A referral for academic coaching may be appropriate when a parent judges their child to be under-functioning in the classroom; although, a parent will typically call a psychologist and request therapy. The psychologist will sometimes be quick to erect psychiatric scaffolding around the issue. As many readers know, the “Law of the Hammer” says if you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail; so, psychologists with their therapy skills at the ready, are prepared to respond within a therapeutic model within which change is sought. As a practical matter, the referral source may want to access a mental health insurance benefit that requires a psychiatric diagnosis and care from a licensed mental health professional on their carrier’s panel of approved providers.
Psychotherapy may be appropriate if some un-addressed, or insufficiently addressed, psychological condition causes the student to be compromised in the classroom (e.g., social anxiety disorder, a specific learning disability, or attention deficit disorder). Psychological assessment (perhaps to involve formal testing) is part of the process, as well as establishing therapeutic goals and a strategy for achieving them. If the student has been expelled and is demoralized by the experience, some supportive therapy and development of a plan for rebounding is in order. In extreme cases, the potential for student suicide cannot be ruled out. There are certainly other conditions that point to a need for psychotherapeutic intervention.
As an alternative to psychotherapy, academic coaching may be just the thing if the student with a modest academic background is overly-ambitious in registration for freshman classes. Some students mismanage their time and fail to achieve a measure of balance among hard work, recreation, and relationships. An academic coach or academic mentor can provide help with focus and planning and avoid the baggage associated with a health insurance claims and a psychiatric diagnosis that can follow the child for decades. Such coaching is often available in a college or university setting; although, some students and/or parents prefer private arrangements with increased confidentiality.
In any event, solving a problem is more likely if it is properly conceptualized at the beginning of the remediation process. It is often the case that academic coaching and psychotherapy should both be considered in helping the under-functioning student move toward success.
— Andrew J. Billups