The project-based service model is a new and innovative way to practice school psychology that is responsive to the changing needs of psychologists, students, and schools. In this model, school psychology support is delivered to students and families on an as-needed and site-specific basis. What this means is that support like psychoeducational evaluations, behavior assessments, educational consultation, and special education counseling services are available to school districts on an individual, case-specific basis.
From the perspective of school psychologists, this emergent model provides new opportunities and freedom that is not available in the way school psychology is traditionally practiced. School psychologist jobs in California and elsewhere practicing this way enjoy a more flexible and autonomous working experience, one that also results in more satisfied parents and districts alike.
Our team at Psyched Services, based in Northern California, uses a project-based approach, and we are enthusiastic proponents of its ability to boost outcomes and transform work in special education programs.
Project-based models are growing in popularity
Most school psychologists are habituated to working in schools, being hired as a full-time employee to deliver all services as assigned by the district. They may also work for a staffing agency and be placed at the job site (in a setup essentially the same as working for the district).
This traditional way of working may be the norm, but districts are increasingly attracted to the project-based model when they only need support with a limited number of cases or specific student services. This newer approach fills in the gaps and narrows in on project-specific needs, while not wasting resources in areas that are already well-resourced within districts.
Specific benefits for school psychologists
Professionals in the field, whether they are established school psychologists or participating in school psychology internships, typically encounter these benefits:
- Remote-friendliness: A lot of project-based work can be done entirely from a distance and in the work-space of your choosing
- Psychologists are never alone: Under the project-based model, you are always consulting with other psychologists. You work together to talk through unique case circumstances, determine eligibility, work through recommendations for each evaluation. With Psyched Services, specifically, psychologists are also backed by support staff who can help with data gathering, such as rating scales, interview forms, and interacting with schools and teachers for scheduling and information gathering.
- A considerable degree of autonomy: As a school psychologist, you are the expert on your unique cases and how to go about data gathering for the best results. When you work in a project-based model, you decide on the optimal assessment measures to use, and the evaluation and report-writing schedule that will work best for you. Almost anything goes.
- A great amount of variety in work: There is a considerable diversity of experience in the project-based model. You’re always doing something new, whether it’s working with a new district or a new population in each project – ensuring nothing is ever boring.
In 2022, Psyched Services spoke with a number of school psychologists to hear the benefits from their perspective, much as we did in gathering feedback from those at the director level.
On the collaborative approach:
- I like being able to collaborate and bounce thoughts and ideas off of others. When making recommendations to parents and districts, I like being able to say "we recommend" rather than "I recommend." Collaborating helps me be more confident in my recommendations. It also helps to write reports collaboratively, it definitely cuts down on writing time.
- I am responsible for my own schedule. I am given cases and tons of support, and it's up to me to get everything I need to do a great job for each student.
- I have SUPPORT (emphasis theirs)
- I like the private agency and the project-based model, because we are focusing a lot of staff and focus on each case to make sure that we’re creating the best product
- Families are appreciative of the hard and thorough work we do. I had a good response from families with our counseling arm, as well
- You don't have to spend as much time writing reports, which is great. However, you need to be flexible and have strong organizational and communication skills
Career note: If you want to know more about what it’s like to either work or intern with us, downloading our Culture Code is a great place to start! And from performance-based pay incentives to remote work and travel, we have plenty more to say!