The Pros and Cons of Being a Remote School Psychologist
A school psychologist is a vital member of a school community, however, not every school has a school psychologist. As students continue to navigate anxiety, depression, and other mental disorders that can negatively impact their well-being, academic progress, and future livelihood, school psychologists are more necessary than ever. The good news? Schools are determined to hire them!
Remote school psychologist jobs offer a potential panacea for the national school psychologist shortage and even virtually, psychologists can fulfill the same obligations as their in-person counterparts. As with all professions, there are pros and cons, and we’re sharing both below to help you decide which school psychologist setting is ideal for you.
What Is A School Psychologist?
School psychologists use evidence-based practices to provide developmentally appropriate interventions for students of all demographics. Such interventions may be in response to a learning, environmental, or behavioral issue observed by a stakeholder in a youth’s success.
School psychologists spend their days collaborating with teachers to integrate social-emotional learning into the curriculum, meeting with students to discuss their goals and progress, or presenting important information at professional development events.
School psychologists make assessments, often in regard to a learning environment, and launch programs designed to enhance the overall well-being of the school community. They additionally perform crisis intervention (i.e., providing support for students and staff in the aftermath of a school shooting).
A remote school psychologist often accomplishes these same tasks more efficiently. Also known as telehealth psychologists, these essential school staff members may work with one or several schools.
Why Are School Psychologists Important?
School psychologists are essential to a thriving school community. In addition to their extensive knowledge of child and adolescent development, they have a deep background in cognitive and behavioral issues, commonly presenting problems in the educational community and up-to-date laws and regulations which guide how schools should work with students and families in need of assistance.
Telehealth enables a caring professional to act as a psychologist for students in various schools and age groups. Some school psychologists may specialize in working with elementary school students, while others are more skilled in facilitating secondary school students. Remote school psychologists have the opportunity to work with all of the above!
In many cases, a student does not feel comfortable sharing sensitive information with a parent, friend, or trusted adult because they fear judgment, retaliation, or punishment. A school psychologist will treat them with dignity, listen actively to what they share, and encourage them on their journey to make empowered choices for themselves.
How Does Teletherapy Work?
Remote school psychologists use a secure wireless connection to interact with a student, family member, or school staff person (or all of the above). Teletherapy creates more access to mental health services, especially for students learning from home, parents who work during the school day, schools that don’t have an in-person psychologist, and teachers with competing schedules.
Generally, remote school psychologists will designate a quiet, private space in their home or office to meet with the person on the other side of the screen. They can use a laptop, computer, phone, tablet, or even a television hooked up to a device. However, when you partner with VocoVision – we provide you with all the technology you would need as a school psychologist to work from home.
Just like any conversation with an in-person school psychologist, remote school psychologists are bound to HIPAA laws, which protect the confidentiality of sensitive information shared between a student and a school psychologist. That being said, school psychologists are mandatory reporters. Usually, within the first meeting, a remote school psychologist will tell a youth that they are required by law to report any instance of child abuse or neglect (whether real or suspected).
Remote school psychologists typically meet with a student on a set schedule to discuss progress, and these interactions occur during the school day. They may use cognitive behavioral therapy, hypnotherapy, or other forms of treatment to help a child overcome their obstacles. The remote aspect enables them to incorporate music, share pertinent visuals, or administer an evaluation in real-time.
Many students may find remote school psychologists more approachable. Whether living with anxiety, depression, PTSD, or other mental disorders, youth may feel more at ease talking to someone who isn’t physically in the room with them.
The Pros Of Being A Remote School Psychologist
In addition to what we’ve already mentioned, teletherapy provides additional benefits for students, remote school psychologists, school staff, and family members. Counseling youth from a distance not only increases accessibility – it is also a more convenient, cost-effective, and private form of therapy.
Teletherapy enables more qualified candidates to have access to available school psychologist jobs, and more students in need of assistance have access to those highly-skilled psychologists.
Regardless if a student lives in a bustling city or rural area, a solid wireless connection can unite two parties for an important cause. Online students, in particular, stand to gain from teletherapy. They are accustomed to interacting with teachers online and may therefore feel more relaxed in discussing sensitive information with someone they are just meeting.
