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Monday Ideas for School Counselors

Weekly articles for school counselors with ideas on how to resolve typical school situations with students, teachers and parents using the solution focused approach.

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Want to Calm an Upset Student, Parent or Teacher? Compliment Them

January 23, 20232 min read

This past weekend, my PhD students and I were in the wonderful company of Don Meichenbaum, PhD. If you learned CBT in your grad school days, you know who he is… a co-creator of CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. He was one of the master therapists I invited to share one of many counseling models.

What was fascinating about Don (as he preferred to be called), was his ability to also be solution focused! We had a good laugh about that!

As he talked to my students, he relayed a story about a time when he was invited into a psychiatric hospital to talk to some “patients” who were said to be disrespectful, arrogant and impossible. He said the psychiatric team was ready for him and they all got behind a one-way mirror to observe Don, smirking (Don said) about how even he would fail to connect with the patients. But, Don did something different when he entered the room and began to hear the disrespect and complaining. He said:

“Thank goodness. I was told that you were emotionally unstable and incoherent. I am so thankful to hear you have a voice! Tell me what I need to know about you and what you want.”

The room became quiet. The patients looked at each other. Slowly, they began to talk.

What happened there is also a major construct of the solution focused approach: “Step into the world view of the client and find a way to connect.” (deShazer and Berg)

Sometimes it’s a little rough, and you have to stop yourself and think, but when you do, the barriers to resistance go down and you get to talk about what the school client wants. From there, you can sail into solution talk via the three steps we always talk about on SF Connection.

So, here’s an assignment:

As you go through this week and encounter an upset student, a complaining teacher, an irate parent or demanding administrator, instead of thinking, “oh my gosh, what do I do now?” or, start giving advice, do this instead:

"This sounds awful. No wonder you are upset. I am so glad you are here to tell me about this. Wow. How have you gotten through this so far?"


"What are your best hopes for our time?"

It’s the best hopes question to the rescue. Just listen without inquiring about the problem. It can be that simple… really!


Email me with your results and I will mention them on the SF Connection on Wednesday, with your permission. And, I will send you a prize, just for emailing me☺

May the solution force be with you.

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Dr Linda Metcalf

Linda Metcalf is the best-selling author of Counseling Toward Solutions and 10 other books. Linda is a former middle school teacher, all-level certified school counselor, licensed professional counselor supervisor, and licensed marriage and family therapist in the State of Texas. She is a Professor at Texas Wesleyan University.

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