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Opinion & Essays - Apr, 1997 Issue #45

part 2 of 3
Some Why’s and Wherefore’s as It Exists 
in Emotional Growth Schools 

by Linda Shaffer, Educational Consultant
Sandpoint, Idaho 83864

(NOTE: This article is the second in a three-part series about the eclectic counseling style in emotional growth schools. While the first article defined eclectic counseling styles and discussed why the need, this article and Part III will focus on the groundwork. Reviewed here and in the next issue will be some of the underlying counseling theories -- and “Who created what” that is used today in many innovative formats and processes in emotional growth schools.) 

“I’m not sure I can BELIEVE or totally trust what seems to be happening for my child.” It is not uncommon for many parents new to an emotional growth school system to make this statement. 

It is understandable that a parent being hugged tightly by a child who angrily refused their new school two months earlier will wonder “what is going on here!” Is this one of the old familiar MANIPULATIONS or is there some honesty in this embrace? And how did these new or “new-old” feelings begin to emerge or re-emerge. 

If the EARLIEST PROFESSIONALS in the mental health field could peer into emotional growth schools today, I think they would be pleased (mostly) with some of the creative adaptations of their own personal counseling theories and styles. And they would be proud to have contributed to today’s early on loving child/parent embraces initiated by an earlier angry-to-be- enrolled adolescent. 

Teens and families CAN get UNSTUCK. And it need not take YEARS and YEARS of psychotherapy. Once the eclectic counseling style begins -- be it being around horses, group sessions, workshops or dancing, digging fence post holes, splitting wood, growing a garden, writing poetry, hiking in the mountains, community service, and crocheting a scarf for a grandmother, for starters -- teens gradually find it hard to hold on to their old negative attitudes. Their FIRST plan of “doing their time” AND “then I won’t have to listen to my parents ever again” starts to fall flat. 

WHO CREATED the various counseling processes in these schools that can reap such potential benefits? It was and is as every day goes by many, many VERY CREATIVE and courageous individuals within these schools. And WHO might have influenced them? Whose works did they read and study? Who might they have known personally? In which graduate psych or sociology course did these concepts arise and create a spark? 

I suggest we talk about Carl Rogers, Erik Erikson, Carl Jung, Alfred Adler, and Sigmund Freud. Let’s also include Karen Horney, Abraham Maslow, Soren Kierkegaard, Fritz Perls, Rollo May, Victor Frankl, and Kurt Hahn, etc. And then there was the influence of Synanon and its both praised and reviled founder Charles Dederich who recently died at the age of 83 in central California, Lifespring, est, Esalen, Emerson, Thoreau, Gibran, Plato, Buddha, and not to forget Jonathon Living Seagull. 

First, CARL ROGERS, I believe would see how prominent is his client-centered therapy as counselors in these schools get to know their students from an honest, caring, loving, understanding point of view. Rogers eliminated the word patient for client instead. In today’s schools he would hear the word student. He believed in genuineness, empathy, and unconditional positive regard. 

Sigmund Freud would NOT see his style of psychoanalysis or hypnosis, but he would see the adaptations as counselors in group sessions and personal growth workshops assist students to do some “recollecting” in order to make connections between their triggers, strategies and behaviors of today and the unresolved issues from the past. FREE ASSOCIATION, or spontaneous verbalization, promulgated by Freud, is encouraged in group sessions. Adolescents are urged not to “screen” their thoughts, but to just start talking and see what comes forth. The hope is that TRUE feelings will emerge rather than carefully worded intellectualizations. 

Carl JUNG and Alfred ADLER, colleagues of Freud, broke away from many of Freud’s ideas regarding the primacy of sexual instinct as the basis for all human motivation. To emotional growth schools they contributed to concepts of inferiority and superiority complexes (Adler) and introversion and extroversion (Jung). 

ERIK ERIKSON would see his eight stages of human growth and development reflected in emotional growth workshops that center around truth or one’s essence, childhood, friendship, dreams, true and false images (games), imagining a different world, distinction between thinking and feeling, and standing at the completion of a goal with a fuller toolbag of coping skills and a new awareness. This is the counseling I refer to as “in the side door” therapy. It can be playful, difficult, easy, challenging, diversified in mood, contemplative, impossible for the participant to predict “what comes next,” psychodrama-like, and can be one fantastic voyage! 

In the Erikson-concepts types of workshops for adolescents, teens learn about “real” friends. One major emotional growth step for an adolescent can be moving from the thinking that says “If I tell something about you, I’m a narc” to “If I tell something about you it means I’m a truly caring friend or I’d keep my mouth shut and watch you go down the tube.” Philosophically, the latter seems to make a lot of sense. For a struggling 15 year old, however, there can be a 10 foot thick wall in the way of dropping “narc” and embracing TRUE friend. 

Copyright © 1997, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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