When to Seek Tutoring, Therapy, or Academic Coaching

If your student is struggling, you may wonder what your options are for getting them the help they need. Would they benefit most from academic support, emotional support, or perhaps a holistic combination of both? 


Let’s explore the differences between tutoring, therapy, and academic coaching so that you can determine the right path forward for your student’s unique situation.


How Do Students Ask for Help?

First, it’s helpful to know when to take that initial step toward finding outside support. More often than not, students who need help don’t just come out and say it. Instead, you might see these indirect signs that there is a problem: 

  • Stress and anxiety around academics
  • Unhealthy eating or sleeping habits
  • Falling grades
  • Overwhelm, disengagement, or perfectionism 


Get More Information about Your Student’s Struggles 

Once it becomes clear to you that your student is struggling, the next step is to ask yourself these four questions: 

1. How urgent is the situation? 

Urgency can present itself in different ways—from a student who has a test coming up next week to a student who is in danger of hurting themselves and others. Assessing the sense of urgency will help you know how quickly to act.

2. Does your student need online or in-person support? 

Some students find the safety and convenience of online support comforting, while others find it stressful and distracting.

3. How willing is your student to accept support? 

A student who isn’t ready to receive support may resist any efforts you take to help them. It’s crucial for them to feel like you’re on the same team.

4. What help is available, and what type of help will actually have an impact? 

Tutoring, therapy, and academic coaching are different services available to students. By the time you finish reading this blog post, you’ll have a clearer answer to this question. 


When to Seek Therapy or Tutoring 

Therapy and tutoring are each a bit more straightforward than academic coaching, so we’ll focus on these services first.



We’re of the mind that therapy can be a valuable tool for just about anyone on the planet, but here are some specific reasons you might set your student up with a therapist: 

  • Mental health concerns
  • Risky or harmful behaviors
  • Communications and relationship challenges
  • Stress, anxiety, or overwhelm
  • Emotional instability 
  • Trauma or grief 
  • Confidence issues 



Here are the signs that your student could benefit from subject tutoring:

  • Trouble understanding concepts
  • Difficulty demonstrating mastery on a test or project
  • Struggling to keep pace or manage their workload
  • Lack of confidence in a particular subject area or teacher
  • Desire to preview, explore, or work ahead in a course or subject area 


As you can see, therapy is generally intended to provide emotional support, and tutoring is generally intended to provide academic support. If you were looking at a Venn diagram, academic coaching would make up the middle section where therapy and tutoring overlap.


Academic Coaching: Where Tutoring and Therapy Intersect 

Academic coaching is an incredible service that can bridge the gap between what students experience in their emotional lives and how they show up in the classroom. Here are some reasons students might seek academic coaching services: 

  • Chronically low grades across subjects
  • Lack of motivation
  • Procrastination challenges
  • Lack of consistency 
  • ADHD, executive functions challenges, or other learning difficulties 
  • Difficulty staying on track


Coaching is not just for students who are struggling academically 

We often find that the students who benefit the most from academic coaching are those who look like they’re doing great on paper (e.g., good grades, challenging courses, solid relationships with teachers). In many cases, these students are paying the price in another way that isn’t immediately apparent. They might check some or all of these boxes: 

  • High-performing and constantly stressed
  • Faces challenges due to a learning disability despite otherwise high performance
  • Feels that school is “boring” but doesn’t know how to engage elsewhere
  • Wants to push outside of their comfort zone
  • Can’t connect to the “why” of their hard work


How Do Academic Coaches Help Students?

While many parents are familiar with tutoring and therapy, academic coaching can be a bit of a mystery. What exactly does an academic coach do to help students? If you or your student has ever played a sport, you can think of an academic coach similar to how you think of an athletic coach. 


You don’t hire a basketball coach to play the sport, be on the field, or tell the players exactly how to win the game every step of the way. You hire them to support the players and prepare them with a skillset to get the desired outcome. 


Similarly, academic coaches help students: 

  • Set goals and targets for improvement 
  • Cope with a stressful environment 
  • Keep motivation up 
  • Analyze performance so far and understand what to adapt  
  • Develop and work toward a vision 


Signet’s student-centered approach to academic coaching 

At Signet, we follow the International Coaching Federation guidelines and methodology for academic coaching. Our approach is student-centered, meaning our coaches reserve their own judgment and ideas in favor of prioritizing every student’s unique needs. 


Our goals during each engagement are to: 

  • Help students set their own goals, understand and plan next steps, and adapt to challenges and failures
  • Encourage and foster life skills
  • Dig deeper into conversations and questions
  • Create a safe space for students to learn about themselves 
  • Help students develop the skill of reflection 


We use tools and resources like the Wheel of Life exercise and worksheets for identifying top personal values to support students in understanding who they are and who they want to be. Then, we move forward with a customized plan of action that helps each student achieve their version of success. 


How Academic Coaches Support Therapists and Tutors 

Ultimately, there is not one right path students should take to get support in high school. In fact, the most successful students often work with a therapist, a tutor, and an academic coach, taking away essential learnings from all three services. Academic coaches can support therapists and tutors by: 

  • Connecting and reinforcing goals set in those engagements 
  • Raising questions or concerns to the appropriate party 
  • Creating a cohesive team for the student and family 


Is your student ready to take the next step and begin working with an academic coach? Contact Signet today to schedule a free call!

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