As a camper (and now counselor) of the Aloha Foundation camps, Success Counseling has always been a part of my camp experience. However, outside of camp, I feel as if this method for handling discipline problems is not talked about enough outside of camp. So what better place to talk about it than the internet?
That lovely man smiling in that picture is none other than Barnes Boffey, director of Camp Lanakila from 1992 to 2016. Along with spending 50 summers (yes, you read that correctly) at the camp, Barnes holds a doctorate in Education from the University of Massachusetts and was the Director of Elementary and Secondary Teacher Preparation at Dartmouth College for 10 years. He is also the designer of the Success Counseling model, which has been used at the Aloha Foundation since 1992, and since its creation, has spread out to other summer camps as well.
What is Success Counseling and what is it based on?
Success Counseling is based on the William Glasser Choice theory, which states that every human being has five basic needs:
1. love and belonging
2. power and worth
Glasser states that every choice made by a human being is made with getting those needs met, through one way or another. With this theory, Boffey created a model towards disciplining children which allows them to analyze their behavior instead of reprimanding them for it without understanding what they've done. For this, you need to ask the person 5 questions:
1. What do you want?
2. What are you doing now to get what you want?
3. Is it helping?
4. Why or why not?
5. What are your other options?
After the 5th step, you would make a plan with the person to check-in on how they've improved (or haven't) with the situation.
As a person who was a camper and now as a counselor has learned the ways of success counseling, I can definitely recall moments when Success Counseling helped me analyze my actions and my consequences of things I thought had been silly, or when it helped me when I was depressed because I felt like I was being excluded and laughed at. One of the key components of this method is the direct questioning of what that person needs and their analyzation of the effectiveness of what they've been doing to get what they want; I believe that it is important for this model to be used with children when disciplining them, since they are used to getting immediately punished for something they are told is wrong at school, and with this method, they are given a sense of independence when asked to analyze their actions and consequences and giving them a part in finding a better way to get what they need.
When the counselors were practicing using this model of discipline during our training week, I'll be honest, I was terrified. We were just two counselors practicing a fake situation, how would it be when we would actually have to use the model on the campers? Would I be able to help them analyze their situation correctly? It eventually happened by the end of camp, as one of the girls in my unit told me how she was feeling frustrated and stressed out because she thought that her counselor was always shouting at her to clean her area, but she felt that her tentmates' areas were significantly messier than hers but were not yelled at as much as she was. After realizing that what she wanted was some personal space and free time (which she felt that with her constant cleaning of the tent made her give up most of her free time) she and I agreed to go to our Unit Head and see if she could moderate a conversation between the camper and her counselor. Since it was by the end of camp, I never was able to check in with her, but I felt like I actually made a difference in helping the camper with her situation.
Obviously, Success Counseling will not be immediately used in all schools and/or summer camps, and if it is adopted by them, this will most likely be interpreted to fit the school and/or camps' rules and traditions. However, I hope that it will be more recognized, as I believe that the time of punishing without analyzing consequences has come and gone, leaving those who've done wrong to not fully understand their mistakes. As Bram Stoker wrote in his famous novel Dracula, "We learn from failures, not from success!"