What is and isn´t therapeutic

Therapy and therapeutics treatments have always been part of the human equation. It has been with us since the creation of our culture and education, and further more. And
there is a positive element to be taken into account in “the therapeutic” procedures that has been its dynamism in the course of time, its drive power from that the anthropologists calls irrational or rational therapeutic, since this notion about “the therapeutic” has varied in the course of human thought, passing through philosophy, pedagogy or empirical science (like neuroscience), for example. And of course, also in our feel of psychology.

Of course we understand that the innovation and modification of our therapeutic techniques are in a constant evolution, they are verified again and again, while we transmit
and conserve within a theoretical body or conceptual framework a coherence therapeutic techniques to the following generations. This is something essential for the life of any society: Transmit and conserve is a double task in those fundamentals thoughts that as scientists we consider therapeutic. That is, those that are valid or supposedly rational when it comes to cure people from their malady, improving or optimizing their quality of life.
But there is also this other aspect of the healing process of those “therapeutic elements” that, due to cultural and social suggestion, have become a burden, or that in our opinion they are not so valid. Look at for example the case of the inclination of the health system to diagnose as diseases irrelevant problems that most likely will not have any direct impact on mental health: in excess of diagnosis and medicalization. We no longer think so much about prop up new developments but that they are accurate therapeutic developments. However, despite the trends found and contrary to our point of view, we want to maintain a climate of openness and intellectual autonomy. Therefore we want to reflect on what is therapeutic and what is not, because there are colleagues who consider that Pedagogy is also a therapy or that Therapeutic Pedagogy (PT) is therapeutic, because they say that it drills a type of treatment from an intervention method which is curative, relative to some school or scholastic element, exempli gratia, how to pass on the lessons of the overdue children.

Many people may call educational psychology treatments to that of a psychological treatment, not to say if they are therapies based on psychotherapy, very different if they are therapies based on drugs or psychotropic drugs. In the educational phenomenon many stuff things may happened to children that are not just “educational matters” (something I explained in my previous article on ADHD: Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) [1], and if we talk about diagnosis in school-age children, we are already in the field of mental ealth. In this sense, children who are in the classroom very agitated and are impulsive, with difficulties to concentrate, educational psychologist or pedagogues (P.T.) will encourage a change through the behavior of those maladaptive action (although not so harmful), abitually for the duration of the academic year. But what about the influences of behavior by genetic, constitutional or predisposing factors? And what about underlying conflicts, if any?
Perhaps the confusion for many teachers or pedagogues (or educational psychologist) is in the observable behavior itself, because both normal and abnormal behaviors are governed by the same principles of motor, cognitive or physiological learning.
The school and many techniques of regular and daily learning can facilitate the recovery of fright hidden emotional reactions or repressed thoughts by returning the child to the maladaptive loop within the school setting.
Therefore, if pedagogy is “the child’s guide” in its school subject matters we could expand and extend this term of pedagogy towards the philosophy of education, for example, within the contents that it curricular dominates.
Another important science for the unpowered of the educational progression is Psychology. This science when called from the specialty of the Educational Psychologist (which is not psychopedagogical) refers to mental development, character formation and “learning methods”, and is not the area of intervention of Health or the infant and the   child Mental Health. [2]
In this sense, we find it very worthy that Pedagogy has that “broad- minded” to welcome sciences and techniques that advance their science or their scientific discourse.
Without losing sight of the relationships that pedagogy holds with psychology, sociology,
neuroscience, etc. -because that is what the Pedagogy’s own character requires (something I already explained in my previous article on “Pedagogy” [3]- its helps pedagogy a continuing growing and enrichment day in, day out their professional fulfillments.

In summary, I believe that Pedagogy (university training in the first cycle) is not a therapy.

