While most often used by certified counselors, psychologists and psychiatrists, non-directive counseling provides a number of techniques which can be used effectively by teachers and staff when talking with students about their undersirable behavior.
      Attributed to Carl Rogers, this technique was designed to allow the individual in emotional turmoil to talk out problems and resolve difficulties with a minimum of direction being provided by the person serving as counselor.   Rogers believed that everyone has the motivation and ability to change in order to become a better, more "self-actualized" person.  To help our students to achieve this state, we as teacher-counselors, act as a sounding board; observing, listening, and deliberately responding according to certain guidelines while the student explores and analyzes the problem and devises a personal solution. The teacher-counselor's demeanor is ALWAYS accepting and non-punitive. This style encourages the student to feel comfortable in the expression of feelings and thus facilitates positive change.

    There are five basic responses to student commentary.  The first, reflection, is the restating of the student's comment. This may be done in the exact same terminology used by the student, the repeating of part of the comment, or by rewording the student's statement. Reflection lets the student know that you are listening and promotes continued commentary.

    The second response, a leading statement or question, is designed to encourage the student to elaborate on a topic or devise a solution to a specific problem.   Examples of a leading remark include: "I'd like to hear your opinion.", "Tell me more about yourself.", and "What happened then?".

    The third response, clarification, involves the stating of implied feelings behind a student's verbal communication. Examples of clarification include:  "You sound sad." and  "It appears as if you're very angry at Samantha."  Clarification helps the student to identify his/her feelings.  It can also be used to focus the student's thoughts' on ways to deal with the emotions which are present.

    The fourth, summarization, is a review of what has been discussed thus far in your counseling session.  This summary allows both participants to briefly reflect on what has occurred, view it clearly, and use it as a new starting point from which to build.

The fifth response, questioning, is comprised of  two main types:  closed questions which are intended to yield brief, specific information; and open ended questions which are used to encourage the student to talk at greater length on a topic.  Examples of closed questioning include: "How old is Don?" and "Did you complete your homework?"   Examples of open questioning include: "How's it going in science class?" and "How do you feel about losing recess?"

    Rogers believed that this non-opinionated approach helps others to resolve inner conflicts and feelings which manifest themselves in undesirable behavior.  Therefore, the reduction of this inner turmoil can reduce inappropriate behavior.  This technique is useful with students who can be "reasoned with," and are seeking a solution to their problems (or just want to talk).  Certainly, the student must be motivated to be involved in a therapeutic discussion.   This is not a technique which can be imposed upon the student.  Yet, because the student is involved in the program and chooses the most appropriate solution, s/he is more likely to follow the proposed solution.

    The non-directive approach is also useful with students of lower intelligence levels who have accompanying speech and language problems which make their verbalizations difficult to understand.   Reflection can be useful in these situations.  Repeat the words that are
comprehended, continuing the conversation and allowing the student to vent his/her emotions.

How to  Use Non-Directive Counseling

1.  Arrange for a time and place which will provide privacy for your conference.

2.  If the student does not open the session, use a leading statement or question to focus him/her on the topic of concern.

3.  Listen to the student in an interested, non-punitive, accepting manner.  Make no judgments.

4.  Respond when appropriate, using one of the recommended techniques.

5.  After the concerns have been thoroughly voiced by the student, focus him/her on finding a solution for the difficulty. (e.g., "How will you handle this in the future?",   "What do you do now?" and  "Have you got any ideas about how you might deal with this issue?")   Allow the student to choose the solution  that is best for him/her.

Activities and Discussion Questions

1.  Identify the following responses to student commentary as being a leading statement or question, reflection, clarification, open question, closed question, or summarization.
a.  "How are you feeling?"
b.  "I wonder how that happened."
c.  "The other kids won't let you play baseball with them."
d.  "Is he five or six years old?"
e.  "It sounds to me like you're feeling overwhelmed right now."
f.  "How are you doing on your science project?"
g.  "I'd like to know how you're doing on meeting this week's goal."
h. "OK. Thus far we've discussed your tardiness to class, your dislike for the instructor, and
        the poor quality of your classwork and homework.  On which one would you like to focus?"
i.  "They say you're the teacher's pet."
j.  "You're feeling tired and worn out."

