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School Psychology
Program Philosophy

Psychologists respect the dignity and worth of the individual and strive for the preservation and protection of fundamental human rights.  They are committed to increasing knowledge of human behavior and of people's understanding of themselves and others and to the utilization of such knowledge for the promotion of human welfare.  While pursuing these objectives, they make every effort to protect the welfare of those who seek their services and of the research participants that may be the object of study.  They use their skills only for purposes consistent with these values and do not knowingly permit their misuse by others.  While demanding for themselves freedom of inquiry and communication, psychologists accept the responsibility this freedom requires:  competence, objectivity in the application of skills, and concern for the best interests of clients, colleagues, students, research participants, and society (Preamble, Ethical Principles of Psychologists, American Psychological Association, 1981).

The School Psychology Program at the University of South Florida embraces the principles reflected in the statement above, teaching them, modeling them, and passing them on to our graduates to guide their professional practices.  Inherent in this statement are three primary components that comprise the broader philosophy of the School Psychology Program:  (a) commitment to advocacy and respect for individual differences, (b) commitment to empirical knowledge and professional competency, and (c) commitment to self-awareness and ethical practice.

Commitment to Advocacy and Respect for Individual Differences

Commitment to Empirical Knowledge and Professional Competency

Commitment to Self-Awareness and Ethical Practice

Our Commitment to Students

Commitment to Advocacy and Respect for Individual Differences suggests that the School Psychology Program encourages a special sensitivity to the social foundations and the cultural diversities of all people, and a special respect for the uniqueness and human dignity of all individuals.  Within this context, advocacy is emphasized as a conscious philosophy and activity whereby school psychologists help others to know, understand, and attain their legal, educational, moral, and individual rights.  Initially, advocacy may involve students and their parents.  Yet, individual advocacy often involves systemic and community-wide foci and change.  Thus, the School Psychology Program is committed to a comprehensive, system-wide focus and orientation where mental health and educational services are not just school-based, but family and community-based; where mental health and educational services are not just based on students' brief educational careers, but on their lifetimes and the lifetimes of their children that they so critically influence.

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Commitment to Empirical Knowledge and Professional Competency suggests that the School Psychology Program is dedicated (a) to teaching professional practices that have been empirically demonstrated as effective and socially valid, and (b) to the pursuit of new knowledge through sound research practices.  While this entails an ability to understand human and research problems in the ecological environments where they occur, this philosophy suggests that school psychologists are able to determine and predetermine the variables and circumstances that cause certain programs and interventions to succeed or fail, to protect their clients from procedures and practices that make inappropriate or exaggerated claims, and to evaluate all aspects of service delivery to determine that the most effective and efficient approaches are being implemented at all times.  Within this context, the School Psychology Program is committed to training students who are professionally competent in their knowledge of best empirical practices, their ability to implement and evaluate those practices, and their dedication to research and the development of new empirical practices.  This is an ongoing process; thus, the Program also encourages a perspective of professional development and training through continuing education activities after graduation.

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Commitment to Self-Awareness and Ethical Practice suggests that the School Psychology Program encourages and reinforces students' abilities to be aware of the personal and professional skills that influence and ensure sound psychological practice.  The Program, therefore, is committed to evaluating students' knowledge and skill, and their interpersonal skills and interactions.  Evidence of accomplishment in both of these areas is necessary for professional practice and, therefore, for graduation.  Concurrent with one's interpersonal skills is one's commitment and ability to practice in an ethical manner.  The School Psychology Program adheres to the ethical standards and principles of both the American Psychological Association and the National Association of School Psychologists, and adheres to the philosophy that ethical practice is the only acceptable approach to professional training and service delivery.

Just as the Program integrates these philosophical commitments into every facet of training, so too does it practice them amongst its faculty and within the training process.  Briefly, the Program and program faculty are:

1.committed to advocating for all students in the program in any way possible to facilitate quality training, personal and professional growth, and effective services for the clients they will eventually serve;

2.mindful of their responsibility to model respect for students' individual differences and to recognize students' individual strengths, weaknesses, assets, and limitations through individual programming and attention where necessary;

3.committed to training that is based in the empirical literature, to their own research programs that provide students with practical experience and thesis and dissertation opportunities, and to their own professional competency both in the classroom and in the field; and

4.committed to their own personal and professional development and awareness, and to a training process that always exemplifies sound ethical judgment and practice.

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To facilitate this process and exemplify these commitments, the following statement has become a cornerstone to describe the essence of USF's School Psychology Program:

Our Commitment to Students.  The faculty is dedicated to producing highly trained school psychologists through the use of positive techniques.  This positive approach can be seen in the following policies and procedures:  (a) Thorough admission procedures result in the selection of outstanding students.  This facilitates a faculty commitment to do everything possible to guide each student to a high level of professional competence.  This strategy opposes that of accepting large numbers of students with the assumption that some will "flunk out."  (b) The curriculum is well organized and explicit so that students are always aware of program expectations and their progress in relation to these expectations.  (c) The student body is kept small, resulting in greater student-faculty contact than would otherwise be possible.  (d) Skills of practice are developed through a non-threatening apprenticeship network established with local school systems.  This model encourages the student to "assist" several professors and practicing school psychologists throughout her/his training.  The notion here is to provide positive environments, containing rich feedback, in which competent psychological skills develop.  (e) Research guidelines have been established for the purpose of reducing the anxiety and ambiguity so often associated with research efforts.  The goal is to increase the probability that thesis research will be a positive experience while producing quality data with reasonable energy expenditure.

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