Should I Find A Counselor?

Are you struggling with the idea of finding a counselor or a therapist? The idea of seeking out the help of a professional counselor can be an unsettling experience. Part of the problem is the history of psychology. Most of us have some idea about what psychology is about, because our society glances over the field in our education and our media. I know that I was definitely scared away from psychology for a long time. I remember being in college and signing up to be a “research participant” for extra credit in my undergraduate classes. (I needed a lot of extra credit.)

Psychology has been a field of diagnosing mental health disorders for a long time. But more recently, there is a push towards Positive Psychology, Self-Improvement and Professional Coaching as a way of reaching a higher level of functioning in our various life activities.

So with the idea that there is more than one way to look at counseling, I would like to encourage you to do your research in finding a counselor. I made this video as a way to encourage you to start the process.

What is a Licensed Mental Health Counselor?

Here is a video I made to explain what is required to become a Licensed Mental Health Counselor. These are the requirements for Florida licensure. If you are viewing this video outside of Florida, then there are possibly some different requirements. This information is intended to be informational in purpose for those who are seeking insight about what it takes to be licensed as a therapist. I hope this is helpful to you.

New Website...and go!

Ok, so I guess I should acknowledge the fact that I haven't written a post in awhile.  Like a long time actually.  

Well, I'm starting to write again for my blog.  I've been successfully counseling and enjoying my job as a psychology teacher at Full Sail University.  I teach a fun class called Psychology Of Play.  (As the name implies, it's a class about having fun.)  

Barnett Therapy Services LLC is the parent company of the website for "Billy The Counselor."  The business is growing rapidly.  Lauren is very busy with her speech therapy role in the business, and I've been counseling in the times when I am not busy with Full Sail classes.  I originally started this blog as a reference tool for my clients.  I feel like the blog is a good service to provide my clients.  I often recommend my clients to come back to the blog when they feel like they need to review a concept.  I like to let them know that many of the psycho-educational topics we cover in counseling are here for them to research on the blog.  

I am excited about getting a dedicated website with the blog for "Billy The Counselor."  I will be updating the blog from time to time with posts that I hope will continue to be helpful.  

Stay tuned...

Pain and Suffering: Or how I spent the last four months.

I've been sick for about four months.  I haven't really been shouting it from the rooftops or anything.  I don't like to complain in public, but I've had an ulcer.  Basically, my stomach decided to spring a leak and give my pancreas an acid bath.  I guess I've taken too many ibuprofen in my last few years.  But, I have gained a huge benefit from this experience.

I've heard some of the cliche's that people put out there about sickness causing all sorts of re-arrangements of priorities, and life focus.  For me, not so much.  I've been nauseated for four months, and my body has been leaking acid all over itself.  Not fun.  I've been trying to make it minute by minute.  This is difficult with two jobs, a wife, a three year old and an infant.  Fortunately, I have an awesome wife, who understands that I have been in a lot of pain.  I've also learned to have new understanding and empathy for those who deal with losing their temper.  There's nothing like an internal acid bath to make you fly off the handle a little more quickly than usual.  

Prilosec did seem to get me patched up pretty well, and now I'm going through the appointments to make sure everything still works the way it's supposed to work.  The big thing for me though, is that part of me does not want to really go back to the land of the healthy.  I know that some people pray for healing.  Some people believe that it's God's job to heal you from your illnesses if you have enough faith. This is not really an accurate application of God's word.  I know that God is the great healer.  But, in this instance, I am grateful for the pain instead.  I am grateful for the thoughts that I may not live my life in pristine health.  I've been contaminated, broken, weak, scared and scarred.  As a Christian, maybe I need to spend more time being actually broken, instead of just talking about being broken to actually broken people.  

I've spent most of my life learning how to help people.  Along the way, I've become pretty entitled in my attitude.  It wasn't really intentional.  But my job is to have answers for people...for just about everything.  It had become a little too easy to tell people what they should think about, or how to think about their situations.  But you don't learn about struggling with someone by dispensing knowledge like that.  In my own suffering, I felt hopeless for awhile, because I knew that the situation was due to my overuse of headache medicine.  I knew that I had caused this to happen.  I found myself in a spot where I called out for healing, knowing that it was not going to happen in the way I wanted it to.  I knew that this was part of my own story and relationship with Jesus.  I've never really had to struggle in my health.  In this situation, the Lord is making me more like Him.  Why would I want to pray for Him to make me more of what I already was?  So I began thanking Him for the struggle, and looking forward to the process of growing my way out of this.  I began to confess instead of request.  The more I confessed the things that I was thinking about, the more I knew I was becoming the person He wants me to be.  

