How to Become an Educational Therapist

What is an Educational Therapist?

Educational therapy (ET) is an intensive process of teaching that is designed for students with learning disorders. Educational therapists (ETs) combine therapeutic and teaching methods for the evaluation, remediation, case management and advocacy of children and adults who suffer from learning disabilities. ETs design unique and individualized programs for each student according to the student’s needs and abilities. ETs highlight a student’s strengths and use them to compensate for areas of weakness.

Because every student learns and processes information in a unique way and with a varying degree of success, ETs customize their teaching methods to maximize the learning efficiency of each student. The teaching is presented to the student in an organized, structured and sequential manner. ETs work one-on-one with patients, normally in one-hour sessions.

ET is particularly effective for students with Attention Deficit Disorder—those who have difficulty paying attention in class. Because ETs treat only one student during an ET session, the student remains focused and attentive. The results of ET treatments for most other learning disorders are nearly as impressive.

Related: How to Become a Developmental Therapist

Unlike regular teachers and tutors, ETs are trained in identifying and dealing with learning disorders and are capable of designing a combined system of therapeutic techniques and teaching methods uniquely suited to a student’s needs. ETs understand that patients suffer emotional and social complications from the frustrations associated with their learning disorders, and ETs know how to minimize these frustrations. ETs can also work closely with psychiatrists, psychologists, therapists, behaviorists, guidance counselors and other professionals.

What Type of Problems are Treated by Educational Therapists?

Some of the most common problems treated effectively by educational therapists are:

  • Dyslexia
  • Lack of motivation
  • Problems with math
  • Language problems
  • Non-verbal learning disorders
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)
  • Asperger’s Syndrome
  • Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD)
  • Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
  • Performance anxiety
  • Poor social, study or organizational skills
  • Low academic self-esteem
  • Tourette Syndrome

Where Does an Educational Therapist Work?

Many educational therapists go into private practice, but some ETs work for schools, community agencies, hospitals or clinics. Some have their own office, while others share an office with a speech therapist, psychologist or other professional. Some ETs go to the homes or schools of clients for their therapy sessions.

What Does an Educational Therapist Do?

Here are some of the specific duties of educational therapists:

  • Address all aspects of the learning experience, including the academic, social and emotional aspects
  • Talk with people who have significant roles in a client’s life— including friends, family, other professionals and employers—in order to develop productive support strategies.
  • Determine how the underlying learning issues impact other areas of academic, social or family dynamics
  • Foster independence and self-advocacy in students, helping them take control of the learning process
  • Conduct assessments and integrate their results to develop a wide range of applicable strategies for teaching
  • Tailor the curriculum, remediation and teaching methodology to the client’s unique learning needs
  • Perform academic screening
  • Provide support for emotional and social development
  • Use music therapy
  • Provide references to other specialists if it’s determined that a client is best served by a different specialist
  • Coach parents in helping to support the ET treatments

What are the Requirements to Become an Educational Therapist?

Education

Becoming an educational therapist requires taking extensive courses in psychology and education at the undergraduate level. Probably the best option is to get a four-year Bachelor of Arts degree in educational psychology, but that degree program is hard to find. The aim of educational psychology programs is to prepare students to apply research-based knowledge about human development and learning in the teaching profession.

Another good degree option is to major in clinical or counseling education and take a concentrative of electives in special education. Clinical psychology is a good choice because it features the counseling of patients with psychological disorders. If necessary, a major in general psychology will suffice. The aim of bachelor programs in general psychology is to provide a broad overview of the field of psychology.

Yet another good option is to major in special education with a concentration or double major in psychology, though special education majors are also hard to find. The aim of special education degree programs is to prepare educators for teaching students with disabilities in grades 1-12, and to do so with a caring and yet skillful and objective attitude. One drawback with a special education major is that the emphasis is placed upon physical disabilities instead of psychological disorders.

Here are some recommended undergraduate subjects for ET students:

  • Abnormal psychology
  • Developmental psychology
  • Cognition and learning
  • Neurodevelopmental disorders
  • Behavioral neuroscience
  • Behavioral analysis
  • Psychopharmacology
  • Human heredity and development
  • Human psychophysiology
  • History and systems of psychology
  • Child psychopathology
  • Educational psychology
  • Classroom behavior management
  • Teaching students with behavioral disorders

At present, there are only a couple of graduate programs in educational therapy. There are also a few certificate programs in ET at the continuing education extensions of universities; these combine traditional classwork with workshops. All the available programs at present are accredited by the Association of Educational Therapists (AET).

Related: How to Become a Family Therapist

These programs aim to broaden the skill sets of students in assessing, evaluating, remediation, case management, communication and advocacy on behalf of people with learning problems. Students learn to synthesize information from other specialists and parents and to develop and implement the appropriate remedial programs for behavioral and learning challenges. Typical classes at an extension program might include:

  • Understanding Learning Differences
  • Technological Strategies for Special Needs Cases
  • Techniques of Educational Therapy
  • Diagnosis and Remediation of Reading Disabilities
  • Math Instruction for Special Needs Students
  • Adapting Reading Strategies for the Special Needs Child
  • Understanding Adjunct Therapies
  • Managing Behaviors that Are Challenging
  • Assessment in Special Education
  • Woodcock-Johnson Test Administration and Interpretation
  • Tests and Measurements in Special Education
  • Cognitive Development
  • Psychology of Learning
  • Child Development
  • The Exceptional Child
  • Principles of Educational Therapy
  • Behavioral Strategies in Special Education
  • Counseling Techniques in Special Education
  • Working with Parents of Special Education Children

Training Requirements

Typical ET educational programs culminate in a period of internship where students work actual cases under the supervision of a certified educational therapist.

Licensing Requirements

Licensing is not required of ETs. ETs who have a master’s degree in a field related to educational therapy, such as psychology, educational psychology, teaching, special education, counseling and speech/language, can get certified through the Association of Educational Therapists (AET). They must be members in good standing for a year, complete 1000 hours of practice, submit an approved formal case study and complete a written exam on ethical issues in ET.

What Personal Skills are Needed to be an Educational Therapist?

Probably the most important skill for ET practitioners is communication, both verbal and oral. ETs need to be able to communicate effectively with a wide assortment of people. In addition to communicating with their students, who can be of any age, they have to deal with psychologists, educators, parents, health care professionals and agency officials.

They also need to be able to solve problems and to teach that ability to people with learning disorders. They need to be compassionate yet objective in their dealings with students. They need infinite patience and understanding, yet not allow themselves to be become overly emotional or attached.

They need to be able to apply general rules to specific situations and come up with good solutions. They have to learn to read body language and notice details about people that others might miss.

What is the Salary of an Educational Therapist?

According to Simply Hired, the average education therapist salary in 2014 was $39,000.

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