Program Vision, Philosophy, Aims and Competencies

Program Vision

Psychologists are committed to increasing scientific and professional knowledge of behavior and people's understanding of themselves and others and to the use of such knowledge to improve the condition of individuals, organizations, and society. Psychologists respect and protect civil and human rights and the central importance of freedom of inquiry and expression in research, teaching, and publication. They strive to help the public in developing informed judgments and choices concerning human behavior. In doing so, they perform many roles, such as researcher, educator, diagnostician, therapist, supervisor, consultant, administrator, social interventionist, and expert witness. (Preamble, Ethical Principles of Psychologists, American Psychological Association, 2003).

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. These principles are reflected in the Vision of the School Psychology Program that follows: 

Our graduates will play integral roles in advancing social justice through creating and sustaining educational and related systems in which children, youth, and their families have equitable access to the academic, behavioral, social-emotional, and physical health services that promote lifelong success and well-being.

Our vision for Program graduates drives the training and support we provide to students. Although we train future school psychologists to provide a wide array of health service psychology services across educational and related systems, we believe that these services are based on fundamental knowledge and skills that ALL school psychologists must possess. Thus, the mission of USF's School Psychology Program is to provide training that produces scientists and practitioners who:

  • View the academic, behavioral, social-emotional, and physical problems experienced by children and youth from an ecological lens.
  • Are leaders in developing and promoting evidence-based services within a multi-tiered system of support framework.
  • Use a data-based problem-solving process to inform service delivery and to facilitate structural changes that benefit children and youth.
  • Identify, confront, and combat structures that oppress students from marginalized groups.

Program Philosophy

Inherent in the Program's vision, mission and aims is a philosophy based on: (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 and Diversity

This 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, behavioral, and educational services are not just school-based, but family and community-based; where mental health, behavioral, and educational services are not just based on students' brief educational careers, but on their lifetimes and the lifetimes of their children and systems that they so critically influence.

Commitment to the Integration of Empirical Knowledge and Practice in which practice is evidence-based and evidence is practice-informed

This suggests that the School Psychology Program is dedicated (a) to teaching professional practices that are evidence-based 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 systems, 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 evidence-based best practices, their ability to inform evidence from practice, 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 continuous education and training through life-long learning activities after graduation.

Commitment to Self-Awareness and Ethical Practice

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 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.

Program Aims

The aims and mission of the School Psychology program are to provide training that produces scientists and practitioners who:

  • View the academic, behavioral, social-emotional, and physical problems facing children and youth from an ecological lens
  • Are leaders in developing and promoting evidence-based services within a health service psychology (HSP) framework
  • Use a data-based problem-solving process to inform service delivery within a Multi-Tiered System of Supports


The Program is committed to training students, using professional association standards (APA/NASP), who graduate having attained competencies in the following areas:

  • Data-Based Decision-Making and Accountability
  • Consultation and Collaboration
  • Intervention and Instructional Supports to Develop Academic Skills
  • Interventions and Mental Health Services to Develop Social and Life Skills
  • School-Wide Practice to Promote Learning
  • Preventative and Responsive Services
  • Family-School Collaboration Services
  • Student Diversity in Development and Learning
  • Research and Program Evaluation
  • Legal, Ethical, and Professional Practice
  • Supervision
  • Communication and Interpersonal Skills
  • Professional Values and Attitudes