So, now I thank Him for the experience that so far, hasn't sealed my fate.  I'm feeling like I'm on the mend.  I feel so much more empathy for those who are actually suffering.  I know many people who struggle with health much more than I do, and I am inspired by their struggle.  I am humbled by people who are dealing with life changing illness, in a way that I did not really have an appreciation for, before being sick.  So maybe I did get a new focus in my priorities and life in general. 
I've also been playing this song on repeat...a lot.

Or here if it doesn't load automatically.

A Burden for Damascus

I have spent most of my adult life studying the Middle East.  I have done this almost every day, since the first war in Iraq.   I have intentionally avoided using social media for my beliefs about the Middle East.  I am a college teacher and a mental health counselor.  I usually try to avoid putting out any messages that would detract from my ability to be understood as one in the helping profession.  My friends are very diverse and have broad views of the world, history and the future.  But my friends know that I believe in Jesus Christ.  So I wanted to share my thoughts about the current events in Syria on my blog.  I feel that we should be praying for the residents of Damascus.   God has a burden for Damascus.  His burden is bigger than ours.  America is making choices to pursue actions it has not fully considered.  This is due to blindness among our leaders.  They have successfully fought so many wars that the possible unplanned consequences of war are not a deterrent.  God has given the world a tragic view into the future of Syria, and especially Damascus.  It comes from Isaiah 17.  I don’t know when it will happen.  Damascus is the oldest, continuously inhabited city in the Middle East.  It has never been destroyed like Jerusalem, Jericho, Babylon and Istanbul have been.  But according to the Bible, (Isaiah 17) some time in the future, in the span of one evening, Damascus will cease to exist.  This should cause great conviction among our leaders and among Christians.  I don’t know why Damascus is destroyed.  Some have said for years that Syria will attack Israel with unconventional weapons, and Israel will respond with a nuclear counter-attack on Damascus.  This seems to be one of the scenarios that Bashar Al-Assad is threatening in response to US action.  America does not seem to be considering this as a possible outcome of an attack, even though Syria has threatened it for years.   If the Bible is true, (and I believe it is) then we may be running headlong into the specific warnings that God has provided to us about the Middle East.  Events on the ground are pointing to the truth of Biblical prophecy in many ways.  Syria is one of these ways.  This makes me want to pray for Damascus and for all of my neighbors and friends.  The collateral damage in the destruction of Damascus would not be contained to Damascus.  The defensive scenarios of the world powers will not allow it.  It would quickly lead to the events in Ezekiel 38-39.  The bad news is that very old sin has infected the Middle East.  The good news is that we, as individual sinners have had our sins paid for.  This happened once and for all, for any who would confess their sin to Jesus.  Because of my relationship with Him, I choose to pray for my friends, my neighbors and those who are affected by the terrible events in Syria.  Pray that many more innocent civilians are able to escape, before too many more days pass.  Pray that peace will come to Damascus and that it will have many more years ahead.  Pray for the safety of the United States and for Israel.  Find someone here in America, who needs something.  Meet their need.  Give freely.  Tell them about the hope you have in Jesus.  When men’s hearts begin to fail because of the things happening in the Earth, they will remember that you have hope in Christ.

Photography Is Therapy

     Everyone has a story to tell.  As a counselor I spend a lot of time trying to help people examine their past.  My job is to help people.  One of the tools that I use is the past.  People do the things they do, because of the things they have done.  How we remember the past greatly influences our present thoughts and beliefs.  I believe that photographs are one of the most overlooked tools for counseling and life in general.  People are storytellers by nature.  We want people to know where we have been.  We want them to know how we feel.  Our greatest stories can be written through photographic prints.  You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words right?  Well the digital age has given us the ability to capture photos in ways we never could have hoped to do just a few years ago.  But something changed.  We stopped printing our pictures when we started taking photos with digital cameras.  We no longer have boxes or albums full of prints.  We have old hard drives full of images on old computers.  Our computers have been replaced with our tablets.  Our cameras have been replaced by our phones.  It's really easy to take pictures, but it's a hassle to print them.  So we don't.  We have become a culture that has forgotten how to write our stories.  We capture the story and unknowingly discard it.  We are so busy taking pictures with our phones, that we don't really experience that special or important moment.  Then we move on, and never really archive that photo.  We might go back and look at it again once or twice in the phone or camera, but something will come along that will keep that memory from being transferred to a print.  We are witnessing the story, and then forgetting to write it down.  Maybe your software update will go wrong and the images will get erased.  Maybe your memory card will go bad, or you'll accidentally erase the photos.  Maybe your phone will accidentally go swimming.

