Clients need honesty, determination

Editor’s note: This is the first of two parts.

In a card my wife recently gave me, it read, “Some people succeed because they are destined to, but most people succeed because they are determined to.” In this segment of REBT, we will explore the similarities between getting and staying sober and the ideas of winning and losing in competitive athletics.

Coaches live in an environment of winning and losing. Unfortunately, that’s how most of us are judged. Counselors live in an environment of sobriety vs. relapse. Teaching young men and women the ideas of success and failure, falls back on the coach or the counselor. When 13- to 18-year-olds hit high school, the fun that sports provides becomes more competitive. They are no longer just playing against kids in their house league or backyard league. The personality traits that athletes bring to the coaching and teaching environment present a real challenge to today’s men and women coaches. As to what causes this type of thinking and behavior, I’ll return to later.

In counseling, the counselor lives in a success-failure relationship with the client. What started out as casual fun, now becomes full-blown addiction. In the previous article, I spoke about motivation in CD counseling and gave two examples of team and personal motivation. Many people whom I have worked with, have had a failure background due to upbringing, environment, education and mental, physical or sexual abuse. They have never succeeded at very much. Similarly, athletes are also caught in a failure or rejection chain, due to unhealthy family backgrounds, abuse, poverty and low self-worth.

When a coach has try-outs, he or she actually knows very little about the thinking and feeling patterns of their athletes. When people that need treatment walk through our rehab doors, we know little about them, unless they have been in the “system” for a number of years. What I am going to say next goes against the current thinking, perpetrated by the mental health field during the last 40 years. This thought is that the coach or the counselor is in charge and not the players or clients. In many cases today, in counseling, the “inmates run the asylum.” They don’t care to take the advice of the counselor, because nobody makes them do it. As one counselor told me, “that would be telling them what to do, and that’s wrong.” I have news for this type of thinking that the mental health field and the chemical dependency field have given in to the “easier, softer” approach of working with people that keeps them sick.

Teaching people to stay sober and winning basketball games have a lot in common. First, to learn to win by winning honestly. In counseling, the number one attribute is honesty, in learning to win.

Second, in coaching the kids who do well, regardless of ability, are hard — smart workers, team oriented, and not selfish. In counseling, that people that commit to the recovery process and follow the suggestions learn about winning and being successful. They work extremely hard, care about their groups and will go out of their way to help another member that is struggling with addiction.

I stated previously, the challenges that coaches and counselors face in trying to teach people success and failure. Over the past 40 years the discipline problems that the schools and rehabs have encountered have gotten worse. Teachers, coaches, counselors have been stripped of permission to punish irrational thinking and behaviors. Psychological and educational ideologies state that punishment is demeaning, lowers self worth and leads to resentment. Most of us that grew up in the ’60s know that this type of thinking is totally false. The problem is that most educational centers, parenting, coaching and counseling centers believe it to be true.

In a nutshell, the best research finds that mild to moderate punishment works far better than rewarding, ignoring, talking or correcting misbehavior (redirecting and restorative justice). It’s long been known that obedient student-athletes are usually pretty happy student-athletes. In counseling, people that have had little success in anything, begin to find success in recovery based upon discipline and honesty. One counselor shared with me that “we are told to ‘understand’ their behavior and use redirection to help a client through a bad behavior episode and no consequences should be given because it is a ‘counseling moment’ or teaching moment.”

People will play to the level that a coach or counselor allows them to. We used to have common sense in dealing with oppositional behavior. In coaching, it was the bench, suspension, or dismissal. In counseling, because of the nature of clients, defenses, treatment, intelligence and life traps, “I don’t want to do that” is not acceptable, at least not to this counselor.

Next week: part two.

Mike Tramuta has been a CASAC counselor for over 30 years and currently runs the REBT program on Thursday nights at the Holy Trinity Parish Center from 7 to 8:15 p.m. Call 983-1592 for more information.