Therapy services can occur in two different environments – either at a private clinic or within a school and classroom setting. Like a Venn diagram, some of the determination of needs, goals, focus and intensity will overlap; but there are aspects that are unique to each. Understanding the nuances between these environments is important as parents and caregivers progress through evaluations, develop treatment plans, gauge progress, and adjust services as children age and priorities change.

Clinic-Based Therapy

Clinic-based therapy is often also referred to as medical therapy. This is because therapists perform evaluations and treatments based on a medical diagnosis. Services occur in a clinical setting, which is traditionally an office or outpatient environment specifically designed for providing OT/PT/ST and ABA treatments.  

Goals and treatment plans are organized to address the whole child – incorporating all aspects of their home life, community, and daily living activities. They are designed and led by therapists working in cooperation with the doctor; and can be intensive, 3-4 times per week, for 30-60 minutes. Sessions are typically done in a one-on-one setting, but parents and siblings can be actively involved in order to benefit the entire family dynamic.

School-based Therapy

On the other hand, school-based therapy may be referenced as education therapy. The design and focus of this therapy is solely on academic performance. Services occur in the school, usually in a classroom. Goals revolve exclusively around education and improving a child’s ability to learn. 

Establishing school-based therapy begins with an evaluation and qualification for an Individualized Education Plan (IEP), where it is documented that school performance is being negatively impacted and services are required to overcome this detriment. Treatment plans and accommodations are developed through a team consisting of the parents, teacher, special education teachers, therapists and even administrators in the school.

Together, the focus is to adapt the learning environment and incorporate modifications that improve the child’s ability to learn, retain information, and function effectively in a school setting. With school-based therapy, sessions are typically done in groups and integrated as much into the natural classroom peer environment as possible.

Not Either Or

Both types of therapy services are important. Children may begin one way or another, transition back and forth, or even have sessions scheduled simultaneously in both a clinic and the school. What is key is for parents to understand the goals for treatments in each environment, to look for progress, and be open to utilizing a different setting and tactics if it’s deemed worthwhile in maximizing a child’s overall growth and development.


For any additional questions on Clinic-Based or School-Based therapy services, please reach out to the The Speech Pathology Group & Rehab Services. Our offices are designed to provide clinic-based, outpatient medical therapy services. However, we also partner directly with many schools and bring therapists into the educational model by working closely together with teachers to provide school-based services as well. We understand the unique value of each and are ready to answer questions and help steer treatment plans in the most effective way.