     Did you know that film is almost no longer being made?  Photo printing has become so inexpensive, but we only print a small fraction of what we shoot with our cameras.  I believe that printing your pictures is something that can help you write your story.

     I admit, I am guilty of not printing enough of my own photos.  I did professional photography for several years, and I loved to print my own photos.  Eventually it became too much like work to print my own photos.  It was also pretty pricey to print my own with the extremely nice ink jet printer I had.  Today I can get professional prints made for less than twenty cents apiece.  I have made a commitment to my family to print more photos, and I have been doing it.  I have to say, that it's really cool to see more and more prints on our walls.  It makes me remember the great times that we have been having as a family.  Now that we have two children, I am very excited.  I want them to see visual reminders of their stories hanging on our walls.  I want them to see that we choose as a family to visually write our story through photography.

Progressivism is Bad

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately and I want to share some of the things I have learned about the concept of “Self-Help.”   So many people are focused on self-help.   Self-help has become the new buzz topic, and it seems like everyone who speaks or writes for a living wants to help you tap into your motivation to help you accomplish your goals, or dreams, or your best personal whatever you want to call it.  Self-help has become a parallel of psychology and counseling.  The interesting thing about self-help is that anybody can write about it, because they do not have to go through any educational requirements or state requirements for regulated professions.  Generally these folks have some sort of real life experience that they draw upon to deliver their content.  There’s always some sort of truth involved, and they leverage that element of truth to deliver the rest of their philosophy for their “Intellectually Licensed” material.  As long as they don’t call it counseling or psychology, they are free to say whatever they want without any worries of liability.  This is the benefit of free speech, and I am all for it.  However, the helpers usually indicate that their information is not designed to diagnose or cure anything and they cannot be held liable for your lack of success at using their intellectual material.  The problem with self-help is that none of their ideas are new.  They are repackaged versions of very old philosophies.  All of them are based on humanism. 

The social sciences are all founded on humanism.  What is humanism you may wonder?  It’s an umbrella term for several philosophies.  Modern Humanism began in the 1800’s as a response to the scientific revolution and the industrial revolution.  Western cultures decided at this time that they had it all pretty well figured out due to the new scientific revolution.  The lesson of the scientific revolution was that if it couldn’t be proven or measured, then it could not definitively be true.  The scientific method was a tool introduced to measure and observe the natural world and scientific hypotheses.  It was all about outcomes based measurement.  Several different models of humanism resulted from this time period.  Some of them include classical humanism, renaissance humanism, religious humanism, secular humanism and many more.  A common element between them is that man is the sole motivator for his destiny.  Another common element is that idea of outcomes based measurement for validating a theory.  According to the American Humanist Association,
“Humanism is a progressive lifestance that, without supernaturalism, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead meaningful, ethical lives capable of adding to the greater good of humanity(1).”
            I think this is a solid definition for humanism as a general guide.  Each of the versions of humanism has a specific application of this definition.  For example, secular humanism holds to the view that religions are based on beliefs and are not based on reasoning.  For example, Christianity is based on the Bible and it requires belief in the Bible as the foundation for truth.  Humanism believes that human reasoning alone is sufficient for understanding truth and ethics.  So they hold to the idea that the best test of human reasoning is that which can be tested by the scientific method.  They deny any involvement in views that hold to the Bible as a revelation or source of truth.   
Psychology came out of humanism.  Psychology is a study or science of the mind.  It is a study of humanity.  So since it is an attempt to study man and his ways of thinking, and it is a science, it is used as a tool to help people change (hopefully improving) the ways that they think and feel.   Mental health professionals implement a form of the scientific method to deliver the help that clients seek.  This is done through an outcomes based measuring document called the treatment plan.  It is measurable, and centered around the goals of the client.  The therapist is accountable to this document.  It serves as a type of contract between the client and the therapist.  Self-help comes from the science of psychology.  It is less regulated and does not require knowledge or professional accountability from the treatment plan model.
            America has bought into the scientific method and outcomes based measurement in the corporate world too.  Think about all of the leadership material that is published.  All of it is designed around learning about your strengths and abilities.  These published works all set out someone’s plan to help you plan out steps to make yourself a more focused influencer of other people.  These books are using behaviorism to accomplish their goals of improving your skills.  How many times have you heard some variation of the following messages?

