashley. We have added them to the article. Thanks for the feedback.

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