KANSAS ASSOCIATION OF SCHOOL PSYCHOLOGISTS
Empowering Children, Educators, and Families
Click on the link below for updates for your Region
I hope you had a relaxing and enjoyable Christmas break! I hope everyone was able to take some much deserved Self-Care time and utilize some of the strategies shared at the Fall conference. After reflecting on Dr. Jacob’s session on self-care, I have really become more cognizant when I am not taking time for myself and how that impacts those around me. “Professionals’ self-care is associated with improved outcomes for consumers, in our case students.” Practicing self-care year around is best, rather than cramming self-care during school breaks. A recent article in the Communique’ identified that School Psychologists struggle with taking time for themselves, which impacts our Ethical duties of causing “no harm” because slip-ups begin to happen.
As we embark into second semester, it is important to reflect on the goals we set at the beginning of the school year. Mine were to practice self-care and become more organized. A useful strategy I attempted was to test/observe and immediately write up your thoughts, observations, and findings. This was a helpful hint from the Thriving School Psychologist. The last few weeks prior to break were chaos; I was completely cognitively overloaded and stopped some of these better practices. Research shows that when we become stressed or attempt to multi-task, we are 20-30% less efficient as we are trying to jungle too much at one time.
As our profession continues to be a leader in Mental Health in schools, it is important that we model and take care of our own mental health. During the Fall Conference, I had an insight. Conferences and Professional Development opportunities are so important not only because of the education you gain, but they also allow us to step away from the day-to-day activities, the crisis situations, and the excruciating deadlines. When we step away, our minds clear and we become refreshed which allows us to better intervene and offer more effective interventions. I encourage you this year to step away so you can learn and grow more!
KASP is hosting some exciting activities this coming year! Kicking off the year will be Mental Health Lobby Day which will be an opportunity to advocate for our profession and an time to collaborate with related mental health professions across the state. Our Spring Conference will be in May in Emporia and we will finish the year with the Fall Conference in Topeka!
I am psyched to be KASP president this year and look forward to share the amazing things the KASP board does for you!
Jessica Mefford, Ed.S
Work Authorized Committee Update:
The KASP Work Authorized Committee is in the process of revising our forms and process after reflecting on our first candidate this fall. We are working to align our documents with the current school psychologist licensure standards rather than coursework specific to any one university. We have also recommended the addition of a supervision plan to address growth areas to ensure that supervision is sustainable and planned prior to a candidate receiving work authorization. Once those changes are made, we will work through our first candidate again and look at additional candidates as they come up. It has been exciting to move closer to making this process a reality for Kansas school psychologists. For more information or questions, feel free to contact Melissa Sullivan, chair,
We hope you had a restful and relaxing break. During this time when we are all coming back and starting a new year, let's all remember the importance of self-care, balance, and taking time to rejuvenate ourselves and those around us.
1.Regularly engage in an activity that you find relaxing. Put aside a little time every day to do something that you really enjoy, such as going for a walk, gardening, listening to music or reading. Schedule it into your daily routine so that it becomes a natural part of your life.
2.Practice regular relaxation. Try to squeeze in some yoga or meditation before starting your day. It can be helpful to visualize a safe, peaceful space e.g. a comforting room, a beautiful beach or lovely bush setting, and spend 5-10 minutes imagining this in your mind.
3.Maintain your friendships. Connect regularly with friends and family and undertake activities you enjoy together.
4.Don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you are experiencing stress or worry it can help to talk to someone about it. You may like to speak to a friend, family member, your mentor, or a counselor. Ask for help when you need it and accept help when it is offered – realize that you cannot do everything.
5.Get regular exercise. This will help to reduce stress levels and improve your health. Try to find an activity you enjoy. Exercising with others can help you to stay motivated. Aim for at least 20 minutes a day; even a 10 minute walk will benefit you.
6.Eat a nutritious, balanced diet. This can help with energy levels and stress management. Avoid consuming too much caffeine or sugar. It may help you to feel more energized in the short term, but can have negative effects in the long term.