2. Provide a reflection response for the following remarks.
a.  "I was so embarrassed.  I could have died right then and there."
b.  "He just stood there stunned. He was shocked and couldn't believe what he was seeing."
c.  "It's a strange feeling.  I felt lost,  It's like being in a giant cornfield and not knowing which
            way is out."
d     "It was great.   She was all smiles and happier than a pig in mud."
e.    "You're looking at me like it's my fault.   Why don't you talk to Doreen?"
f.    "I'm so dumb.  I'm useless. I can't do anything right."  (Reflect the content or feelings...
        not the words.)

3.   Provide a clarification response to the remarks in #2 (above).

4.   Provide a response to the following comments
a.    "I'm really tired.  My grandfather died over the weekend and we've been running around
            like crazy."
b.    "It's not fair.   You treat Julie and Betsy like they're something special. They get to do all the
            fun activities. Everyone says they're your teacher's pets."
c.     "The other guys won't let me play ball with them. They call me a "pansy."
d.     "I'm so dumb.  I can't figure these out. They're too tough. I can't wait until I'm 16 and
            can drop out of school."
e.     "I should have killed that fool when I had the chance. Next time he squeals on me, I'll
            kick his rear end all over the playground."
f.     "I was so embarrassed.  He's always talking about my legs or breasts or bra or something.
             Can't you tell him to stop?"
g.     "Why don't you ever say anything? All you ever do is say the same thing I already said.
             Are your a jellyfish?    Don't you have your own opinions?"
h.     "But what do I know. I'm only the teacher's aide."

5.    Identify the type of response you gave for each example in #4 (above). Were you able to avoid being directive and giving opinions? Which other types of response might have been appropriate for each?

6.    With two others, role play non-directive counseling for the situations provided below.   One person plays the role of the teacher, another plays the part of the student, and the third person records the types of  responses given by the teacher.  The recorder should have a sheet with the different types of responses listed. A tally mark should be placed next to the respective responses as each is used by the teacher. After the role play situation has been resolved, the three participants should review the teacher's technique and make suggestions for improvement. (e.g., Use less questioning.  Avoid giving opinions and solutions to the student.)

a. The teacher pulls aside a student who has been involved in a fight.  The student opens the conversation with the comment "I hate Oscar."   It will be revealed later that the student's father has been receiving radiation treatments and chemotherapy for cancer.  This has caused his father to become bald and Oscar said the father's head looked like a melon.  Alternatives to fighting should be discussed.

b    You have the student report to you after school to complete some classwork.   He throws it on the floor and says "I'm not doing this crap, you bitch (bastard)."  You hear laughter from students in the hallway and suspect that this student is testing your authority.

c.    You call a student aside.   You've seen the welts and bruises on his arms, neck, and face.  You suspect abuse.  The student initially denies this.  Remember your legal obligation to report suspected abuse.

d.    You catch a student removing your purse (or money collection envelope) from your desk.  He defiantly says, "Hey, you gotta have money to impress the ladies (or boys)." You want to have the student analyze morality and personal values.

7.  Search for "Eliza" (a counseling software program with which someone types in their concerns and the program responds in a non-directive fashion to help him/her resolve personal issues) on the internet.  Purchase the program and use it (or provide for use with your students).

8. Practice using non-directive responses while role playing a "classroom counseling" situation with a partner.

For More Information

Hilgard, E.R., Atkinson,  R.C., & Atkinson, K.L., (1975). Psychology. (6th ed.) New York:  Harcourt, Brace and World, Inc.

Rogers, C.,(1961). On becoming a person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.

Rogers, C., & Stevens, B. (1967). Person to person: The problems of being human. Lafayette, CA: Real People Press.

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