9 Essential Books for the School Psychologist

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9 Essential Books for School Psychologists

As a school psychologist serving children as young as pre-school on up through high school, you probably have many occasions to turn to your bookshelf for wisdom. To help update your library and hopefully reinforce some of what you’re already doing, we’ve assembled a list of great books for the school psychologist written with your biggest challenges in mind.

To discover our top nine must-read books for the school psychologist, keep reading!


We Cuss a Little: The Life and Times of a School Psychologist

By Kevin Creager

All books for the school psychologist have stories of struggle and triumph, tears and laughter, and the witnessing of brokenness and striving for wholeness. After all, getting to the bottom of the issues students encounter requires deep learning about students’ home life, experiences, and interpretations of those experiences – and this author has plenty to share. For instance, when one family was asked “What language is spoken in the home?” the family’s reply was, “We cuss a little.”

With anecdotes, observations and insights, Creager cleverly draws on more than 30 years of work as a school psychologist so that others in school psychology jobs can relate – and acquire a deeper understanding of behind-the-scenes experiences of the students they serve.


Forgiveness Therapy: An Empirical Guide for Resolving Anger and Restoring Hope

By Robert Enright and Richard Fitzgibbons

Two pioneering doctors and over 13 years of research (and results) on the topic of forgiveness therapy congeal in this must-have textbook. Chapters include information on what forgiveness is, while addressing common misconceptions – and will equip those in school psychology jobs with a tested-and-true method to help troubled students resolve conscious and unconscious anger. With this important guide, school psychologists and other school-based therapists will be equipped to make a massive impact on children and adolescents who currently experience anxiety, depression or addiction.

Enright and Fitzgibbons have more than 35 years of experience using forgiveness therapy in clinical settings and collaborate on the International Forgiveness Institute (which, à propos, worked with inner city Milwaukee schools, with over 70% of teachers witnessing improved academic achievement after forgiveness education).  The authors provide more than mere information – they offer guidance within a practical, well-researched model that is sure to help school psychologists put forgiveness therapy to work, and watch students gain inner peace, hope and joy – leading, of course, to academic excellence.


The Optimistic Child: A Proven Program to Safeguard Children Against Depression and Build Lifelong Resilience

By Martin Seligman

Martin Seligman, author of the bestseller Learned Optimism, wrote The Optimistic Child to provide parents and educators a clinically proven program that halves the risk of childhood depression. School psychologists are sure to be enriched by Seligman’s perspective as he delves into the necessity of optimism, as well as the culturally poisonous “self-esteem movement” and the resulting “epidemic of depression.”

Part Four of the book can equip school psychologists with new insights on how to be proverbial change agents with students’ explanatory styles. Seligman addresses “automatic pessimism,” catastrophic thinking, and how to help others combat overall (yet temporary!) bents towards pessimism with tools like the Adversity-Beliefs-Consequences (ABC) thinking model, and guidance on helping children navigate the three dimensions of explanatory style (permanence, pervasiveness and personalization). Don’t miss this insightful (and practical) guide.


Character Strengths and Virtues: A Handbook and Classification

By Christopher Peterson and Martin Seligman

Helping students intentionally cultivate virtue is a critical part of every school psychologist’s job. Patience is the virtue that overcomes the vice of rash anger; integrity is the virtue that overcomes putting on a front (a.k.a. hypocrisy); humility overcomes the vice of pride and its spurs, including entitlement, narcissism and rebellion. This guide is a gem because Peterson and Seligman classify and explain strengths and virtues in a way that can make it easy for those in school psychologist jobs to identify what each student on the caseload needs to work on.

Knowledge of the plethora of virtues is the condition for the possibility of students engaging in the process of developing these positive habits that become (as they are consistently practiced) part of the student. School psychologists, pick up this guide and you can help transform students’ behavior and academic performance!


You Can’t Make Me (But I Can Be Persuaded)

By Cynthia Tobias

Strong-willed children and adolescents often are exasperating act in challenging ways – inside and outside of the classroom. Author Cynthia Tobias is certainly “in the know” enough to offer her expertise as a self-described strong-willed “child.” Tobias notes that strong will is a positive trait, but defiance and stubbornness occurs when strong will bends the wrong way.

Although this book was written with a parent audience in mind, school psychologists will be able to glean valuable insights about students who exhibit resistant or defiant behavior. This book can help those in school psychology jobs iron out wrinkles in the strong wills of students on their caseload – and thus promote striving towards personal and academic excellence.


Adolescence 15th Edition

By John Santrock

Dubbed the gold standard in adolescent school psychology, this book is a must have for anyone working with high schoolers and middle schoolers. Referencing it will give you great insight into how students work with technical explanations of teen and tween brain function. Go for the most up-to-date edition if possible to be sure you’re reading the latest research and anecdotes that will help guide students under your care.


How Children Succeed

By Paul Tough

Though it’s not a standard educational text, here’s one of our favorite books for the school psychologist for your professional library that can offer great ideas when you really need them. How Children Succeed is a great resource for when you’re trying to figure out how to help students and possibly uncover why they’re failing. This book has been described as engaging and makes for a powerful addition to your school psychologist tool kit. It’s also a great nighttime read when you’re relaxed and in need of some inspiration after a long day.


The School Psychologist’s Survival Guide

By Rebecca Branstetter

Whether you keep it at home or on hand at the office, this book offers details incidents you’re likely to encounter as a school psychologist along with real-world guidance on how to handle them. It includes proven strategies for any professional who travels to multiple school sites, deals with students with severe disabilities, meets with concerned parents and manages school crises. There are also reproducible forms, letters, and checklists for when you’re too busy to recreate the wheel.


Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them

By Ross W. Greene

From a renowned authority on education and parenting, this book is specifically written to help parents and teachers work together helping behaviorally challenged students. It delves into why kids who are often labeled as “disrespectful” or “out of control” do not respond to conventional interventions and what should be done to inspire change. Dr. Greene’s Collaborative & Proactive Solutions (CPS) approach focuses on the true factors contributing to challenging classroom behaviors, empowering educators to address these factors and create helping relationships with their most at-risk kids. Written with a powerful sense of hope, this book offers strategies and information that can positively impact the classroom experience of every child with behavior challenges (and their classmates).


Which books for the school psychologist do you find yourself referring to again and again in your work?  Have you read any of these books for the school psychologist? Share your favorites and feedback in the comments below!

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