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Criminal conviction & state licensure -- School Psycholgy

coltsfanhayden

New Member
Jan 25, 2013
1
0
  1. Psychology Student
    Before anybody jumps the gun and starts throwing out their personal advice, I want to preface my question by adding that I am now in recovery from my addiction with 2 years clean and sober with a very strong support group. I don't want/need personal advice, I want/need professional advice, please.

    Sooo, anyway. I live in Virginia, and I'm a third-year psychology undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University. About 2.5 years ago, I got a DUI, a possession charge, and a petty theft charge due to my addiction. I take FULL responsibility for my actions, yet my background does NOT reflect my moral/ethics -- I did what I did because I was in active addiction.

    Anyway, I aspire to become a School Psychologist, and I want to find out how realistic this goal is. Given my background, what are the chances that I will be accepted into a School Psychology program? How realistic is my goal? Do I really have a chance to become a School Psychologist?

    Thank you SO much for the input!
     

    Qwerk

    LCSW, private practice
    7+ Year Member
    Nov 18, 2011
    361
    37
    Manhattan
      Before anybody jumps the gun and starts throwing out their personal advice, I want to preface my question by adding that I am now in recovery from my addiction with 2 years clean and sober with a very strong support group. I don't want/need personal advice, I want/need professional advice, please.

      Sooo, anyway. I live in Virginia, and I'm a third-year psychology undergraduate at Virginia Commonwealth University. About 2.5 years ago, I got a DUI, a possession charge, and a petty theft charge due to my addiction. I take FULL responsibility for my actions, yet my background does NOT reflect my moral/ethics -- I did what I did because I was in active addiction.

      Anyway, I aspire to become a School Psychologist, and I want to find out how realistic this goal is. Given my background, what are the chances that I will be accepted into a School Psychology program? How realistic is my goal? Do I really have a chance to become a School Psychologist?

      Thank you SO much for the input!

      I'm going to assume that, because you're in the master's forum, you're looking to gain admission to a terminal master's program in something like school counseling, mental health counseling, or clinical/school social work, and not a psych Ph.D. program. ("Psychologist" normally refers only to people with doctoral degrees.) I can't speak for other professions, but social work is notoriously forgiving, at least where I live. I have a friend who served over a decade in prison for dealing drugs and is now successfully completing his master's.

      It would be a good idea to use your personal statement to convey how far you've come in your recovery and to frame your past as a plus, not a minus. In other words, try not to look like you're hiding anything. Admissions offices love a coherent narrative, so you might want to talk about how your experience with addiction led/contributed to your career choice, assuming that's true. As long as you're not too TMI and don't imply any current drug difficulties, I don't see why this should bar you from a clinical career.
       

      MBellows

      Full Member
      Aug 23, 2012
      607
      2
      1. Psychology Student
        I'm going to assume that, because you're in the master's forum, you're looking to gain admission to a terminal master's program in something like school counseling, mental health counseling, or clinical/school social work, and not a psych Ph.D. program. ("Psychologist" normally refers only to people with doctoral degrees.)

        LSSP (Licensed Specialist in School Psychology) is a Master's level license. I don't know about other places, but in Texas it seems to be the case that they can call themselves school psychologists.
         
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        Qwerk

        LCSW, private practice
        7+ Year Member
        Nov 18, 2011
        361
        37
        Manhattan
          LSSP (Licensed Specialist in School Psychology) is a Master's level license. I don't know about other places, but in Texas it seems to be the case that they can call themselves school psychologists.

          I think I remember a thread about this a little while back. There seem to be two or three states/Canadian provinces where you can call yourself "psychologist" at the master's level, although most states use terms like "psychological associate." (I'm sure we all wish this crap were more standardized to save everyone the licensing hassle.) Anyway, it looks like school psychology is practiced at the doctoral level in Virginia, the OP's state. There's also a "school counselor" master's-level license.

