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Monday, December 15, 2008

Parallels between tutoring and therapy

In the 303 class, the one about tutoring writing at BSU, We discussed an Essay earlier in the semester called "Freud in the Writing Center: The Psychoanalytics of tutoring well" by Christina Murphy. She suggested a comparison between the tutoring process and the psychoanalytic process (page 96 in our St. Martin's Sourcebook text). Although the two practices address different subjects and contexts, both include a degree of vulnerability for the client. In our case, the client is a student writer who seeks help with the writing process. We can assume that many of these writers are not feeling particularly confident in their writing ability, so sharing their experiences with writing can be uncomfortable. There are certain qualities that a receptive writing tutor displays to ease some of the discomfort and gain the trust necessary to adress the writer's needs (97). Murphy connects this to the relationship between a therapist and a client, which also benefits from a sense of trust (96). As writing tutors, we're not giving psychological therapy in the way that a counseler or psychiatrist does, but the consultation process sometimes requires us to use empathy and be sensitive to the possible fear of being negatively evaluated (98).

Think about what it can be like for someone sharing writing (especially for the first time), which is often very personal. It does include a degree of vulnerability for the student writer coming in for the consultation. I think as writing tutors, we are involved with writing and around writing on a regular basis, so it may be easy to forget how intimidating the experience of a tutoring session can be for a student who feels very uncomfortable with writing and self-conscious about his or her work. This has been a topic I have been looking at in my pedagogy paper (philosophy of tutoring) lately as well, so I was wondering about anyone else's thoughts on the subject.

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