I recently got this question from a parent seeking to find the right support for her 17-year-old daughter:
I know little about the difference between an educational therapist and a coach… my detailed oriented teen requested an ADHD coach…. Are they similar?
As a former public school special education teacher, turned Educational Therapist (or ET for short), and turned Executive Function Coach (EF Coach), I feel confident explaining the differences and similarities in these professions.
How are EF Coaches and Educational Therapists different?
While both Executive Function Coaches and Educational Therapists aim to improve individual functioning through one-on-one, client-centered approaches, they differ significantly in focus, setting, and qualifications.
Executive Function Coaches concentrate on improving executive skills such as time management and task prioritization and often cater to a broad age range, including adults.
Educational Therapists, on the other hand, focus on academic skills and learning difficulties.
Training and Certification
Educational Therapists generally attend a certification program at an educational institution to become a certified Educational Therapist and are required to maintain professional development hours through organizations like the Association of Educational Therapists (AET).
EF coaches target executive skills like time management and task prioritization, often catering to a broad age range including adults, and may not have gone through the certification process to be an Educational Therapist (I have done both).
There is no specific training program for EF coaches, which is why I actually created the Executive Function Coaching Academy, to provide a comprehensive and clear pathway for teachers and ET's who want to become EF coaches.
Executive Function Coaches primarily target executive skills like time management and task prioritization, catering mostly to individuals impacted by ADHD, Dyslexia, and Dyscalculia—conditions that significantly affect executive function skills.
Educational Therapists, on the other hand, have a broader focus that encompasses all learning disabilities.
How are EF Coaches and Educational Therapists similar?
Both Executive Function Coaches and Educational Therapists aim to improve individual functioning through skill-building and tailored action plans, focusing particularly on empowering clients in school, work, or personal life.
These professionals usually work one-on-one and adopt client-centered approaches, highlighting the significant overlap between the two roles.
Additionally, both roles often extend their support beyond the individual client, engaging with the family and school team to ensure successful student outcomes.
Despite these similarities, EF coaches and ET's tend to differ in focus, setting, and qualifications; Executive Function Coaches tend to concentrate on skills like time management and task prioritization, serving individuals most affected by ADHD, Dyslexia, and Dyscalculia.
Educational Therapists have a broader academic focus and generally cater to individuals with a wide range of learning disabilities.
If you're looking to help your child overcome academic or organizational challenges but are unsure whether an Executive Function Coach or an Educational Therapist is the right fit, don't hesitate to reach out.
A tailored approach can make all the difference in your child's success, both in and out of the classroom.
Contact us today to discuss your specific needs and explore the best course of action for your child's unique situation. Your child's future is worth it—let's take the first step together.
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About the author
Sean G. McCormick is the founder of Executive Function Specialists, an online coaching business that guides middle, high school, and college students in overcoming procrastination, disorganization and anxiety by teaching time management, prioritization and communication skills so they feel motivated, prepared, and empowered.
He also founded the Executive Function Coaching Academy which trains special education teachers, school psychologists and other professionals to support students with ADHD and executive function challenges.