AUSTIN (Nexstar) — Texas needs more mental health practitioners — especially in more rural areas like Uvalde.
According to the Texas State Board of Examiners of Psychologists (TSBEP), about 170 counties have one or no psychologists. TSBEP is the licensing agency for mental health practitioners.
At the State Capitol Thursday, TSBEP held a special meeting to look at whether changing some state rules could help — updating rules are within the agency’s purview.
One idea is to allow school psychologists to work independently with children. Current rules limit them to helping kids in schools. According to the board’s chair, there are nearly 4,000 school psychologists who could be providing more mental health help off school grounds.
Another idea would create a pathway for other licensed psychologists to practice in schools, which isn’t currently allowed.
The board also weighed whether to ease some post-doc training requirements for school therapists —though this isn’t something they support. Members feel the current requirements help with the quality of psychologists.
Some public comments emphasized the need for maintaining rigor in the process to becoming a licensed school therapist. Many expressed concerns about wanting to maintain the quality of those in the profession, even in the midst of looking for creative solutions to have school therapists throughout the state.
A former school psychologist at the meeting said there needs to be more awareness.
“Many times there will be a licensed specialist in school psychology at a school, but nobody really knows what they do, even the people in authority at the school,” Dr. Elaine Turner, former school psychologist said. “There’s sort of a lack of education in what we do. It’s important because all mental health starts in childhood. And children spend most of their days at school.”
The formal title for a school therapist is “licensed specialists in school psychology.” The board said it might reconsider officially changing the title to “School Therapist,” so more people better understand what the position is.
The chair of TSBEP, John Bielamowicz, said public comment in Thursday’s meeting was thoughtful and helpful in coming up with collaborative solutions.
He said legislative action will also be necessary to help with the crisis. The board will meet again in late summer.