Of course there are medical or psychological disorders that cause important delays in school, delays in their topics or delays in understanding the courses and their field of study, often with an important psychopathological background. But Pedagogy does not seek the remedy for mental or physical pain as medicine, psychology or child psychiatry can do. When a diagnosis is detected in a child at school, the main task would be to make the child’s problem known to a psychologist and not to a pedagogue because it is a mental health issue and not a school theme.
Psychologists spend extensive and exhaustive deontological internal controls on who can diagnose or make diagnoses in mental health, whether it is to evaluate mental illness or to evaluate the aptitudes of a school-age child. In this sense I consider that from the point of view of Child´s Psychology, from its clinical means of intervention and from psycho-therapy, one who is suffering from a malady syndrome does not have to become a patient   of a Pedagogue because he´s not a psychotherapist. We recall a pedagogical value of the basics of Pedagogy in the following sentence: “the freedom, the dignity and the value of man of any educational system”.
It’s not into a great extent plunk the child in action, and thus overcoming their school difficulties, but in the diagnosis we see a conflict to their mental or physical health, and this is something that the child has to solve with our help. Since he cannot do it alone, we have to set some limits, and the child who can observe, investigate, experiment, that  what he studies is part of elementary and formal education, it is not part of the psychic  conflict that almost all diagnoses point to in their conclusions.
The “Childish Ego” in psychopathology, is outside the cognitive reach of the child
comprehension, as for example Jean Piaget theorized for the school-age child in functional education (hark back to: development of sensorimotor skills, intellectual development and abilities of infants, children, and teens, cooperation between individuals, etc.) .
According to the LOGSE (General Organic Law of the Educational System), education at present consists of:
-a Teaching in Early Childhood Education
-a Teaching in Primary Education, which includes teachers in music, physical education and special education.
Teachers of Special Education are teachers whom the Bureau calls schoolteacher or educationalist in Teaching Pedagogy, which are responsible for reinforcing these learning to children or adolescents at school, in addition to training or teaching in general to students with Special Educational Needs. To finish this item we will point out the teachers in Hearing and Language Teaching, and Teaching of Foreign Language.
So far what we have explained about Pedagogue are those facts, we turn to explain another specialty of education, which is Educational Psychology (a second cycle university
education). This discipline studies human behaviors in a learning situation. We understand
that it would be normal behaviors (not psychopathological ones), although they could contain problematic scenarios within learning problems. We would also include tutoring and orientation of the student in their schoolwork and vocation area (also orienting teachers and parents).
An educational psychologist must look at the student from his or her evolutionary understanding, which is: learning, pedagogy, sociology, didactics, cognitive psychology,
epistemology, psycholinguistics, etc. There would be some therapy in the professional functions of an educational psychologist (badly said psychopedagogy) if it would be in the fields of special education and educational therapies that help advance the curricular design that helps children in their teaching and learning process. We had already mentioned Jean Piaget as the author who helped organize the field of educational psychologist.
Of the many fields of action they intervene, not only in the educational field (family, business, fraction and training centers ...) we can verify that its action in orientation is very important. Is this therapeutic? As a guiding action of educational psychologist, the prevention of disruptive behaviors; for example, it would be a preparation to cure, in the metaphorical sense of “healing a greater evil.” Within this orientation, educational psychologist could also help the development of self-schemas, parenting  patterns and guidance in analysis, planning, development and adaptation to educational processes:

• Attention to diversity
• Academic and professional guidance
• Tutorial action

Therefore the functions of the educational psychologist in the area of learning are to
empower and rehabilitate children, identify learning problems (due to immaturity, lack
of motivation to learn, family problems, disabilities or hidden talents). They could also diagnose at school as when you identify a problem of ADHD in a child, seek an appropriated treatment, but in the best circumstances referring to other professionals as
psychologists, psychiatrists or neurologists if so the gravity requires it.
And finally, even being more in the playing field of educational than those of health, the Educational Psychologist (second cycle university education) has a domain in Psychology (first cycle university education). This qualified worker has as its main task the Diagnostic & Psycho-educational Assessment, which together with the psychological counseling to students, parents, teachers, etc. arbitrate a mediating intervention for the educational community and its environment. Also in the best case it can pass on to other professionals if it comes to the case to other specialties of psychology, such as Clinical and Health Psychology, or also medicine. Is this therapeutic? I do not yet consider something like that, but from the professional agenda of this specialty, their job also includes diagnosing the following:

- The detection of dysfunctions in the health field, such as physical, sensory or intellectual disability
- Dyslexia
-The TGD (TEA)

Another evaluation that belongs to educational psychologist, at least on paper, would be  psycho educational, as the detection of problems in:
-the curricular area
-in the school climate
It would be detection, and therefore prevention, and up to here!

