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Interviewing Prospective Students for Fundamentals Classes

Several years ago I wanted to change the way I interviewed people for my fundamentals classes. Three RC teachers in New York City (Danett Bean, Irene Shen, and Tamara Damon) helped me by telling me about how they did interviews for their fundamentals classes. I compiled and revised the information they gave me. The article below includes my current set of interview questions, which I continue to revise as I use them and as I have new thoughts.

(I don’t depend on the interview as my primary screening tool. Instead, I work with experienced Co-Counselors in the Community on screening the people they bring to introductory lectures, and I also screen people when I meet them at these lectures. I think of screening as a more complex process than the interview but will not write about that here.)

The interview has helped with screening. It is also a way to gather some initial information to help me think about the individual people and how to set up the class so the group works well together.

In my last class, my assistant (Yonah Camacho Diamond) and I did most of the interviews together. We spent one and a half to two hours on each one. It took us four weeks to get them all done. Everyone who was interviewed (whether they took the class or not) learned about RC from the interview and appreciated the chance to be listened to. They got to think about their lives in a way they had not had a chance to do before.

The interviews were useful in a variety of ways. My assistant and I got to know our students quickly and we were better able to think about them and the class as a whole from the beginning. Almost everyone in the class commented on the commitment we were making by doing these interviews and how seriously we took thinking about them and the class. I think this allowed them to take the class seriously from the beginning.

The process of the interview itself—thinking about the questions while being listened to—helped the students start thinking about their re-emergence. They could highlight things from their lives and get a beginning sense of being organized and intentional about re-emergence. The process was also a beginning step in learning to think with someone else about their re-emergence. The whole experience set a good foundation for being open about their lives and strategizing and tracking theirs and others’ re-emergence.

At the beginning of the interview we said that this was not like a job or school interview. Our goal was to learn about them and give them additional information about RC and the class .

We said we were still deciding who would be in the class, but that their acceptance in the class was not dependent on the answers they gave. We just wanted a picture of each person and then we would put together a group we thought would work well together. We must have pulled off* a good tone, because people enjoyed the process and opened up, as opposed to trying to prove how qualified they were.

We briefly reviewed RC theory. We talked about the RC Communty, peerness, RC basic assumptions and their uniqueness, and that RC is not therapy. We said we were peers with those who wanted to use this tool with us. We wanted to get to know them, not set ourselves above them or try to analyze or fix them.

Here is my list of interview questions:

  1. Where did you grow up?
  2. Who were the members of your immediate family growing up?
  3. What did your parents (or the adults who raised you) do for a living when you were growing up? What do they do now?
  4. Do you have siblings? How many? Birth order? How old are you?
  5. What do you do for a living?
  6. Have you ever been in psychotherapy or any alternative therapies?
  7. Have you ever been on any psychiatric meds?
  8. Do you smoke? Drink coffee (and other caffeine)? Alcohol? What is your history and current relationship to recreational and prescription drugs?
  9. What kind of support network do you have in your life? Who are the primary people in your life? Friends? Family?
  10. What is your romantic relationship history (living with, married currently)? What’s that been like?
  11. Does the primary person (or people) in your life know that you are thinking about taking this class? How do they feel about you taking the class?
  12. What is your cultural/ethnic/racial heritage; religious and class background?
  13. What are two to three things you currently like about your life?
  14. What are two to three things that are currently hard about your life?
  15. What are three of the most significant things that happened to you before you were ten?
  16. What are three of the most significant things that happened to you after you were ten? (Other key events, experiences and people in your life?)
  17. What about RC makes you interested? What do you want to get out of the class?
  18. Is there anything else in particular you would like me (us) to know about you?
  19. Is there anything you want to know about me (us)?
  20. Do you have any questions about RC?

We also went over the following information about the set-up and expectations of class and asked if people could agree to the expectations. Often there was a longer conversation about some aspect of the expectations.

  • Can you come to class every week (three hours/week)? Go over dates.
  • Can you have at least one session per week (of at least two hours—starting the first week with at least forty minutes each and working your way up to two hours by the eighth week)? (Then we listen to people and assist them in thinking about scheduling. Also, we tell them there will be time spent in class checking in with people about sessions and assisting with scheduling them.)
  • Basic Policies: (1) Confidentiality, (2) No-socializing, (3) No drugs on the day of, or day before, class or sessions, (4) No mixing theories. (We ask for agreement that the focus of the class, sessions, and other RC activities will be RC theory and practice only, not a forum to discuss, persuade, recruit, or practice other theories of human behavior, religious beliefs, and so on, even if they seem to some to complement RC in some way.)
  • Cost of class—limited number of scholarships available
  • Cost of books and photocopied readings

At this point we have done a mini-session with the prospective student, first giving some basic information about how to do it. This is a nice way to give the prospective students a chance to try out Co-Counseling for themselves and to give us a sense of their attention as counselors.

We end by checking in to see if they have any last questions.

Ayana Raquel Morse
Oakland, California, USA

* Pulled off means made happen.

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00