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Basically it's Education and Psychotherapy at the same time...

“We are Educational Psychotherapists - we do what it says on the tin: Education and Psychotherapy together - at the same time.” I often say something like this, which sounds like a deceptively simplistic definition of Educational Psychotherapy. It is true though - the combination of using educational tasks and theoretical understanding from the world of psychoanalysis is what makes Educational Psychotherapy unique. The method of working that Irene Caspari created out of her noticing links between children who had difficulty learning to read and who also experienced psychological blocks, is the starting point that we have evolved from.

While there will continue to be developments in how we understand human behaviour (our Advanced Diploma course seeks to keep up with modern thinking) a quick scroll through social media will alert you to current debates, for example, around the impact of trauma on childhood. Buzzwords, frequently heard phrases and paradigms morph and change over time, but learning to read, write and have a grasp of number endure as universal basic skills.

Our approach- combining education and psychotherapeutic work- makes sense to teachers and others who work in education, and it is these people who make up the majority of our students. Some of them will have been trained in how to teach children to read, write and maths, but not all.

As part of Module 4 – The Theory and Practice of Observational and Therapeutic Skills -we offer a series of sessions on these subjects and this time around I have been leading these with Years 2 and 3, along with fellow EPT Sophie Jubb. We have tried to do three things in these sessions:

1. Give some broad background information to what is important to know about re children and literacy and maths and point students in the direction of trusted sources of information and resources to develop their own knowledge and skills.

2. Think about reading, writing and maths from a psychoanalytic perspective- considering unconscious processes at play in the therapeutic encounter.

3. Practical opportunities for students to try out games and approaches with each other and share these experiences with the group, all the time thinking about how they imagine these would translate to working with children and young people.

It is a lot to do!

It would not be realistic, reasonable or even desirable for our trainees to become ‘teachers’ of English and Maths to children and young people between the ages of 5 and 18 off the back of this module! Indeed, we often say to trainees that they need to ‘take their teacher hat off’ when in therapy sessions. This said, it can be hard to shake off the feeling that you ‘should be doing something’ that has a concrete product with your clients, especially when beginning clinical placement work. Regular clinical supervision is a vital part of our training, with supervisors holding a multifaceted role encompassing teaching, assessment, support and sharing of expertise. If in doubt, ask your supervisor!

All Educational Psychotherapists, whilst attending the same training course, are different. We all have previous professional experience and expertise to bring that can be made use of and integrated into our new role. We hope that our Advanced Diploma course enables students to find their own way to becoming Educational Psychotherapists who recognise the connections, see the importance of and can hold the balance between education and psychotherapy.

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