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How do I become an educational therapist? (2023)

Updated: Oct 23, 2023

For many who know me as a dedicated executive function coach, it might come as a surprise that my journey in the educational realm began in a slightly different arena.

Before I honed in on the transformative power of executive function skills, I was a special education teacher in public schools.

One day, I decided to branch out and join an organization of private educators called the Marin Educators in Private Practice.

It was here I learned about the work of educational therapists and decided to commit to the process of becoming one.

This foundational experience granted me invaluable insights into the intricacies of learning challenges, laying the groundwork for my current passion and expertise.

As we delve into the world of educational therapy, I'll be drawing upon these rich experiences to shed light on its significance and impact.

Are you an educational therapist?

  • Yes

  • No

  • I'm in the process of becoming one

What is educational therapy?

Educational therapy is a personalized intervention process that combines educational and therapeutic approaches to assist individuals with learning differences or challenges.

By assessing and understanding a student's unique learning profile, educational therapists design tailored strategies and techniques to enhance academic skills, foster self-awareness, and promote lifelong learning.

Unlike traditional tutoring, it addresses the underlying cognitive and emotional aspects of learning, ensuring a holistic approach to education.

What are the different levels of educational therapy?

While the specific designations can vary depending on the organization or region, in the context of the Association of Educational Therapists (AET) in the United States, there are typically three main levels:

Associate Educational Therapist (AET):

In the initial stages of an educational therapy career, practitioners typically start as Associate Educational Therapists.

At this level, they've met certain educational and training criteria but might still be gathering hours under expert supervision. This designation allows novices to gain practical experience while under the guidance of seasoned professionals.

Professional Educational Therapist (ET/P):

As practitioners advance, they can achieve the status of a Professional Educational Therapist.

Individuals at this level have logged significant direct client contact hours and have undergone a specified duration of professional supervision. Their training and expertise surpass that of associate members, showcasing a deeper understanding and broader skill set in the field of educational therapy.

Board Certified Educational Therapist (BCET):

The pinnacle of educational therapy within the AET framework is the Board Certified Educational Therapist designation.

BCETs have met the highest professional and ethical standards, boasting an extensive accumulation of direct client contact hours and thorough supervision. Often playing roles in the mentorship of newer educational therapists, BCETs not only represent the zenith of expertise in the field but also are vital in shaping the next generation of professionals.

Are educational therapists licensed like normal therapists?

While the title "educational therapist" denotes a professional who has undergone specific training, education, and supervised practice in the field, it's important to note that the field of educational therapy is not a licensed profession.

This means that, unlike some other professions, there isn't a governmental licensing body overseeing the practice. Organizations like the Association of Educational Therapists (AET) set standards and criteria for becoming an educational therapist, including educational prerequisites, supervised hours, and professional development.

However, due to the lack of licensure, it's crucial for individuals to verify the credentials and training of a practitioner who claims to be an educational therapist. Using the title without the requisite qualifications can be misleading, so diligence is essential when seeking services.

How is educational therapy different than executive function coaching?

Educational therapy and executive function coaching both aim to support individuals in their learning processes, but they differ in focus and approach. While educational therapy delves into personalized interventions combining therapeutic and educational methods to address broader learning differences or challenges, executive function coaching zeroes in on developing specific skills like time management, organization, and task prioritization.

Essentially, while educational therapy might address the underlying cognitive and emotional aspects of learning as a whole, executive function coaching concentrates on sharpening particular skills essential for effective planning, execution, and self-regulation in academic and daily life tasks.

Code of Ethics

Another key difference between Executive Function Coaches and Educational Therapists lies in the area of professional ethics.

Members of the Association of Educational Therapists (AET) are required to adhere to the AET Code of Ethics, which sets specific standards for professional conduct. This requirement adds an additional layer of accountability and quality assurance to their practice.

While both roles aim to improve individual functioning through tailored plans and skill-building, and often work with the family and school team for comprehensive support, adherence to a formal code of ethics is a requirement for Educational Therapists through AET.

How are educational therapy and executive function coaching similar?

Educational therapy and executive function coaching both prioritize a holistic and personalized approach to support individual learning needs.

While they may differ in focus, each method seeks to understand the unique cognitive and emotional aspects of a learner.

Both disciplines craft tailored strategies to enhance skills, foster self-awareness, and promote independence in learning. Their shared goal is to empower individuals to overcome challenges and succeed academically and in daily life tasks.

How can I learn more about becoming an educational therapist?

The NDNU offers an exclusively online Master of Arts in Educational Therapy degree, making it one of only three schools in the U.S. with this distinction.

Designed for educators and those seeking a career pivot, this program equips students with specialized skills in assessment and intervention for individuals with diverse learning challenges.

Notable features of the program include its flexibility, catering to working professionals, opportunities for real-world clinical practice, and an accelerated version for teachers with a SPED credential and 3 years of classroom experience. Scholarships and financing options are available.

The Master of Arts in Educational Therapy is an advanced program tailored to train individuals as Educational Therapy practitioners.

These practitioners combine therapeutic and educational approaches, aiding children, adolescents, and adults with learning challenges. The curriculum delves deep into understanding the diverse learning needs, leveraging strengths to combat areas of weakness. Enrollees often hail from backgrounds like education, child development, and counseling.

The 36-unit program includes foundational courses, core educational therapy courses, and exclusive master's courses. The degree meets the requirements set by the Association of Educational Therapists (AET), requiring two specific prerequisites.

Admittance demands include a Bachelor's degree, a commendable GPA, potential GRE scores, and field experience, among other criteria. On completion, graduates are equipped to serve in various capacities, from private practices to universities.

What is the Association of Educational Therapists (AET)?

The Association of Educational Therapists (AET) is the national professional organization dedicated to the field of educational therapy.

Established to set standards for professional practice, provide professional development opportunities, and promote the field of educational therapy, AET serves as a nexus for practitioners, educators, and allied professionals.

Members of AET are trained to address the complex learning needs of individuals by combining educational and therapeutic approaches, ensuring a holistic method of support. The association also plays a pivotal role in guiding families to find certified educational therapists and in offering resources and training to professionals in the field.

Do I need to become an educational therapist before I can become an executive function coach?

No, you don't need to become an educational therapist before pursuing a career as an executive function coach.

While becoming an educational therapist can offer a comprehensive understanding of various learning challenges, it's not a prerequisite. You can directly start with an executive function coaching program to specialize in that area.

However, if you're interested in a broader understanding of disabilities and instructional approaches, you might consider exploring educational therapy either before or after your coaching training. The choice depends on your personal and professional objectives.

How can I learn more about the executive function certification course?

The program is not available for purchase. It is run throughout the year as a live course and to get updates on when the next enrollment window will be opening, you can subscribe to this email list.


In the realm of educational support, both educational therapy and executive function coaching play pivotal roles.

While they each have distinct approaches, their overarching goal remains the same: to empower learners to overcome challenges and thrive academically.

Whether you choose to delve deep into educational therapy, specialize in executive function coaching, or merge insights from both, remember that your expertise will be a beacon of hope and transformation for countless learners.

Stay Engaged

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.

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