Psychotherapy or Academic Coaching for Under-functioning in the Classroom
Andrew J. Billups, PsyD
Academic underfunctioning sometimes raises the question of whether a student might be better served by a psychologist or an academic coach. The differences are usually simple and straightforward.
Under-functioning in the classroom can be attributable to psychotherapy issues such as the preoccupation associated with a divorce, bankruptcy, a breakup, foreclosure, or traumatic injury in the family. Stated simply, such bad news compromises a student’s ability to pay attention in the classroom and focus on assigned reading and projects that take place at other times. Psychotherapy can help students come to terms with these impediments so that the important work of being a student can get the attention it requires.
As a practical matter, costs associated with psychotherapy are sometimes reimbursed by medical insurance. Psychotherapy entails a medical diagnosis, which can have consequences for subsequent health insurance premiums.
Coaching, on the other hand, is the more appropriate referral if a student comes to understand that the level of focus and diligence that worked well in high school is inadequate to the requirements of the university setting. There is no psychotherapy or counseling in academic coaching, but the intervention involves collaborative mentoring. The academic coach helps with assessment, plan development, plan implementation, and a feedback loop as the results of the plan implementation become known.
If a coaching client or the academic coachs to suspect that psychotherapy services are required, a referral can be made.
As a practical matter, academic coaching is usually a financial expense for which medical insurance is not applicable.
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