What Is an Educational Therapist?

Educational therapy is a great way to promote executive function strategy use for students with or without learning differences. However, what exactly is an educational therapist? People often confuse educational therapists with tutors and special education teachers. While there are some similarities, it’s important to understand the differences.

Differences Between Tutoring and Educational Therapy

The biggest difference between tutoring and educational therapy is that tutors focuses on what to learn while educational therapists focuses on how to learn.

A tutor usually helps the student with one subject or multiple subjects. Tutoring focuses on subject matter, and the goal is to improve the student’s grades.

An educational therapist takes a more holistic approach, with the goals of both improving a student’s academic performance and helping the student reach psycho-educational and social-emotional goals. With these goals in mind, an educational therapist evaluates the student’s strengths and weaknesses, helps the student understand these strengths and weaknesses, develops certain learning and social-emotional strategies, and teaches the student how to advocate for himself/herself. Educational therapists also communicate with parents, teachers, and tutors, working together to help a student reach his or her goals.

To support students across academic, psycho-educational, and social-emotional goals, educational therapists have extensive training in learning disabilities as well as understanding of the psychology of learning disorders, assessment, and intervention strategies that address the social and emotional aspects that impact learning.

Differences Between Special Education Teachers and Educational Therapists

In terms of skills and training, educational therapists have many similarities with special education teachers. Both educational therapists and special education teachers have training in education, psychology, learning differences, and how to work with students who have learning challenges.

Most differences lie in practice setting, referrals, and session structure.

  • Special education teachers work in public schools, while educational therapists may work in a school, a learning center, or have their own private practice.
  • In a public school system, special education teachers are brought in when a student has been diagnosed and meets the state or school district requirement to receive special education. To work with an educational therapist, a student does not need a psycho-educational testing report. Instead, an educational therapist might begin working with a student because the parents notice the student is not doing well in school; later the educational therapist sees the necessity to have the student tested and refers the student to psycho-educational testing.
  • Special education teachers may work with a group of students, with the frequency of sessions restricted by such factors as school schedule and demand at school. An educational therapist works one-on-one with a student, with the student’s needs driving the session frequency.


For more information about how educational therapy can help, take a look at this post or check out the AET (Association of Educational Therapists) website.

  • Kaini Gu, SMARTS Intern