          Coltsfanhayden, you might want to look at non-school-specific counseling/psych/social work programs, perhaps with a children/families or developmental focus. It's generally easier to get a job in a school with a non-school master's degree than it is to get a job outside a school with a school-specific master's. Your job options are narrower, especially if you decide later that you want to work at an agency or go into private practice.
           

          probablyornot

          New Member
          Mar 5, 2013
          2
          0
          1. Psychology Student
            I think I remember a thread about this a little while back. There seem to be two or three states/Canadian provinces where you can call yourself "psychologist" at the master's level, although most states use terms like "psychological associate." (I'm sure we all wish this crap were more standardized to save everyone the licensing hassle.) Anyway, it looks like school psychology is practiced at the doctoral level in Virginia, the OP's state. There's also a "school counselor" master's-level license.

            Coltsfanhayden, you might want to look at non-school-specific counseling/psych/social work programs, perhaps with a children/families or developmental focus. It's generally easier to get a job in a school with a non-school master's degree than it is to get a job outside a school with a school-specific master's. Your job options are narrower, especially if you decide later that you want to work at an agency or go into private practice.

            Hey, school psychology student here. With regard to the title of "psychologist" for doctoral, specialist, or master's level practitioners, it varies by state. It's actually a hot topic in school psychology. Some argue that only doctoral-level practitioners should be addressed as psychologists. However, master's and specialist level school psychologists perform the same tasks as those with doctorates (within schools)... Again, it varies from state to state and different people have different (and very strong) opinions.

            To respond to the original post, I don't think your history will adversely impact your chances of getting into a graduate program for school psych. I don't recall having to undergo a background check when I applied to graduate school, but that may vary across programs. I agree that your personal statement is a great way to show how much progress you've made.

            As far as working in a public school with your history, that will vary across states. Different state boards of education have different guidelines and restrictions with regard to criminal history. If you're seriously considering a career in school psychology, you should begin researching state guidelines/restrictions for employment and licensure.
             

            AcronymAllergy

            Neuropsychologist
            Volunteer Staff
            10+ Year Member
            Verified Expert
            Silver Member
          • Jan 7, 2010
            8,336
            3,462
            1. Psychologist
              Hey, school psychology student here. With regard to the title of "psychologist" for doctoral, specialist, or master's level practitioners, it varies by state. It's actually a hot topic in school psychology. Some argue that only doctoral-level practitioners should be addressed as psychologists. However, master's and specialist level school psychologists perform the same tasks as those with doctorates (within schools)... Again, it varies from state to state and different people have different (and very strong) opinions.

              To respond to the original post, I don't think your history will adversely impact your chances of getting into a graduate program for school psych. I don't recall having to undergo a background check when I applied to graduate school, but that may vary across programs. I agree that your personal statement is a great way to show how much progress you've made.

              As far as working in a public school with your history, that will vary across states. Different state boards of education have different guidelines and restrictions with regard to criminal history. If you're seriously considering a career in school psychology, you should begin researching state guidelines/restrictions for employment and licensure.

              Agreed--when it gets to the point of licensing, it's going to depend on state law and the will of the review board. The former is likely fairly black-and-white with respect to what types of offenses would automatically disqualify you (although I think they might be limited to things such as violent felonies). With the review/licensing board, honesty is going to be your best policy. I'd be surprised if individuals with histories similar to yours weren't licensed, particularly as by the time you get to that point, you'll have another few years' worth of data to back up your assertion that those behaviors were the exception rather than the rule. I'd imagine it would also help if you had few/no run-ins with the law prior to those offenses, which again would lend credence to their status as outliers.

              For actual admissions, while schools may or may not run background checks, nearly all will likely require that you list any felonies or charges other than "minor traffic offenses" on the application. Again, honesty would be your best policy here. In the end, I'd be surprised if it got you automatically booted from consideration. However, if you don't list the charges and they end up coming out later, that could certainly get your application tossed or, if you're already enrolled, be reason for dismissal. I could also see how that would give pause to licensing boards as well.
               
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