Husker Program Trains Essential School Psychologists | Nebraska today

Every morning at Crete College, school psychologist Katie Bevins walks through the common area and visits with students who use the space to eat breakfast, chat with friends, or study some more before classes start.

These interactions play a crucial role for Bevins in building trust and rapport with them, because like all school psychologists, she will be one of the first called to help if a student has mental or behavioral health issues or faces a crisis.

“Children are themselves in school, and I think we have a unique view of what children face,” said Bevins, an alumnus of the University of Nebraska’s school psychology program. Lincoln. “A lot of kids who need help end up getting it in the school setting, because they’re here, and we can provide some of those services. School psychologists have a unique perspective and training on how to support children in the school setting – both in learning and mental and behavioral health.

School psychologists play many roles, and their training reflects that, said Catelyn Kenney, who works at Lincoln Public Schools and is also a Husker alumnus.

“We’re often the only ones in the building with expertise in behavior management, understanding classroom climates, understanding behavior interventions, and academics,” said Kenney, a school psychologist. “We have the expertise to work with individual students, but we are also able to step back and be data analytics experts to evaluate systems and form best practices.”

Despite their importance, amplified by the covid– Pandemic of 19, school psychologists are rare. In Nebraska and across the United States, many positions remain unfilled, leaving an underserved segment of students. In Nebraska, more than 47,000 children have been diagnosed with behavioral or mental health issues, according to the 2020 Kids Count in Nebraska report, and those students often rely on support from school psychologists.

“About 20-22% of children and adolescents have one or more mental health disorders recognized by the American Psychiatric Association. Community providers – hospitals and clinics – meet the needs of only about a quarter of them, from so that the majority of children with mental health needs are receiving services in schools,” said Beth Doll, professor of school psychology and director of the Nebraska Internship Consortium in professional psychology. schools have been the main provider of mental health services, so it is extremely important that we have people in schools who understand the mental health needs of students.

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s School Psychology Program continually helps address these shortages for Nebraska and beyond through its practice-based program that offers three- and six-year training programs for graduate degrees. specialist in education and doctorate, respectively. Considered one of the best training programs in the United States, Nebraska’s school psychology program is accredited by both the American Psychological Association and the National Association of School Psychologists, and typically graduates about 10 students each year.

“The school psychology program at ONE has had a significant impact on the delivery of mental health services in the state of Nebraska,” said Susan Swearer, Willa Cather Professor and Director of the Department of Educational Psychology. “The Nebraska program attracts students from across the United States who come here to study and train and then often stay.”

In addition to the school psychology program, in 1985 the university established the Nebraska Internship Consortium in Professional Psychology. The Consortium is comprised of eight Nebraska institutions offering inpatient and outpatient training opportunities and annually offers accredited internships to approximately 40 students enrolled in clinical training, counseling, and school psychology programs across the United States. . It’s the biggest PAA-Approved internship training program in the United States.

“An internship has to be nationally accredited for someone to qualify for a license, and the problem we had nationally, and certainly in Nebraska, was that there was no enough accredited internships available,” said Doll. “One of our professors created the consortium, which offered internships accredited by the American Psychological Association.”

The consortium has been instrumental in bringing mental health professionals to the state. In 2018 and 2019, only 9-10% of those who interned with the consortium were from Nebraska, but 19% and 34%, respectively, remained and became licensed providers in the state after graduation. of their degree.

“With the number of our program and consortium graduates remaining, we are contributing significantly to the development of the workforce of mental health professionals in Nebraska,” Swearer said.

Faculty and alumni of the school psychology program are also working with state legislators to address the shortage. State Senator Jen Day of District 49 sponsored LR213 in 2021, which established an interim study of the mental and behavioral health needs of Nebraska college students. The report was completed and submitted to the Legislature in January 2022 by the Nebraska School Psychologists Association, in which faculty and alumni, including Bevins, hold leadership positions. The report demonstrated the continued – and growing – need for mental health professionals in schools and laid out ways the state could help through programs such as tuition assistance. Day plans to introduce legislation based on the report to meet these needs.

Doll and her colleague, Matthew Gormley, assistant professor of school psychology, are also developing and seeking funding for a new project that would help train school psychologists in rural Nebraska.

“The shortage that concerns me the most is the shortage in our rural communities, because they have a harder time finding candidates for these positions,” said Doll. “We are working on a grant and developing ways to allow them to receive the school psychology training where they are. We want to identify people in our rural districts who would like to be school psychologists, but have been unable to do so without leaving their homes or families. »

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