When I was a Senco in an inner-city junior school I remember realising that some of the children I was working with were not learning or open to working for reasons completely unrelated to their lack of intelligence or speech and language difficulties. A father came into school drunk one day and caused chaos in the classroom. A mother regularly screamed at her son as he ran away from her at home time, evoking further screaming and running away.
These children need a different sort of help I thought. By chance I heard of educational psychotherapy (called educational therapy at the time) and this set me on a path of training with the ‘Forum for the Advancement of Educational Therapy’, now called Caspari Foundation, which has been the foundation of my work and thinking ever since.
The training involved a weekly baby observation for a year, a nursery child observation for another year, together with theoretical lectures on attachment, psychodynamic thinking, family, and school systems and dynamics, and weekly supervised educational psychotherapy with children for the second half of the course. A clinically supervised weekly work discussion was a particularly important and helpful part of the training. In small trusted groups we took turns to share detailed observations of children who puzzled or frustrated us. We then thought together about possible meanings and causes of such difficulties and how we might more helpfully work with them.
I have found this thinking invaluable in my work ever since. The ‘Forum for the Advancement of Educational Therapy’ is now called the Caspari Foundation after its originator Irene Caspari, who had a similar realisation in her work at the Tavistock Clinic in the 1960’sClick link below for Caspari foundation website (caspari.org.uk)