De-Mystify the Theory -- And Use It!

I recently accepted a new position as director of a program for young people ages four to eighteen, who have been labeled emotionally disturbed or behavior disordered. Basically my job is to be an ally to them and their parents, to provide them with staff to relieve the parents when things get tough, and to teach the staff how to be allies as well.

We have incorporated new guidelines for camp, straight from the pages of Present Time. In a recent staff meeting I introduced these guidelines along with the concept of "Client Centered Programming." During the discussion, I realized again how simple RC theory is and how easily people understand it when it is presented. During discussion of inappropriate behaviors displayed by some young people at camp (fighting and sexual contacts), I explained that we all have an inherent need to be touched. Some of the young people we serve don't get enough physical affection (hugging, holding, etc.), and so they go after getting it any way they can. I was surprised at the response of the staff upon hearing it. One man was stunned that this was a possible reason for repeated fighting between young people. After thinking for a minute he said that he could see that, and we talked about the importance of being physically close to the young people we serve.

Another great opportunity came at camp Saturday. One young person was entering into repeated fights with the others and clearly needed a session. Another Co-Counselor, who also works in our program, had already given him a session earlier in the morning, but he was ready to go again. I let him struggle hard for quite a while. There were other staff watching -- one in particular seemed unsure about what was going on. I kept a relaxed tone and kept telling the young person that it was fine for him to do what he was doing, that I didn't want him to have to hold in those angry feelings, that I wouldn't let him get hurt, that I wouldn't let him hurt me, that he was good, and that it was fine to show me how angry he was, etc. From time to time I would ask him if he was ready to stop, and though he had been screaming at me to let him go, he said he wasn't. Finally, he seemed to be slowing down, and when I asked him if he was ready to stop he said yes. I released my hold on him, and he slumped hard into my lap and against my chest and began to cry. I held him and told him how good he was, and after a while he got up, gave me a hug, and went on his way. Afterwards I was taking some time about it with a Co-Counselor, and a staff person happened upon us, asking me what was wrong. I explained that it was hard for me to see such a young person fight so hard with so many bad feelings, so I wanted to take a minute and cry about it. She seemed satisfied and went on her way.

I've been glad to remember to demystify the theory and remember how natural this information is.

Betty L. Mrdja
Shreveport, Louisiana, USA
reprinted from RC Exchange, the Shreveport RC newsletter

Last modified: 2015-07-21 09:45:15-07