ISPIC is based on the practitioner-scientist model of training. As practitioner-scientists, interns are able to distinguish fact from opinion in the application of psychological principles to human behavior and to use existing theory and techniques to develop innovative practice in the field of school psychology.
While all interns in the program are assumed to be well-grounded in research methodology, it is not expected that all interns will have as their primary career goal the production of new research. The success of the model does not depend on the majority of interns engaging in the dual role of productive researcher and active clinician. Rather, the integrated training of science and practice leads to an unique focus on psychology as a mental health profession and further aids both the researcher and practitioner in the performance of their respective functions. It aids practitioners in obtaining a body of knowledge that can help them work effectively in a variety of applied settings, and it aids researchers in having an applied perspective to their empirical activity.
Consistent with the mission of ISPIC, the overarching theoretical orientation represented across sites is the developmental-ecological model. This developmental-ecological perspective in understanding human growth, development, learning and maladaptive behaviors is integrated into service delivery and seminar trainings. Services are nested within systems including the society (macrosystem), family, school as an organization (exosystem), classroom, family, and individual student. The sources of problems and potential solutions lies within the various systems impacting the child and family. Interns are taught to understand behavior, assess, and intervene at the various levels. A developmental perspective is provided as the roles of these systems changes as children mature. Graduates may not work in all systems, but they develop a respect and appreciation of those who work in each of these systems.
Through sequential and cumulative training experiences, interns are encouraged to become systematic, collaborative problem-solvers who can participate and facilitate the problem-solving of others in a variety of settings. The systematic approach to problem -solving includes moving through a sequence of problem solving steps. Although the specific labels for the stages may differ, they typically include problem identification, problem analysis, plan implementation, and plan evaluation.
The program fosters the development of scientist-practitioners who are collaborative problem-solvers functioning from a developmental ecological perspective. Through planned, closely-supervised experiences and didactic seminars, interns are educated to use information/data from a variety of sources to develop interventions for one or more of the various systems in which the intern works (e.g., for the school or family or individual child). Data are collected from a variety of sources and take a variety of forms. For example, interns are taught that psychological tests represent only one source of data. Others include review of existing records/information, observation, and interview.
Training as a scientist and practitioner requires that interns be engaged in integrated clinical and research experiences. Seminars and case presentations provide a practitioner-scientist orientation and opportunities for students to integrate their clinical and research experiences. In each site, the practitioner-scientist model is emphasized and reflected in the experiences made available. In the process of demonstrating and supervising intern activities, supervisors actively integrate research and clinical work. The ISPIC training experience teaches interns that separate and independent roles do not exist for practitioners in the schools, consumers of research, and research innovators.
As collaborative problems-solvers, interns are prepared to use the scientific method to generate new information, skills, and other techniques that add to the existing knowledge base of school psychology and that ultimately enhances the functioning of individual school-age children, youth and their families. The doctoral-level school psychologist functions as a practitioner when the scientific method is applied to the existing knowledge base relevant to educational and mental health problems. However, the varying emphasis on one role or the other (researcher vs. practitioner) is legitimate and will depend on the particular career goals of the intern.Throughout the internship experience, the importance of knowledge of and experience with a wide range of individual differences, including ethnicity, gender, age, culture, religion, race, SES, and lifestyle is emphasized. Also stressed throughout the program is the importance of legal and ethical issues that guide service delivery and research. The most fundamental tenet of ISPIC is that students acquire the knowledge and skills to be leaders, innovators, and positive change agents in the service of children and families.