April 18, 2008
08-079

Jennifer Tanner
Communications Specialist

Hilgert Contracts for Psychology Services in Brooks County

VALDOSTA - Dr. Larry D. Hilgert, an associate professor in the Psychology and Counseling Department at Valdosta State University, has contracted with Brooks County to provide temporary psychological services to students and families in the Brooks County School System.

School psychologists typically provide services to special education students, according to Hilgert, who also said the country is experiencing a shortage in this field of expertise due to retirement and typical attrition without replacement. Brooks County’s own specialist recently retired, leaving the school system in need. Because of the county’s close proximity to Lowndes County and VSU, the professor decided to offer his expertise.

“When it is a neighboring county, you want to do something about the problem,” Hilgert said. “Since my students and I are trained in the area, why not to provide some supervision for them?”

Hilgert and the students in VSU’s School Psychology Program recently began filling the need in Brooks County, working to find the best solution for each student and using different strategies to address student needs and to improve school and district-wide support systems. These students already hold a master’s degree in psychology and are completing work on a specialist degree, which includes 27 semester hours of graduate course work, a full year internship and 500 hours of practicum.

“Currently, VSU offers the only nationally approved Ed.S. program in Georgia, making our students eligible for national certification,” Hilgert said, in regards to the quality of work our students will be able to provide Brooks County Schools.

The contract is a perfect fit for both VSU students and the Brooks County School System, though it is only a temporary solution. Hilgert said the system plans to eventually retain its own psychologist, which may be an option for one of the VSU students, but until then everyone benefits.

“Our advanced students are given an opportunity to further develop skills under close supervision in anticipation of their internship the following year,” Hilgert said. “They will also touch the lives of the students they will serve in public education.”

This consultantship is managed through the VSU Center for Applied Research as well as the Office of Grants and Contracts. The counseling services are free of charge for any public school system member, who is in need. Counseling is typically provided at the respective Brooks county school, although severe cases or cases when a student may potentially cause harm to himself/herself or someone else are treated at the local hospitals. Brooks County does employ school counselors for daily counseling services; VSU specialist students will assist through consultation with school counselors and teachers at Brooks County.

Although this is the only contract between a school system and VSU’s Department of Psychology and Counseling, Hilgert said he hopes it will establish a foundation for future experiences and further development valuable practica experiences for VSU students.

For more information about the psychological services, please call Dr. Hilgert at (229) 333-5616 or e-mail lhilgert@valdosta.edu. Visit www.valdosta.edu/coe/psychology for more information about VSU’s Department of Psychology and Counseling.