Working as an online school psychologist can be financially favorable for all parties involved in a student’s progress.
For family members, meeting with a remote psychologist means they don’t need to spend money on gas or lose money from leaving work early. Working with a remote school psychologist is free, as long as the student attends a public school served by that psychologist.
Skilled remote school psychologists can reduce expenditures on maintaining an office or driving to the school(s) they serve. Additionally, their online status enables them to reach more students.
Feeling safe and knowing what one shares will remain private is a critical factor in a successful client-counselor relationship. The thought of another student or teacher walking into an in-person school psychologist’s office can cause a student to feel anxious about confiding in someone. In a room of their own, they may feel more agency.
Some may worry about a person attempting to “break in” to a video conference, which could severely rupture the trust between a student and a remote school psychologist. Telehealth workers can take precautions like creating login passwords enabling waiting room features and restricting video access to specific users.
The Cons Of Being A Remote School Psychologist
The pros of becoming a remote school psychologist certainly outnumber the cons, all of which can be addressed with the proper interventions. Online psychologists sometimes experience difficulty reading cues, building connections, and managing distractions.
Difficulty Reading Cues
Did you know that most of our communication is nonverbal? Learning to communicate through a screen can be an adjustment for some who are used to relying on facial expressions, hand gestures, and palpable energy coming from a person right next to you.
Initially, students may not feel ready to show their faces on the screen. Therapists know that the ability to build a connection is so dependent on being able to look into a person’s eyes, read their emotions, and offer empathy.
It’s always best to make a student feel comfortable at the beginning of a new relationship. Counselors should continue to show their faces on their screens and refrain from pushing a student to turn their screens on if they aren’t yet ready. They can always explain to the student that seeing them (and hearing them, with sufficient volume) allows them to better understand what the student is going through and offer support.
Even with full visual capabilities, it is possible that either party may have challenges reading cues. In these cases, it is always permissible to ask for clarification.
Lack Of Connection
One of the most common challenges that remote school psychologists experience is a lack of connection – both figuratively and literally! In addition to spotty wireless connections, communicating online can hamper an emotional connection between two people.
What is it about being in the same room as someone that makes it easier for some to build a connection? Perhaps it is that palpable energy we referred to earlier, the type that we can sense just by being next to someone, that helps us feel more bonded to that person.
There are several ways to address this issue, and therapists can start by remembering the flexible nature of their careers. Just because someone works remotely does not mean that they cannot meet with their clients in person from time to time. For those struggling to build trust and camaraderie, it may help to schedule the initial sessions in person or to schedule an in-person check-in on a monthly basis.
If meeting in person is not feasible, consider the root of the weak connection. Are you asking the right questions? Are you showing the same vulnerability you’re asking your students to show? Of course, it’s never appropriate for a counselor to focus on their own lives, but sharing some common ground can help build trust between two unacquainted parties.
Nothing can diminish trust and derail a sensitive conversation like a distraction. Unfortunately, online psychologists and their student clients may have to deal with more glaring distractions than they might in an in-person environment.
The temptation to click on other tabs is ever-present. If the student is at home, the privacy of their own room may not eliminate noise from other rooms, their siblings, pets, or outside surroundings.
At VocoVision, recommends using noise-canceling headphones to reduce any auditory distractions. If you notice that a student’s attention constantly diverts to other items in the room (like a video game console or television), it might be time to consider a different room. Collaborate with the student’s parents to identify the best place for a student to connect sans distractions.
School psychologist jobs are plentiful, which means that schools are more likely to be open to the idea of investing in teletherapy. Remote school psychologist jobs truly present a winning scenario for all parties involved: schools can better serve more students and families, students can access counseling services on their own terms, and therapists can build flexible careers that enable them to maintain the lifestyle they seek.
Research shows that many school psychologists leave the profession due to administrative conflicts, inherent within an in-person environment. By having autonomy over one’s client list and schedule, remote school psychologists may feel more enthusiastic about remaining in the school psychology profession and pursuing various professional development goals.
Remotely speaking, we believe happy, fulfilled school psychologists provide the best natural incentive for others to join the profession!