Inspired by this post from Sean Erreger LCSW about social work, I thought I’d also take a go at asking google about my field.

Two quick notes before I dive into the questions. First, for those looking for a quick introduction to who school psychologists are, I wrote a piece you can read here. Second, for many of the questions in this google search it’s important to understand that there are two levels of licensure for school psychologists.

The first is a specialist level licensure — this allows for school psychologists to practice in schools and typically requires a specialist degree (a masters + 30 additional graduate credits) and at least 1,200 supervised hours. The second is a full health service provider psychology license. This requires a doctorate, at least 1,200 supervised clinical hours before graduation (often much more), generally at least one year of supervised post-doctoral clinical hours, and passing the psychology exam called the EPPP. Being a licensed psychologist allows for full independent clinical practice. The vast majority of practicing school psychologists are certified at the specialist level.

A medical or clinical diagnosis is separate from classification under special education law. This distinction will be important to the questions below. It is important to know that for many of these questions, it is the job of the school psychologists to classify students under the special education disability categories of federal law. This classification system is separate from a clinical or medical diagnosis. All school psychs can do the former, only school psychs who are licensed psychologists can do the latter. Even then, sometimes sometimes school psychologists who are also licensed psychologists do not make clinical diagnoses in their school role.

Lastly, nothing in this article should be confused with legal advice. The laws in special education and mental health practice are complex and can vary by state.

Now, without further ado:

Can school psychologists diagnose dyslexia?

Certified school psychologists, working with the school’s multi-disciplinary team, can classify students as meeting the criteria for special education under the specific learning disabilities classification — which includes dyslexia. School psychologists who are fully licensed psychologists can make the clinical diagnosis of dyslexia, although this might not be their role while employed by the school.

Can school psychologists diagnose autism?

Certified school psychologists, working with a school’s multi-disciplinary team, can classify students as meeting the criteria for autism spectrum disorder under special education classification. Licensed psychologists can make the clinical diagnosis of autism, although this may not be their role while employed by the school. A full evaluation of autism spectrum disorders is often multi-disciplinary — and depending on the child may involve physicians, occupational therapists, speech and language pathologists, and behavior analysts.

Can school psychologists work in private practice?

Certified school psychologists generally only may practice in a school. School psychologists who are also licensed psychologists may have a private practice. Generally speaking, if that licensed psychologist is employed by a public school as a school psychologist they avoid having a private practice within the bounds of their school district or seeing children from that school as clients to avoid professional and ethical conflicts.

Can school psychologists diagnose ADHD?

School psychologists, working with the school’s multi-disciplinary team, can evaluate a student for ADHD and qualify a student for special education services or services under 504. Licensed psychologists can clinically diagnose ADHD.

Can school psychologists get loan forgiveness?

Assuming the school psych meets certain requirements of the programs, the short answer is yes. The more complicated answer is that these programs are very much in jeopardy under the DeVos administration.

Can school psychologists diagnose anxiety?

Certified school psychologists, working on a multi-disciplinary team, can evaluate whether a student’s anxiety interferes with their education and qualify the student under special education or 504. Licensed psychologists can make the clinical diagnosis of various anxiety disorders, although this might not be within their role when employed by the school.

Can school psychologists prescribed medication?

No. Medication is generally only prescribed by physicians or mid level medical professionals such as nurse practitioners or physicians assistants. The fine print is that in five states, licensed psychologists can prescribe medication if they have an additional masters degree in psychopharmacology, additional supervised clinical hours, and pass a psychopharmacology exam. Even in these states, however, prescribing psychologists typically do not work for schools.

Can school psychologists bill Medicade?

Generally speaking, no. Certified school psychologists cannot bill Medicaid or any other insurance. However, schools may recoup some of their special education services costs through medicaid reimbursement. Licensed psychologists can bill Medicaid outside the school system.

Can school psychologists work part time?

Sure!


If you have other questions or think I got something wrong, find me on twitter. For more about the work school psychologists do, visit the website of the National Association of School Psychologists or speak to your local school psych.

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