Through her research and teaching, Dr. Boccio finds new ways for school psychologists to save lives.
Almost as soon as she started working as a school psychologist, Dana Boccio, Ph.D., began to look for ways to improve her field. Now an assistant professor at the Gordon F. Derner Institute of Advanced Psychological Studies, she continues to study suicide assessment and prevention, vital topics that she feels need to be addressed more in both schools and the workplace.
When she felt unprepared to give suicide risk assessments to troubled youth early on in her career, Dr. Boccio began to do some research. “I found that I was not alone,” she said. “A lot of professionals working in the field were not well trained in suicide risk and what to ask.”
To understand why this was the case, she conducted a series of surveys. Her study revealed that only 63.5 percent of school psychology directors reported that their students were offered training in a standard, structured suicide risk assessment protocol. And a mere 44.4 percent of students interning in school settings were exposed to suicidal clients. The numbers revealed a worrying dearth of training and field experience.
Dr. Boccio and Erin McDonough, her colleague from St. John’s University, have presented their data at conferences to stress the vital importance field placements hold for students looking to be school psychologists. “I hope that my work is impacting positively upon the field of school psychology,” Dr. Boccio said.
In the very near future, practicing school psychologists and other school-based mental health professionals will benefit from Dr. Boccio’s recently developed the Student Suicide Risk Assessment Protocol (SSRAP). Recently accepted for publication by the Journal of Applied School Psychology, the SSRAP is a comprehensive instrument designed to standardize the way professionals evaluate suicide risk.
Dr. Boccio regularly collaborates with Derner students in her work and, with their help, is addressing such topics as suicide risk assessments used in hospitals. Through her efforts and tireless energy, more school psychology students can begin to understand how to impact—and hopefully save—young lives.
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