A point of conflict that might happen in the school between the functions of a psychologist and a pedagogue would be in the psychological counseling of the students, and though they may be complementary, the educational psychologist would be oriented towards the student in his person dimension, including the intellectual aspects (attention and sympathy, impregnation or encomienda), social (assertiveness and sympathy, attentive or solicitous), emotional (fears and anxieties, anguish or withdrawal) outside the school (within the community intervention). Finally, there is a specific guideline of this professional in the school that is the recommendation to other professionals “of those students with manifest dysfunctions”, that is: mental health issues. In the case that there is not an educational psychologist in the school, it would be the child´s psychologist in external office who coordinates parents, teachers or other professionals to implement the treatment.

Where are Child Psychologists?

If psychologists who practice psychotherapy have the purpose to help people, adults (or
children), in modifying their behaviors, cognitions, emotions (and/or other personal characteristics)…, we have the impression that what was said in the first part of this article overlaps or oppose to this first definition of what psychotherapy implies. On the other hand,   we see a cross-over from what so called treatments when we talk about physical, biological, psycho-pharmacological or etotherapeutic (behavioral) treatments, labor  therapy, day or night hospitalization ... etcetera.
From the psychotherapy standpoint it is understood that any person threatened by emotional and want to seek his well being, for example, has as much right to be helped by psychotherapy as to that of the surgeon at any hospital in town. But we have to clarify something more of the emotional fundamentals, because we partially deal with it in our first part of this article, which are the emotional conflicts of our inner world.  As it is the case many times, people find it difficult to solve their problems on their own, since the quality, the intensity and the nature of their troubles aren’t so accessible to self-clarification. If as we have said, for all those professionals related to our work at school, as teachers,  pedagogues, social workers, philosophers… etc., there are differences between them and us  to be taken into account from our therapeutic method of psychotherapy, because the job  will not be done.
We also agree, bearing in mind the text above, that the therapeutic pedagogy of giving advice and guidance, of teaching and explaining, will be beneficial to aid the trouble one, but does not define a therapeutic process that goes in parallel or is equidistant to the  intra-psychic processes that generate them, which is not the same as saying that these  “problematic processes” are direct consequences of difficulties, social or environmental  pressures, good or bad teachers, etc., cultural mechanisms and repetition mind-numbing. If this point is not clear we can misjudge these consequences, and talk about “the therapeutic” as something that only aims to influence (from the psychology of the interpersonal relationship) in the person, and thus adapt favorably to the demands of the outside world amends.
But we think that these types of therapies are rather substitutes of psychotherapy as we are defining it, which is when a mental conflict appears. The so-called “therapies”, ordinarily speaking, sometimes offer support to the discomfort of the person, or the child,  handling with the firsts anxieties, soreness, but often supporting or buttressing that which is more external than internal basis. Hence reinforcing the division of internal motives that are also involved. This entire modus operandi if it is done in excess, or is the only “remedial” option for school children with learning problems (or adults with depression, for the same matter), we could induce a run off to rationalization, often because mental suffering is not tolerated. Later (in life) this will lead to erroneous attitudes and to deception, to an over adaptation to the demands of the external world, school or professional work team, since adaptation of external reality and mental health do not always go hand in hand.
Those are contradictory demands, simultaneous and not always essentially opposed to the inside out of the mental health equation. In the end, what we are asking a child (or an adult) is also part of their knowledge, which is the knowledge of their impulses, emotions, fantasies or desires through their (psycho)therapy. We cannot expect them to improve their mental performance if, on the contrary, we manipulate or ill-use more and more these “therapeutic measures” to just learn, acquire a profession, realize their family  lives, impoverishing their emotional bond. There is an excess of institutionalized coating, or  high regard on the new technologies, but a little contact towards their person and towards  others.
We will organize good professionals or students for the nearness future, but may be extremely rigid or immovable in their convictions and behavioral patterns, and all this covered by a social, work and family circumstance adapted to the norm.

And finally, in many situations of life (school, work, family ...) we are immersed in an ocean of emotions, and we could not expect to try to dunk ourselves in these waters and remain dry.


[2] Abbagnano, N. A. et Visalberghi. (1988). Historia de la Pedagogía. Fondo de Cultura Económica. Madrid. p. 15.
[3] http://psicologo-davidgascon.blogspot.com.es/2016/03/la-pedagogia.html

David Norberto Gascón Razé. Psicólogo en Madrid
Tel: 636 55 45 62
Email: dnd.gascon@cop.es
Web site:  http://www.psicologaenmadridarganzuela.com


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