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Best Practice Guidelines for School Psychology Internships

By Joseph S. Prus

The NASP Delegate Assembly voted unanimously to endorse a new set of best practice guidelines for school psychology internships at its meeting in Boston on February 28, 2009. The guidelines, which were developed as part of the NASP standards revision process, are intended to:

  • Promote quality preparation of school psychologists and service provision to children, youth, and families
  • Foster the internship as an educational experience involving collaboration between university training programs and internship sites
  • Encourage greater consistency in opportunities and support across internship sites

The guidelines were developed over several years, beginning with an examination of existing NASP training standards (NASP, 2000) and the school psychology internship guidelines of some national organizations and states. Drafts were then developed with input from various NASP constituencies, including NASP volunteer leaders, executive officers and staff, student leaders, and members of the Program Approval Board and Standards Writing Committee. They were also posted for comment on various NASP Listservs, and on the Listservs of the Trainers in School Psychology and the Council of Directors of School Psychology Programs.

Although adherence by internship field sites is voluntary, it is hoped that the guidelines will encourage quality experiences, supervision, and support during what is universally recognized as a critical period in professional development. NASP will be exploring ways to make the guidelines relevant and helpful to school psychology graduate programs and field sites.

The guidelines address four general aspects of internships, including: principles, conceptualization, and management of the internship; depth, breadth, and focus of the internship; supervision, mentoring, and collaboration; and intern evaluation, feedback, and support. The specific guidelines are as follows. Note that an asterisk (*) signifies the existence of a corresponding NASP training standard. The 2000 NASP Standards for Training and Field Placement Programs in School Psychology served as the initial base. Modifications in the guidelines will be made if/when the corresponding standard is revised.

  1. Principles, Conceptualization, and Management of the Internship
    • 1.1 The internship is conceptualized as a culminating training experience* in which the primary focus is on providing breadth and quality of training to the intern.
    • 1.2 The site, preparing university program, and intern adhere to NASP Principles of Professional Practice/ Ethics
    • 1.3 The internship site, university program, and intern have a written agreement* that includes a clear statement of the expectations and responsibilities of each party (including total hours and duties to be performed by the intern), benefits and support to be provided by the internship site, and the process by which interns are to be supervised and evaluated.
    • 1.4 If the site solicits direct applications from prospective interns, it provides information about the site and the internship application and selection process. It notifies applicants whether or not they have been selected in a timely manner.
    • 1.5 The site uses a title, such as “school psychology intern,” that designates the training status of the intern. Psychological reports or similar professional reports to consumers, other professionals, or other audiences must be signed by the credentialed intern supervisor.
    • 1.6 In states in which provisional certification or an intern certificate is required for internship, the site makes the training program and intern aware of such requirements and assists the preparing program and intern as necessary in applying for or securing such credential.
  2. Depth, Breadth, and Focus of the Internship
    • 2.1 The internship for specialist level interns includes at least 1,200 hours, and the internship for doctoral interns includes at least 1,500 hours completed on a full-time basis over 1 academic year or on a half-time basis over 2 years.*
    • 2.2 At least 600 hours of the internship occur in a “school setting” as defined in NASP standards.* Nonschool settings that serve children, youth, and families may serve as appropriate internship sites as long as the intern has already completed or has the opportunity to complete at least 600 hours of supervised experience in a school setting,
    • 2.3 The internship site provides opportunities for a range of school psychological services consistent with NASP Domains of School Psychology Training and Practice,* including varying types of assessment linked to intervention for academic, behavioral, and social/ emotional issues; consultation; behavior analysis and intervention; counseling; prevention at varying levels; research and program evaluation; and other activities consistent with NASP standards and deemed appropriate by the field site and university program. In order to ensure breadth of training, activities in no single major function predominates the intern’s time.
    • 2.4 Most of the intern’s time is spent providing direct and indirect psychological services to children, youth, and/or families.
    • 2.5 The internship site endeavors to provide opportunities to work with children and adolescents of varying ages, ethnicities, socioeconomic backgrounds, and with varying abilities and disabilities, characteristics, and needs.
    • 2.6 In assigning duties to the intern, the internship site recognizes and supports the internship as an educational experience. A student-to-intern ratio that is less than NASP guidelines for credentialed, full-time school psychologists (1:1,000) is expected, with the actual assignments based on such factors as the needs of students to be served, the intern’s expertise and prior experience, and the intensity of intern supervision and support.
  3. Supervision, Mentoring, and Collaboration
    • 3.1 Professional field supervision of each intern is provided by a credentialed school psychologist or, in a nonschool setting, by a psychologist credentialed for that setting.* Field supervision may be shared with other appropriately credentialed personnel in the unit, but the credentialed school psychologist or psychologist provides the preponderance of direct supervision and assumes full responsibility for the supervision provided.
    • 3.2 The intern field supervisor has at least 3 years of full-time experience as a credentialed school psychologist or psychologist and is employed as a regular employee or consultant by the district or agency.
    • 3.3 Unless supervisors have been assigned a significant portion of their time to devote to supervising interns, each supervisor is assigned to no more than two interns at any one time.* Intern supervision is taken into account when determining supervisor workload.
    • 3.4 The internship includes an average of at least 2 hours of supervision per full-time week. The preponderance of field supervision is provided on at least a weekly, individual, face-to-face basis, with structured mentoring and evaluation that focus on development of the intern’s competencies * Supervision time may be adjusted proportionately for less than a full-time week or schedule.
    • 3.5 The university program assigns to each intern a faculty supervisor* with training in school psychology who maintains regular communication with the intern and field supervisor. Such communication may occur through faculty supervisor visits to the internship site (if geographically feasible), telephone or conference calls, e-mails, and other means.
    • 3.6 Interns have the opportunity to develop an affiliation with colleagues and the field* through regularly scheduled training activities with (a) other interns at the site, (b) interns at other sites in the immediate area, and/or (c) school psychologists at the site and/or in the immediate area.
    • 3.7 The preparing program provides field supervisors with information and support for supervision as well as documentation needed to verify supervision activities for such purposes as continuing professional development.
  4. Intern Evaluation, Feedback, and Support
    • 4.1 The intern field supervisor provides the intern and university program informal and formal evaluations (with associated criteria or rubrics) of the intern’s performance * at least once each semester and offers suggestions for improvement as necessary.
    • 4.2 The internship site in collaboration with the university program has a process for addressing possible serious concerns regarding an intern’s performance that protects the rights of clients to receive quality services, assures adequate feedback and opportunities for improvement to the intern, and provides due process protection in cases of possible termination of the internship.
    • 4.3 The internship site provides office supplies, materials, travel reimbursement, and other support similar to that provided to school psychologists in the district/agency.* Sites are strongly encouraged to provide interns a stipend that recognizes their graduate level of training and the value of services they provide.
    • 4.4 The internship site affords interns opportunities for continuing professional development comparable to those provided to school psychologists in the district/agency.
    • 4.5 Upon conclusion of the internship, the supervisor verifies both the completion of required internship hours and activities and the quality of intern performance.

References:

National Association of School Psychologists (2000). Standards for training and field placement programs in school psychology. Bethesda, MD: Author.


Joe Prus, PhD, NCSP, is Director of the School Psychology Program at Winthrop University in SC and a member of the NASP Standards Writing Committee.