In New York, and other cities in the USA, there is a rising trend of a new niche in the US$100 billion tutoring industry. This new niche is the homework therapists – an amalgam between a traditional tutor and straight-up therapist. Homework therapists administer academic help and emotional support as needed.
Homework therapists often have day jobs as clinicians at hospitals, family counselling centres or their own private practices. In the evenings, they work with overwhelmed students to create study guides, organise schoolwork and creating study timetables. In addition, homework therapists also help children address the psychological issues holding them back, using common counselling techniques like motivational interviewing and exposure therapy, a strategy sometimes used with victims of post-traumatic stress disorder.
This shifting focus on students’ emotional health is part of a larger movement in education. Today, most educators are trained in social-emotional development, in recognition of the importance of maintaining a healthy mental wellbeing for academic success.
Professor Holly Schiffrin, from the University of Mary Washington in Virginia, does research on adolescent development and depression. She thinks that a homework therapist who helps a struggling student with study skills and their emotional as well as mental wellbeing makes sense. However, she cautions that there should still be “a plan in place for them to become fully functioning, independent adults.”
Reading about this new trend in the USA, makes me wonder if this is a sign of today’s highly globalised times. Homework therapists or therapists in general, are almost unheard of in our own student days. Given the increasing demand of homework therapists to help students cope, is telling of the higher anxiety levels they face today. Ultimately, what these homework therapists do is to help students manage their own learning, and guide them to discover ways of learning effectively, thus helping to reduce anxiety. Hence, I believe that learning effectively is a skill that all students should learn so that they can better manage their own learning and anxiety.
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