Using Reality Therapy at the Intake Meeting

Date: November 4, 2010

Guest blogger: Brian Patterson

Dr. William Glasser’s Choice Theory/Reality Therapy is foundational to Ombudsman’s approach to helping students. Brian Patterson, Ombudsman’s director of Leadership and Student Engagement, is certified in Reality Therapy, Choice Theory and Lead Management by the William Glasser Institute.

Reality Therapy is a method of counseling used by Ombudsman teachers in the classroom to help students make better and more satisfying choices

The foundation of a successful student-staff relationship is created at the intake meeting. Students who come to Ombudsman have, more often than not, rejected the external control model of previous educational institutions.

I believe that they have an innate sense that there is a better way to be a learner, but no one has yet offered them an environment where they can build their internal control systems. When the director or staff member conducts the intake, the new environment is being established, and a cooperative relationship is being formed.

Initially, the student may be confused and feel obligated to test boundaries to find out if Ombudsman could truly be the venue for personal growth. Glasser’s Seven Caring Habits are demonstrated in an effective intake.

We know beforehand what the Basic Needs of the student will be. How he/she expresses those needs will be learned through the relationship. Here are some possible statements for the intake, describing how the Caring Habits are implemented in our centers.

Seven Caring Habits

  1. Supporting – If you will get here every day we will ensure that you will be successful. (We are the educational professionals and have all the necessary tools to create the environment in which every student can succeed.
  2. Encouraging – We believe that everyone can be successful and we are the ones who can help you discover your own brilliance. There will be difficult times but we will never ask you to do anything that we are not sure that we can help you accomplish.
  3. Listening – We listen with our minds as well as our hearts. You can complain or disagree as long as you don’t cuss at me or yell at me. (These are workplace skills we are trying to develop.)
  4. Accepting – The minute you walked through that door, you became one of our family. I don’t succeed unless you succeed, and I am VERY competitive!
  5. Trusting – We are on the same team here. We work together. We are reasonable. We want you to be safe. When you agree to the enrollment agreement, it is like a contract between us. I guarantee that I will do everything in my power to help you reach your goals and I trust that you will do everything that you have agreed to in this meeting. Is that fair?
  6. Respecting – (Ask the student to paint their own picture of respect.) I see you as a valuable and competent young adult. You are important to me. Consideration for Others means that you see the staff and students the same way.
  7. Negotiating differences – Every once in a while there are circumstances that are not covered thoroughly in the intake meeting. I promise you that I will listen to your ideas and try to do what is best for all of us. Is that OK with you?

I believe that the key determinant in how this meeting goes is the attitude of the director or teacher conducting the intake. ESA’s emphasis on Servant Leadership provides a template for the possible success of the director and teacher as leader.


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