Public educational psychology services in Israel on the internet.

Affiliation

Department of Psychology, Max Stern Jezreel Valley College, 1930600, Emek Jezreel, Israel. [Email]

Abstract

BACKGROUND : The public Educational Psychology Services provide mental health services for children and youth in Israel, alongside the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Social Affairs and Services. The Psychological and Counseling Services Division of the Ministry of Education (known as SHEFI - Sherut Psychology Yeutzi), funds and supervises local Educational Psychology Services which are aimed at supporting child development and enhancing the emotional welfare of children and their families. The demand for the services of educational psychologists is increasing. Yet this demand is not being met due to the insufficient number of job slots allocated, the geographical distances in outlying peripheral areas, the already high loads in the psychologists' daily routine, and other such problems. A wide range of effective psychological services can be offered via the internet. The internet therefore has the potential to serve as a useful and efficient missing link between the high demands for educational psychology services on the one hand and the ability and desire among educational psychologists to meet those needs on the other. Moreover, even if the services were fully staffed, the resources would still be insufficient to provide personal (face-to-face) treatment for all, so that internet-based access to services would still need to be developed. Those services provide unique advantages such as overcoming distance and enabling higher availability of mental health professionals. The objectives of the current study were to describe the prevalence of public educational psychology services available online in Israel, with specific focus on the Arab minority and the peripheral regions, and to highlight the benefits of expanding those services.
METHODS : During 2016, we conducted a survey comprising all 252 Public Educational Psychology Service units in Israel (n = 170 in the Jewish sector, and n = 82 in the Arab sector). The method used to search for online sites was in line with the actions taken by an average end-user searching for information on the internet.
RESULTS : The survey found that 125 of the units in the Jewish sector (73.5% of those units) and all 82 units in the Arab sector had no online site at all, constituting 82.2% of all the units in Israel. Of the 45 Jewish websites located by the survey, 42 (93.3% of the sites) were not user friendly (not interactive), and only three offered the possibility of interacting with psychologists (6.7% of the sites). Nevertheless, all the sites (n = 45) offered a high degree of quality and variety that exceeded basic information.
CONCLUSIONS : We believe that the presence of educational psychologists on the internet is essential in order to meet the challenges presented by the growing needs of students, parents and teachers in the current digital era. The survey revealed that the public educational psychology system in Israel has not yet bridged the technological gap. Special attention should be directed to the peripheral regions and to the Arab sector, where the technological services can make a significant contribution. The local public services' attempts to create and operate websites (45 Jewish websites according to the survey), are indicative of the determination to offer psychological support to the community at large, and of the ambition to overcome availability and accessibility problems. The concept of internet services might be useful not only for the SHEFI, but also for the array of mental health services for children and youth in Israel. Thus, we recommend that a policy should be formulated regarding internet-based mental health services for children and youth in Israel, and we call for a collaboration between the various ministries in implementing this process.

Keywords

Children and youth,Internet site,Mental health,Public Educational Psychology services,