Monday, February 6, 2012

"I'm sorry, Just What is an Independent Educational Consultant?"

It is a scene which has played out countless times for me over the years. I have the opportunity to exchange business cards with someone; after chatting for a bit they look at my card, and I watch their brow furrow more and more quizically as they read over my information. Eventualy the inevitable question comes: ”Just what is an Educational Consultant?”

While some of my colleagues may get frustrated by this question, I feel that for those of us in a relatively young (and rapidly growing) profession, we need to accept it. A case in point; last week on a tour of some adult rehab facilities, I ended up spending time describing the job of an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC).

I started, as I always do with my professional membership in IECA. I explained that being a member of IECA meant I had the highest professional standards, the broadest network of professionals and the support of a national organization. I went on to say that IECA is a large organization (900+ members) yet it is really organization about people and relationships. I also spoke of program visits, education centers, and advanced training. While they were appropriately impressed, I could tell that I was losing focus of what (in my opinion) an IEC really is. So I decided that I needed to tell them a story; a story I have told many times in the last 3 years, but it’s one which I feel epitomizes client/consultant teamwork.

Below is a letter written by one of my client’s parents, I wish I could tell you that I told their story this eloquently, but I can’t; what I can tell you that I don’t tout myself this much in my version of the story. Honestly, you can take my name out and insert any IEC...we all do the same thing...Also, while I’m in confession mode, I think I butchered the story a bit, but I think they got the drift…

So here is John’s* story, as told by Mom…

We knew in our hearts months before we came face to face with our 14-year-old son's activities, that we were entering into unchartered parental waters when it came to dealing with his unacceptable behavior. There was confusion and total terror not knowing what had happened to our wonderful, charming, smart, funny, pleasant son…and why.

Grounding him and serious monitoring of his every waking hour left us feeling exhausted from sleepless nights and emotionally sick from our never-ending suspicions. However, even these measures proved inadequate, because as although we were good, involved, and loving parents, we didn’t know what was happening. We were on a quest to find the right answer, but helpless and lost. Our dilemma was compounded by the fact that few of our social peers shared our zero tolerance toward drug and underage drinking policies. Close friends wanted to help, but didn't understand what it's like once your child begins to act out, and the "fear factor" of your child's survival enters your home.

At a critical moment, with police having just left our home, our son barricaded in his room, and our anniversary evening plans canceled, we received a life line from a friend of a friend. This man shared with absolute honesty his experience with his son and how an educational consultant, Bar Clarke, had helped him find his first glimmer of light in the tunnel of fear and darkness. He suggested we call Bar and went on to say that Bar saw his family through his son's therapeutic wilderness time and placement in a residential aftercare program. At the time of his call to us, his son was back at home attending college and was on a good life track.

This Good Samaritan was our introduction to educational consultants and we feel lucky that we did not have to interview ECs and flounder through this process. We had enough to worry about with our son, without the added stress of depending on an unknown EC.

Our son was on the young side and the thought of sending him away was heart wrenching and overwhelming. Bar was patient, informative, and never once pressured us to take action that we were not ready for. We were totally honest with Bar, our son's school administrators, and with ourselves. Our goal was to get help for our son, keep him safe, maintain our own sanity, and hopefully get him through 9th grade. Bar understood and supported our goal. He "hung in there with us" through many, many challenging moments and frantic phone calls. Six months after our first conversation with Bar, and a week after our son finished 9th grade, our son entered a wilderness program that Bar helped us find. Bar was an integral part of our family's very positive experience with our son's 11 week wilderness time.

Bar's familiarity with wilderness programs, working therapists, and therapeutic residential programs has been a tremendous component in our son's recovery and return to us from the dark side.

Working with Bar on an individually tailored process, we learned that your EC must tune in to you and your child, and interpret what each of you needs to be successful. The EC must understand the uniqueness of each child and family dynamics, and work within these parameters in an attempt to help the entire family. Not an easy task.

Bar's reputation with RTCs afforded our son the opportunity to attend a unique high school program that might not have otherwise accepted him. It was the right school for our son, and we never would have found it without Bar’s expertise.

Our son is our miracle child - he's flourishing, and his wonderful sense of self, humor, and desire to succeed is back. I am not sure we would be where we are today without Bar’s role in this process.