What is a therapeutic educational consultant?

by Elizabeth Hall, of Hall Educational Resources

You’ve all heard of marketing consultants, business strategy consultants and PR consultants, but do you know what a Therapeutic Educational Consultant is? Therapeutic consultants provide advice based on our niche professional expertise in educational and therapeutic consulting. We are a safe and trusted pair of hands for families with struggling and at-risk children and young people. As experts in this professional field, we bring years of experience with therapeutic schools, residential treatment centers, wilderness/outdoor behavior health programs, transitional independent living programs, young adult programs, as well as assessment and stabilization centers. I like to say “we bring a clarity and calm” as we assist our clients in understanding the nuances of finding the right therapeutic and/or academic setting for their adolescent or young adults.

While educational consulting is not a licensed profession, it is important to know (and look for!) therapeutic educational consultants who are:

  • Members of professional associations, such as Therapeutic Consulting Association (TCA).
  • Adhering to Professional Standards and a Code of Ethics.
  • Well educated with advanced graduate degrees and/or pursuing Continuing Education credits.
  • Conducting in-person evaluative program visits.
  • Actively involved in client program placements.
  • Well-versed and knowledgeable regarding neuropsychological and educational testing.
  • Insured with current professional liability insurance; and
  • Free of any current and/or prior legal claims or investigations, including licensing boards.

Given that anyone can “hang a shingle” and say they’re a therapeutic educational consultant, it’s critical to know who you are considering working with. Are they professionals who are principled, affiliated and have established their expertise through the membership requirements of their professional associations?

There are a number of other qualities that characterize “the best of the best” in therapeutic educational consultants. They have a strong attention to detail, as that shows they’re thorough, but they are also big picture thinkers! They’re capable of managing the minute details of their client’s profile and placement, such as a tracking against the treatment plan or changes in medications. Simultaneously, they’ve got their eyes and ears on the grindstone, following changes in program and clinical leadership, opening or closings of programs, new offerings within programs, egregious claims to be aware of, knowledge of state legislation and more! It’s a rare consultant who can be a jack-of-all trades and know everything there is to know, and that is why it’s important that therapeutic educational consultants are resourceful.

It is through professional associations like TCA that therapeutic educational consultants learn from peers, share expertise and insights, and find answers when they may not have the immediate solution. Members of TCA are first and foremost peers to one another. It’s likely another consultant has crossed the same bridge before and can lend a hand to help find a solution. This is just one example of the importance of professional affiliation for therapeutic educational consultants.

What else distinguishes good from great therapeutic educational consultants? I’d argue that strong consultants possess exemplary anticipatory and critical thinking skills. For example, you may be asking for placement help because your child is incredibly dysregulated and oppositional. Great consultants will work to understand what is at play behind the behaviors that you are seeing and experiencing. In addition, great consultants will be anticipating timelines, parameters and hopes for outcomes and structure a treatment plan with you to achieve this.

Last, great therapeutic educational consultants are not afraid to ask (good) questions! This skill set is an imperative that differentiates the “meh” consultants from the “great” consultants. Questions help us ensure we understand, not just what our clients are asking for, but also the issues that they are facing. We ask lots of questions, both of our clients and also the programs and schools we visit. Questions are important in this profession, as they help with clarification and understanding. Asking questions also build trust! Working with a therapeutic educational consultant who you can and will trust is paramount to ensuring positive, productive outcomes for your loved one.

I often find myself telling clients that I don’t have all the answers and I probably never will. In fact, I don’t strive to be perfect. What I do strive for is excellence, as there is a difference between excellence and perfection. And as someone taught me long ago, excellence is not a skill but rather an attitude. This attitude of excellence that we embrace as therapeutic educational consultants is the gradual result of always striving to do better in our professional work.  

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