E-Therapy: Innovating to Provide an Equitable Future for All Students

Education technology has played a pivotal role worldwide during the pandemic. The endless potential for customized learning has been one of the significant factors in the edtech industry’s ascendance and success. Today’s classrooms have moved beyond the whiteboards and clunky desktops to tablets, gamification, and interactive online courses that feed the students’ curiosity. How children learn, interact with classmates and teachers, and have enthusiasm for various subjects is seldom a one-size-fits-all solution that can be rightly addressed with the correct ed-tech tools. This growing demand for personalized online education was further propelled by the COVID-19 pandemic as schools and colleges were shut down worldwide, leading to significant transformation in the industry.

E-Therapy goes beyond just catering to online classes by helping students across the US and providing for their unique needs beyond barriers. It is a teletherapy company that uses an intelligent platform to provide therapy to students nationwide. It has partnered with numerous schools to better reach out to students. It prioritizes the needs of every school, hearing what they have to say and customizing solutions to fit individual programs.

Talking about how the company began its journey in the industry, Diana Parafiniuk, Founder and Chief Innovation Officer at E-Therapy, says, “The E-Therapy journey started long before the COVID-19 pandemic. Since the company’s inception in January 2009, it was apparent that students with learning challenges, such as those with neurodevelopmental disorders like autism spectrum disorder (ASD), Attention-Deficit / Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), and students who were identified with communication disorders such as expressive/receptive language needs, fine/gross motor needs, and emotional behaviorally challenged needs were under-served”. She continues, “E-Therapy’s mission from the start was to identify, serve, and provide comprehensive therapy services to students who did not have immediate access to onsite therapists in their area”.

To provide for these students and cater to their individual needs, E-Therapy has consistently expanded and currently has over 500 therapists and serves tens of thousands of students nationwide. Looking at the plight of the students and their parents, she adds, “We knew 14 years ago that there was a need for a customized study plan for students with challenges, but access to therapy was limited. But technology was the bridge to help us connect and reach out to these students of all ages with specialized needs to incite positive change that improved learning outcomes”.

When COVID-19 struck, E-Therapy was already positioned to support the most vulnerable students due to its expertise in the industry. Its ed-tech solutions and platform connected therapists and students during the most challenging times and trained therapists to become ‘E-Therapy experts’ to truly connect with the students. Parafiniuk explains, “The eSMART platform was built so that therapists and districts could license it out for their therapists to utilize, schedule, track therapy sessions, and conduct therapy with students while they were isolating at home, to continue therapy. Online webinars were created with on-staff E-Therapy experts who provided step-by-step directions on how to conduct excellent teletherapy sessions regarding ‘what to and what not to do”.

E-Therapy built online therapy resources and even had open houses for anyone in the field to participate, learn, and ask questions on how to deliver therapy online.

Talking about one of the biggest hurdles she has seen in the industry during COVID-19, she says, “It was a challenging task to get therapists up to speed to deliver quality therapy sessions with continuity and assurance due to the chaos and uncertainty of the pandemic. But E-Therapy was up to the challenge. Being the industry expert, the company supported its own therapists and also went beyond and helped therapists working outside E-Therapy”. She continued, “Through the pandemic, our employees fielded inbound requests for support from therapists and school districts nationwide. E-Therapy built online therapy resources and even had open houses for anyone in the field to participate, learn, and ask questions on how to deliver therapy online”.

While therapists faced enormous pressure and new challenges due to COVID-19, the students were also severely impacted by this new arrangement. According to a survey by Gallup conducted during the peak of the pandemic, parents were asked to report their child’s mental health; nearly three in 10 said their child is ‘already experiencing harm’ to their emotional or mental health because of social distancing and closures. To tackle this surge in low mental health, E-Therapy developed a comprehensive mental health solution that included school-wide fundamental education, short-term targeted interventions, and long-term continued counseling to serve the entire school community holistically. It supported students, staff, teachers, and administrators’ mental well-being through its mental health program that addressed all tiers of student support and included targeted staff development and group coaching and wellness sessions for educators. Two of their recently developed programs that support mental health and well-being are eQUIP and eCARE.

eQUIP is a dynamic, self-paced, on-demand professional development training platform designed to provide staff with information, tools, and resources to recognize, respond, and recover from the impacts that mental health challenges may have on students and staff. The user-friendly platform generates an informative mental health framework for teachers, including tools and resources that naturally support what teachers do in classrooms.

eCARE is the second program developed; it is a data-driven, evidenced-based screening assessment model to support students’ immediate mental health needs. 

Both the programs have shown tremendous results, and have helped the entire school community across the US battle low mental health and work towards making them more resilient and headstrong. While COVID-19 disrupted the education system, it also brought the benefits of teletherapy to the forefront. This broader acceptance has made schools more open to teletherapy, with impressive results to show for it.

Over the past 13-plus years, E-Therapy has served over 700,000 students in hundreds of schools nationwide who otherwise wouldn’t have had access to services, especially in rural areas such as Alaska or the Native American Reservations. In these areas, travel is always required to reach students to provide therapy services. But with the advent of E-Therapy’s online solution, therapists can connect with students to provide daily, weekly, or monthly services to those who otherwise saw a therapist once a quarter or even twice a year due to these barriers. In addition, E-Therapy serves students who are placed in alternative school settings due to struggles in the traditional classroom environment.

The company has successfully paired students with specialized needs with therapists who are experts in serving this alternative population. Parafiniuk says, “We diligently track student progress toward their IEP goals and have seen consistent growth and success in meeting these goals with our proprietary platform, STAR, which allows school district administrators, therapists, and students to monitor their progress in real-time”.

She continues, “E-Therapy has partnered with numerous districts and has created specialized frameworks and infrastructure for students, educators, and parents to receive therapy services. By providing the support students need during their developing years, they learn the skills and have the necessary tools to assist them in the complex challenges they will face as adults”.

One of the testimonials received by Roxanne Cleary, a Special Education Specialist from BASIS Phoenix Central, says, “E-Therapy has been so wonderful and immensely helpful to us. Our year at BPC has been such a whirlwind, and the company has been extremely patient and accommodating! It has been such a joy to get things started with E-Therapy and watch the boys get useful services that will greatly benefit them. Your company is genuinely the best”!

E-Therapy has worked unceasingly to improve the lives of its students and hopes to continue in its mission to positively impact the entire school community. In conclusion, Parafiniuk rightly sums up the impact of the education technology industry on the lives of all stakeholders: “We strive to change lives and shape futures in unimaginable ways”.