• mental health;
  • behavioral health;
  • school social work;
  • teacher collaboration

BACKGROUND: While school-based mental health professionals obviously must provide mental health services to students directly, the literature is increasingly identifying an empowerment role for these professionals, whereby they support teachers as primary service providers. The purpose of this study was to identify subtypes of school social workers within the context of collaborative practice, and to identify individual and contextual factors associated with these classifications as well as overall levels of collaboration.

METHODS: Latent class analysis, conducted using data collected as part of the National School Social Work Survey 2008 (N = 1639), was employed to examine underlying subtypes of school social work practitioners in relation to collaborative practices and to examine predictors of collaborative practice.

RESULTS: Four broad categories of school social workers were identified, including (1) noncollaborators, (2) system-level specialists, (3) consultants, and (4) well-balanced collaborators. These classes were associated with the number of schools served, grade level, education, and clinical licensure status; level of administrative responsibility was not associated with class membership.

CONCLUSION: While school social workers varied in collaborative practices, opportunities exist to enhance their role in educating and supporting teachers to serve as primary providers to students with social, mental health, and behavioral needs. The implications for school-based mental health providers, teachers, administrators, policymakers, and researchers are discussed.