The Clinical Practice of Educational Therapy
Educational therapy is a burgeoning and transformational profession that bridges the fields of education and psychology. This trans-disciplinary practice considers the treatment alliance between therapist and client as being paramount. Only 30 plus years young, the Association of Educational Therapists (AET), the national professional association, sets the standards for training and practice.
How is the work of an educational therapist different from that of a Private SAT tutor? Often parents and professionals ask this question. A brief explanation of this significant issue follows this paragraph. For a more complete explanation, see the text edited by Ficksman & Adelizzi, cited below.
Tutors usually work with children who need help with homework and specific academic skills, whereas educational therapists search for the source of the disconnect in learning which often has a social/emotional component that impacts self-esteem. The main goal of a tutor is higher test scores, while the psycho-educational goals of an educational therapist might include:
1. An augmentation of self-esteem by creating opportunities for success and the recognition of one’s unique islands of competency (Brooks & Goldstein, 2004);
2. A self-awareness of resiliency and an elevated level of coping skill when recovering from a disappointment or self-perceived failure;
3. A decrease in anxiety related to academic and social demands;
4. A self-awareness and strengthening of executive functioning skills;
5. An increase of self-advocacy skills;
6. An expansion of autonomy in meeting academic and social demands.
(Ficksman, M., & Adelizzi, J.U. (2010). The Clinical Practice of Educational Therapy: A Teaching Model. New York: Routledge.)
Educational therapists are skilled in contextual analysis, assessment, remediation/intervention, collaboration, and case management in working with clients who have learning and memory difficulties including dyslexia, AD/HD, nonverbal learning disabilities, Tourette, and Asperger Syndrome. Serving as a resource for parents, educational therapists provide consultation to parents regarding enhanced home routines, socialization, prioritized interventions, referrals, as well as appropriate school placement. Additionally, educational therapists are trained to work with adults, in postsecondary settings and in the workplace, who may experience difficulty with academic tasks, executive functioning, social interactions, and compromised self-esteem. ETs work closely with families, school personnel, and allied professionals to enhance the psycho-educational process of the treatment alliance.
In my first sentence above, I described this profession as transformational. This holds true for the educational therapist as well as the clients. Every day, we as educational therapists learn and improve our own self-concepts. The joy and love we give our clients comes back to us in spades. We are truly blessed.
Last week, one of those wonderful moments occurred when I received a note from a former parent informing me that my former student graduated magna cum laude from a prestigious university! We began our work together when he was in the first grade, just after he had a stroke and underwent life-saving surgery. It took most of his elementary years to regain his self-esteem and motivation in order to reach his potential. While his journey was not that of a student with learning disabilities, his struggles required similar approaches, interventions, and supports.
To further clarify the dynamic of educational therapy utilizing fascinating case studies by a diverse group of accomplished educational therapists, I again refer you to The Clinical Practice of Educational Therapy: A Teaching Model.
Maxine Ficksman, MA, BCET, FAET