What even is Educational Therapy?
Updated: Jul 27, 2018
In addition to traditional subject tutoring and test preparation, one of the core services we offer is Educational Therapy (ET). This almost invariably raises the question posed in the title - the short, facetious and mostly untrue answer is that an Educational Therapist is somebody who spends their time explaining what Educational Therapy is. The longer answer is that an ET is an educator who employs therapeutic ideas and techniques to better reach students, especially students with learning disabilities or other issues inhibiting their growth.
An ET is like a tutor, although our teaching focus is often broader than a single subject, and sometimes bigger than traditional academics - we may focus instead on building more self awareness around behaviors that aren't serving the student well, and help develop better self management to control those behaviors. Many students' academic problems don't actually stem from difficulty with the topic, but difficulty with time management, organization, and other executive function tasks.
In addition, an ET can function as an academic case manager, maintaining communication and coordinating efforts between the teacher, parents, neurologists, and any other professionals involved in a student's life.
We aren't psychotherapists, but since learning involves the mind we use similar tools - we talk about what works and doesn't work, we give "homework" involving creating new cognitive practices, we engage with social and emotional lives, and we help students engage productively with negative self-talk. We aren't trained or qualified to deal with significant psychological disturbance as we aren't medical professionals, but we do similar work in an adjacent field, towards a different if related end.
In some ways, our status as educators puts us in a unique position to be able to promote better self awareness and regulation. Many people, due to social stigma and misperceptions, don't want to see a therapist, but being a tutor (in most senses) allows us to "sneak in" teaching these cognitive skills. We aren't deceiving our students, any more than putting vegetables into a delicious soup deceives the eater.
Anybody can benefit from working with an educator who understands that teaching and learning is a process with its roots in our social and emotional lives. For the average or gifted student without any neurological atypicality or difference, this means the learning can proceed faster and last longer. For the student with learning disabilities or educational anxiety, this means the learning can happen less impeded by these issues.
Educational Therapy is, in this sense, a new field but a very old idea - we learn best in the company of people we feel safe and happy with.