7.Be kind to yourself. A positive and compassionate attitude can help you manage difficult times. Encouraging and rewarding yourself for getting through a difficult period or achieving a goal, however small, will reinforce your self-confidence.
8.Take some quiet time out for yourself, away from your usual demands, even if this is only for 15 minutes a day. For example, going for a walk, having a bath, having a cuppa or reading the newspaper.
9.Plan something to look forward to, a holiday, day trip or an outing with friends.
10.Get good quality sleep. Try to go to bed and get up at the same time each day. Switch off all electronics at least an hour before going to bed so that you can wind down. If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try a relaxation technique or quiet activity until you feel sleepy again.
From the December 2018 Communique
PRESENTERS IN FOCUS
Self-Care Is Best Practice
By Paula Gill Lopez
Volume 47 Issue 4
By Paula Gill Lopez
The importance of self-care remains critical amid increasing demands, stress, and burnout among school psychologists. While most school psychologists likely recognize the value of self-care, many may view such practices as a luxury or selfish activity rather than a necessity for effective service delivery. In this “Presenters in Focus” Q&A, convention presenter Paula Gill Lopez discusses the critical importance of self-care within the context of ethics, burnout literature, and our understanding of the brain, and describes how to begin seeing self-care as a part of one's daily routine (NASP Practice Model Domain 10). She will describe these concepts in more depth during her Documented Session (DS07), Self-Care Is Best Practice, at the 2019 national convention in Atlanta.
Editors’ Note: Self-care is a centerpiece of NASP President Lisa Kelly Vance's president's theme, Unlock Potential. Prevention Is Key. Additional articles by Paula Gill Lopez and other self-care resources may be found on the NASP website (http://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/mental-health/self-care-for-school-psychologists)
In your experience, how effective are school psychologists at practicing self-care?
Not very effective at all. The increasing number of requests I get to provide workshops for school psychologists (and other school professionals) and the subsequent feedback I receive indicate that people are eagerly seeking permission to practice self-care and are desperately in need. Below are some representative quotes of workshop attendees:
Are there any misconceptions about what would constitute self-care?
Viewing self-care as a selfish activity remains the biggest misconception. Approximately one third of all workshop participants reported their biggest takeaway was the notion that self-care is not selfish and that to serve others one must practice self-care. The argument I present in my workshop is designed to persuade participants through ethics and the burnout and neuroscience research that self-care is a nonnegotiable necessity.
What current practices and mindsets conflict with a culture of self-care?
The current mindset is diametrically opposed to the concept of self-care. School professionals are increasingly being asked to do more with less. Because time is limited, responsibilities can feel overwhelming. School psychologists are problem solvers. Subsequently, we are sought out by all members of the school community, including students, teachers, administrators, parents, and other staff members to help solve problems. We have a specialized skill set that uniquely positions us as chief care givers. This reality likely produces more intensive long term relationships with more people than few other school personnel, resulting in heightened emotional labor (Weaver & Allen, 2017). In the school culture, putting others first and constantly self-sacrificing can be seen as the norm and something that should be celebrated. There are so many problems to solve, and when one is a problem solver by nature, it is challenging to make a paradigm shift. But, thanks to neuroplasticity, we are able to learn new neural pathways of self-care by setting an intention and making a commitment to change.
What are some of the common barriers to practicing self-care? Are they more external or internal? Systemic or personal?
