OPT, Inc. is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit working at the mission of making psychoeducation widely available and affordable.
Part of what we do has been called character education. Part has been called psychological skills training. Part has been called social and emotional learning. And parts have been called regular old education!
But the word we've chosen to describe what we do is psychoeducation, and we use it to mean education in the skills that make life better, both psychological and academic. By psychological skills, we mean things like:
the ability to control temper and handle frustrations;
the ability to be focused and to get things accomplished;
the ability to be confident and brave;
the ability to get along with other people well, make friendships, and be kind;
the ability to get enjoyment out of things in life;
and the ability to make wise decisions about a whole variety of situations.
By academic skills we mean things like reading fluency, reading comprehension, and math. And these skills, like the more obviously psychological skills, are also huge contributors to confidence, happiness, positive functioning and mental health.
Luckily, these two interdependent sets of skills, the psychological and the academic, can be taught simultaneously, and by traditional educational methods. This is why we like that word psychoeducation, with its blend of psych and education. By psychoeducation, then, we might mean things like reading stories or books about confidence and courage skills, say, and answering comprehension questions. We might mean setting goals for math performance and tracking progress towards those goals. We might mean doing exercises about handling hypothetical frustrations – generating options, say, for approaching school-related situations or tasks.
We believe that everyone can benefit from this sort of psychoeducation.
But there's another important word that we use to describe what we do, and that's the word tutoring. Our choice of this word is also very deliberate. Most importantly, it's meant to communicate that we are working, most directly, for the version of psychoeducation that is carried out one-on-one, and by someone other than a mental health professional.
The model we advocate, then, is one in which two people, a “tutor” and a “student,” work through psychoeducational curricula together, cooperatively. We have designed our curriculum with such a model in mind; it's made to be usable by nonprofessional, non-expert tutors. We seek to make this curriculum available for those who want to use it. And we offer telephone tutoring to make use of the curriculum even easier.
On Telephone Tutoring
In OPT's telephone tutoring, participating students (aged 5 to 10 or so) are paired with tutors, one-on-one. Tutors are nonprofessionals, often college students or recent graduates. These tutors serve as “psychoeducational facilitators,” providing the social support and structure that make navigating through our psychoeducational curriculum possible – and fun! – for students. Tutors do not provide counseling, psychotherapy, or mental health treatment. They do not assess dangerousness to self or others. They do not provide homework help. They are trained specifically in psychoeducational methods and curriculum delivery, and they perform the very crucial role of bringing our curricular activities to life!
The skills that really make life better are not easy skills to learn. Building them takes time. And this time is another big ingredient of our psychoeducational tutoring model. Our tutors work with their students a lot: almost every day, for thirty minutes a day, and often for a year (or two or three!) at a time. Lots of different things go into making this possible (including the telephone, and a team of highly dedicated tutors!). But the results have been most positive. Tutors' and students' hard work over time pays off!