SED Doctoral Student Applies Pedagogical Framework to Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy

Gerald Reid
Doctoral student Gerald Reid

Therapy isn’t just a back-and-forth conversation helped along by a quilted leather chase and a doctor with a notepad, doctoral student Gerald Reid says. “There’s a lot of teaching and learning in Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy (CBT) that happens in a variety of ways. Patients learn about concepts and skills, relate them to their experiences, and then seek to apply what they have learned in order to reach treatment goals and improve functioning. And therapists often have to adapt to individual differences in order to facilitate the learning process.”

In his sixth-year as a Counseling Psychology Doctoral Student, Mr. Reid has broached the ecology of the therapy session from an educational perspective and has applied the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) pedagogical framework to the work of youth Cognitive-Behavioral therapists in a recently published paper.

“UDL was developed by CAST [Center for Applied Special Technology] as a guiding framework for teachers to reach every student, regardless of the many barriers that can get in the way of the learning process,” Mr. Reid said.

The integrated framework, which Mr. Reid said is based on fields such as neuroscience, cognitive science, developmental psychology, and educational psychology, offers a set of principles, guidelines, and strategies to enhance teaching and optimize learning for all students.

“Therapists may already utilize strategies that align with pedagogical practices. However, this is the first paper exploring if and how the UDL framework can be applied to therapy, helping therapists break down the barriers to learning, and implementation of what is learned, in an intentional manner,” he explained.

Mr. Reid, along with a team of interdisciplinary researchers—including SED’s Dr. Amie Grills, Dr. David Langer from BU’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders (CARD), as well as Mr. Reid’s sister, Alexis Reid, from the Boston Child Study Center (BCSC) who has expertise in UDL — authored their paper as a way to illustrate that it can be.

“The idea behind the paper was to demonstrate the pedagogical practices that are relevant to therapy, and we wanted it to be a resource for practicing therapists and therapists in training,” Mr. Reid said. “Thinking about teaching strategies and pedagogy in therapy may actually enable youth to gain more from therapy. It guides therapists to work around certain barriers to learning, such as low levels of engagement, cognitive profiles that make it difficult to access or understand therapeutic content and concepts, and other barriers that interfere with transferring what one has learned in therapy into their daily life. The framework helps therapists to lessen such challenges in order to promote a more positive and productive learning experience.”

Mr. Reid added that his field is seeking new ways to ensure that Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, an evidence-based therapy, can be helpful for all kids.

“Utilizing pedagogical principles may be a creative way to help a wider range of youth in therapy,” he said.

The full paper, authored by Gerald Reid and Amie Grills of Boston University’s School of Education, Nicholas Mian of the University of New Hampshire, Alexis Reid of the Boston Child Study Center, and Rachel Merson and David Langer of Boston University’s Center for Anxiety and Related Disorders, can be accessed here.

Lisa Randall