I always begin my workshops by asking, “Who thinks they don't have time for self-care?” Inevitably, a majority of the group raises their hands. My retort, “I am here to show you that you do.” The primary barrier to practicing self-care is internal. School psychology is a fast-paced, variable, demanding job. However, as we know from neuroscience, we can train our brains to calm our fight, flight, or freeze reflex, focus more on the positive, and reduce perceptions of busyness. We can decrease our cognitive load by creating antibusyness routines and increasing our sense of awe. The first step to practicing self-care is to recognize that it is essential to a worthwhile quality of life. The second step is to just do it. Easier said than done? There are things we do every day (like showering, eating, driving, emptying the dishwasher) that we can infuse with mindful focused attention to reap self-care benefits. Strengthening the prefrontal cortex through mindfulness meditation (an enduring self-care strategy) combats the default-mode for human brains, that of “mind wandering” (Brewer et al., 2011). It allows us to choose to see the glass as half full versus half empty: same glass, same amount of liquid, different, more positive perception. And even better, after a while, we develop a habit of positivity. Self-care does not have to take any extra time out of the day, if we make smart daily choices.
Though self-care is a deeply personal pursuit, it can be nurtured and cultivated systemically. For example, districts that regularly host presentations or activities on self-care communicate to the staff and faculty that it is a personal initiative supported by the district. Furthermore, when district leaders recognize its importance, practice it, and encourage it, self-care will be more seamlessly incorporated into the systemic culture.
What are the implications for not engaging in self-care?
I identify three possible implications for not engaging in self-care: (a) ethical breaches, (b) burnout, and (c) emotional dysregulation. First, the universal ethical principle that cuts across all disciplines is “do no harm.” Accordingly, NASP requires school psychologists to self-monitor and “seek assistance when their personal problems threaten to compromise their professional effectiveness” (NASP, 2010). However, often people do not recognize that their professional effectiveness is compromised until something happens. It could be a harsh tone of voice while interacting with a colleague, or an omission on a psychological report. At that point, the harm is already done. Ethical practice mandates that we proactively practice self-care to mitigate the likelihood of ethical breaches. Second, there is research that suggests that school psychologists may have the highest burnout rates among all helping professionals (Burden, 1988; Huebner, 1993; Huebner, Gilligan, & Cobb, 2002; Mills & Huebner, 1998; Wise, 1985).
High levels of burnout in schools have been correlated with a number of negative outcomes, including higher absenteeism as a result of physical and mental illness (Schonfeld, 2001) and decreased performance and irascible mood (Huberman, 1993). Maslach (1986) defines burnout as having three components: emotional exhaustion, depersonalization, and a sense of reduced personal accomplishment. Not surprisingly, when I ask in my workshops if anyone has experienced any of these burnout symptoms, the majority indicate they have. It seems a large number of participants in my workshops regularly operate on the brink of burnout. Wityk (2003) maintains, “Self-care is one of the primary methods of preventing and treating therapist burnout” (p. 5). As mentioned, when adults are not practicing self-care (e.g., sleeping enough, eating right, managing their stress productively), there is the potential for burnout. In one study, teachers’ self-reported burnout was positively correlated with variability in students’ physiological stress regulation (Oberle & Schonert-Reichl, 2016). That is, greater teacher perception of burnout was linked to greater student stress levels. A possible explanation for this finding can be found in neuroscience research regarding how the prefrontal cortex develops (Hatfield, Cacioppo, & Rapson, 1993; Montgomery & Schore, 2013). The prefrontal cortex, where self-regulation (among other things) occurs, continues to develop into the mid-twenties. It develops through the unconscious attunement to the emotional state of adults in the environment. A child's parasympathetic nervous system unwittingly gleans information regarding how to behave through the adults in their orbit. If an adult does not engage in adequate self-care and consequently displays dysregulated behavior due to burnout, it is likely that some children with whom the adult works will display similar emotional dysregulation.
Research implications for school psychologists practicing self-care are encouraging. Preliminary analysis of data collected from workshop participants demonstrated that after the workshops, participants reported significantly better psychological, emotional, spiritual, and professional self-care; more positive perceptions of school climate; increased sense of efficacy in student engagement, instructional strategies, and classroom management; greater cognitive appraisal of emotion regulation; better observing mindfulness; and greater ability to combat burnout (Gill Lopez & Sheehan, 2018).
How can school psychologists advocate for opportunities to engage in self-care when the context does not currently support or promote it?