            You can achieve anything you set your mind to…all you need is a plan to get there.            The only thing standing between you and your dreams is a plan.  You have the ability to change the world.  These are focused on the power of the individual.  They are based on humanism.  The problems arise when church picks these up.  There was not a treatment plan for crossing the Red Sea.  God provided manna from Heaven to feed the Israelites for forty years.  God provided the manna.  Their faith did not provide it.  In fact, God provided it while they were complaining to Him about having to eat it.  Jesus fed 4,000 people with seven loaves of bread and a few small fish.  Over and over the Bible records the provision that God has provided.  He does not do it in a progressive way.  The Holy Spirit came down to the disciples on Pentecost in a event planned by God, not the disciples.  He empowered the believers to speak in the languages of the people who were passing by.  This was done by God as an example to the non-believers about God’s power to be God.  No human effort was required to help God accomplish His purpose of reaching out to the non-believers.  This is why God says that His ways are higher than our ways.  Our ways are progressive, and outcomes based.  His ways part the Red Sea, feed multitudes, and deliver His people to a place they had not yet planned to arrive at.  If we stop proclaiming God as God, then the Bible says that even the rocks would cry out His name.  Our human efforts always result in a form of progressive humanism.  In psychology, corporate leadership, self-help and government, our efforts are always creating more problems than they set out to fix.  This is the problem with progressivism.  It says that it is designed to improve the lives of the greater population, but it is the powerful that always come out on top.  Then they convince the population to rise up against itself to make up for the terrible actions of the leaders.  This is because it is the humanists who believe in behaviorism who are causing the problem.  The best problem for leaders to fix is the one they create.  This is the danger of progressivism and behaviorism.

            I would like to spend some time continuing to broaden my understanding of humanism and its contrast with faith in Jesus Christ.  I have a pretty good understanding already, but I recently finished writing a chapter on Altruism and Acceptance at my job.  This chapter also encompassed Narcissism and Entitlement.  So some of these concepts are rolling around in my head and I believe there is a great deal of relevant material to process related to Narcissism and Humanism.  I think it is interesting that Humanism holds the view that man’s ability to reason is sufficient for everything he needs, although his behavior dictates otherwise.  I believe this is why Humanism defines itself as progressive.  The belief here is that man can be progressively evolving into a better person.  The problem is that there is no definition for who gets to decide what “better” looks like, or what the “greater good of humanity” looks like.  I believe that Behaviorism, which is Skinner’s theory, holds the answer.  Behaviorism says that people are generally good, and can be helped to achieve their goal by modifying their behavior.  I personally don’t really like having my behavior modified by anyone but me.   The side effect of Skinner’s theory is that the ones with the most power decide what right and wrong look like.  I believe we are living in a time when the powerful few among us are using behaviorism to establish their version of right and wrong.  They do this through the messages that the media sends to us.  
Remember when the media said the Tea Party was “violent?”  There was no actual violence.  They said they were rioting, yet there were no riots.  They said they were angry, but when the camera panned the crowd there was no behavior to indicate anger.  It’s was a bunch of grandparents holding signs that said “I love The  Constitution,” and stuff like that.  Yet when the “Occupy” movement came along, they were called peaceful and spontaneous by the media.  Even after many young women were raped at the sites and they actually did condone violence as a legitimate method of social protest, they were being continually broadcast as mainstream and peaceful.
Interestingly, the easiest problem for a behaviorist to fix is the one that he creates, because he’s already got the prescription planned out.  He just has to convince the client or patient that this particular illness is the problem.  He has to redefine the illness in terms that the patient can believe in.  Then the patient does all the work.  I believe that the progressive leadership (not just American leadership) is attempting to rewrite history as they have indicated they need to do.  America is not the Soviet Union of the 1980’s.  But that is what the “Occupy” movement is saying.  America is the only place in the world where you and I have the opportunity to achieve our dreams.  We are not the slaves of the elite that the “Occupy” movement says we are.  I believe the “Occupy” movement is right about one thing though, and this is how they are able to reach the hearts of Americans today.  The problem with the Soviet Union in the 80’s and America today, is that both countries have been victims of Cronyism.  Cronyism is,
“The practice of favoring one’s friends, especially in political appointments(2).”
It was Cronyism that caused the Russians to replace their government.  The people in Russia knew that their politicians were living the good life on the French Riviera, while the common folks struggled to put bread on the table.  They saw the injustice of the elite, and they were correct when it came to Russia.  What we see today is the government sanctioning the few socialists among us to redefine America through the lens of what reshaped the Soviet Union.  They saw it work over there, and they believe they can control it over here more easily because of our uninformed press (through behaviorism).  However they just changed the name of the problems through the media and they keep it fresh and new each day.  They have called Capitalism the “failed policies,” instead of blaming Cronyism.  They would have to own the problem personally if they tried to solve the actual cause of the problem, which is Cronyism.  So they are saying that capitalism is the problem.  But I believe the distortion of Capitalism by cronies is what has caused us to get into the mess we are currently experiencing. 
            This method of changing history is the same method that someone with a personality disorder uses, in efforts to avoid responsibility for their behaviors.  It’s called externalization.  We are hearing each day that we are the victims of our unjust and unfair society.  The easily manipulated media and the campaign managers are creating (or behaviorally conditioning) a country full of victims who need the government to recue us from our evil society.  We need them to come save us.  Then the government helps us by bullying (crony capitalism) the very companies that you and I work for and contribute to, through our retirement funds each week.   This may have worked for the Soviet Union, but it is self-mutilation to encourage us to attack our own society.  Self-mutilation or self-harm is a form of coping skill that I have treated frequently in my clinical experience.  Self-harm can be cutting or physically harming ourselves on our bodies.  It is frequently done to remind the individual of internal wounds that cannot be fully understood or expressed.   It is our inability as a nation to identify where our internal wound exists, that makes us harm ourselves.  Because we can’t see where the hurt is located, we are told over and over again until radical elements pick up on it enough to progressively begin the treatment.
We are the only nation in the world where the government is: of, by and for the people.  We are the government, and we are Wall-Street.  We are all connected to both.  You cannot divide the family of America into class warfare groups and expect the nation to endure.  You will end up with cronies who win, instead of cronies who get voted out of office.  They are attempting to manipulate you.  They are doing it in the media. The method is called behaviorism, which is founded on humanism, which is a progressive worldview that lifts up man as his own god.  The consequence for this type of thinking is spelled out in the Bible as spiritual death.  But Jesus paid the price of spiritual death for you.  So what about you?  In whom do you place your hope?  Do you strive for self-improvement, which ends in exaltation of yourself and Narcissism, or do you place your hope in the only human to ever have the authority to walk into the throne room of God as heir to the throne?  He walked into the room with all the rights and privileges of the owner of the house.  It’s a house, which cannot be divided by any media or message or government.  He bears the scars of your sin on His body.  His wounds can heal your self-injury. (1 Peter 2:24)  He already knows what you need.



Leading As A Servant


     These photographs should not really exist.  They are of a very cute little girl at Epcot.  Every photo has a story to tell.  These are of my daughter and I’m proud of the story behind these pictures.  You probably don’t know the story so I’ll tell it to you.  I know they say that every picture is worth a thousand words, but these pictures are different.  These pictures have 108,000 pictures behind them.  Give or take a few thousand.  I didn’t really count, but I averaged the numbers.  I was a photographer at Epcot for three years between 1999 and 2002.   I took about 150 pictures per day at Epcot, five days per week for three years.  If you figure I worked at least forty-eight weeks a year for those three years, it comes out to about 108,000 pictures. 