Self-care begins with the individual. There's a simple beautiful irony in the fact that there can be chaos all around, but peace can coexist within. At certain unwieldy times of the semester, I have been known to proclaim, “I am the eye of the storm.” Peace can be contagious. Parasympathetic nervous systems unconsciously attune to the emotional states of others. When people are positive and feel good, it shows, and others are more inclined to give it a try. Individuals can plant seeds of self-care at the grass roots level (pun intended). For the last few years, I've begun all my department meetings with a “moment of self-care,” which takes various forms. The best way to promote self-care is to practice it. Self-care can become contagious.
Brewer, J. A., Worhunsky, P. D., Gray, J. R., Tang, Y. Y., Weber, J., & Kober, H. (2011). Meditation experience is associated with differences in default mode network activity and connectivity. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 108(50) 20254–20259. doi:10.1073/pnas.1112029108
Burden, R. L. (1988). Stress and the school psychologist: A comparison of potential stressors in the professional lives of school psychologists in three continents. School Psychology International, 9(1), 55–59.
Gill Lopez, P., & Sheehan, K. (2018). (Project Self-Care). Unpublished raw data.
Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J. T., & Rapson, R. L. (1993). Emotional contagion. New York, NY: Editions de la Maison des sciences de l'homme.
Huberman, M. (1993). The lives of teachers. London, UK: Cassell.
Huebner, E. S., Gilligan, T. D., & Cobb, H. (2002). Best practices in preventing and managing stress and burnout. In A. Thomas & J. Grimes (Eds.), Best practices in school psychology IV ( pp. 173–182). Bethesda, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.
Huebner, E. S. (1993). Professionals under stress: A review of burnout among the helping professions with implications for school psychologists. Psychology in the Schools, 30(1), 40–49.
Maslach, C. (1986). Stress, burnout, and alcoholism. In R. R. Kilburg, P. E. Nathan, & R. W. Thoreson (Eds.), Professionals in distress: Issues, syndromes and solutions in psychology (pp. 53–76). Washington, DC: American Psychological Association.
Mills, L. B., & Huebner, E. S. (1998). A prospective study of personality characteristics, occupational stressors, and burnout among school psychology practitioners. Journal of School Psychology, 36(1), 103–120.
Montgomery, A., & Schore, A. N. (2013). Neurobiology essentials for clinicians: What every therapist needs to know. New York, NY: Norton.
National Association of School Psychologists. (2010). Principles for professional ethics. Bethesda, MD: Author.
Oberle, E., & Schonert-Reichl, K. A. (2016). Stress contagion in the classroom? The link between classroom teacher burnout and morning cortisol in elementary school students. Social Science and Medicine, 159, 30–37.
Schonfeld, I. S. (2001). Stress in first-year women teachers: The context of social support and coping. Genetic, Social, and General Psychology Monographs, 127, 7547–8756.
Weaver, A. D., & Allen, J. A. (2017). Emotional labor and the work of school psychologists. Contemporary School Psychology, 21(3), 276–286.
Wise, P. S. (1985). School psychologists’ rankings of stressful events. Journal of School Psychology, 23(1), 31–41.
Wityk, T. L. (2003). Burnout and the ethics of self-care for therapists. Alberta Counsellor, 28(1), 4–11.
Paula Gill Lopez, PhD, is the director of the school psychology program and associate professor at Fairfield University, Connecticut
NASP 2019 Annual Convention
(February 26–March 1, 2019, Atlanta, GA)
Register by Wednesday, January 30, 2019, to save $30* with the preconvention registration rate.
Your convention registration fee includes:
Kansas Association of School Psychologists (KASP) is approved by the National Association of School Psychologists to offer continuing education for school psychologists. KASP maintains responsibility for the program.
KASP is a NASP approved provider of CPDs. KASP is approved provider #1030
No person will be denied access to or full participation in any KASP program, event or activity on the basis of sex, race, color, national origin, disability, or age.