     I worked for a company that contracted at Disney called Sharp Shooter-Spectrum Imaging.  You could never meet a more zany and diverse group of people than the group that I ran around with during those three years.  We were a band of misfits.  Now we are scattered all over the earth, but for a few short years we huddled into a room that was actually a closet underneath Space Ship Earth.  There were over fifty of us in those three years who went in to work each day to chase Disney guests for a picture in front of Space Ship Earth, as they entered the gate.  In those days we intentionally approached guests for a photo because we had the opportunity to earn money for achieving high sales.  Now Disney employs the photographers at Epcot.  While they do provide an excellent service, and they do use top quality camera gear, I think they are missing that certain “need to survive” mentality that made us good…and somewhat crazy.  You see we did this because we had something to prove.  We needed to be motivated every day, and we earned our living off of constantly being told “no” to one simple question… “can I take your picture?”  We each quickly learned about the unwritten rules and expectations of the normalcy of being rejected.  Rejection was part of the job.  But everyone had to be comfortable with being told no, because it was the thirty to fifty times that we got that “yes” which brought us our daily pay.  We each had a stake in the game because we earned a group commission in addition to our individual sales commission.  It was this group interaction that made us accountable to the team, and made us have a vested interest in each other.  But it was the ability to earn an individual sales commission that made us push ourselves mentally on a daily basis.  We had to set individual goals for ourselves to achieve the standard of living that we were expecting this job to provide.  The job was never intended to be a high-paying job, but there were a few of us who did do pretty well.  Those folks had to endure challenging conditions.  Florida heat during the summer gets to about 110 degrees when you are standing on concrete.  Eight hours of that a day can really make an impact on you.  My knees are in pretty bad shape from getting up and down on the concrete a hundred times a day.  Being told “no” about a thousand times a day to the same question can also be kind of disheartening.  (We always tried to come up with new ways to try to get people to say yes to stopping for a photo.)  All of these things combined to make a group dynamic that will stay fresh in my mind forever.

The biggest reason why this time was important to me was because I was coming to the end of my time of running from God.  Running from God is never a good thing.  I wanted to be a leader.  I wanted people to like me.  I wanted to be in charge of stuff.  I wanted to be the guy that people came to when they had troubles.  I wanted to be noticed for being important.  I needed to be needed, and I really wanted to be paid for being needed.  I figured that people who were needed would be able to get paid really well, and then I could go prove to my parents that I was justified for failing out of college…twice.

     It was during these years when I came to the end of myself.  I often tell people now that there was no more Billy left to mess up.  It came at a time when I was told that I had to change venues because my coworkers thought I was unfair and mean.  I believe that my mean and unfair perception was due to my behavior while I was running from God.  Prior to that time, I had been promoted to an assistant of sorts and spent part of my time taking pictures, and part of my time helping with the daily operations of the “closet.”  Those promotions fed into my entitled ego and I began to believe that the future would show that I was needed as a leader, and management material.  I found my little piece of real estate to plant my flag into, and I decided that I would be able to build a foundation of future leadership off of this little island of “Assistant Venue Coordinator” or something like that.  Honestly I don’t even remember the title anymore.  I just didn’t want to have to actually go back to college because I didn’t think I could pass the classes.  But having my ego handed to me that day when I was told I would have to leave Epcot was a reminder that my identity was not about being an authority figure.  It wasn't working because I was working against God's plan for my life.  My identity was in Jesus Christ.  Also, I made a commitment to my parents to go to college.    Leaders don’t become leaders by running from their commitments.  In my first attempt at being a leader I had used my own standard of personal judgment on other people.  The problem with that is that I wasn’t even living up to my own standard of judgment, so it was pretty narcissistic and hypocritical to expect other people to live up to it.

     To shorten a long story I’ll say this.  I took a few months to look at myself in the mirror, and was accepted back in to college.  I was also allowed back to Epcot as a photographer.  I also stopped running from God.  I will never forget my moment of repentance about the sins I had committed over the course of those years in rebellion against God.  From that point on I became focused on serving people instead of obsessing about leading people.  This part was not a conscious decision, it is just what naturally followed as a result of returning to the foot of the cross.  I spent my last year at Epcot as a full time college student and just a regular photographer.  No title or expectations for leadership.  A funny thing happened during that year.   As I was focused on serving my coworkers in the job, they began coming to me for things that felt a lot like leadership.   The more I helped people without any expectations for building up my ego, the more I realized that leadership works best for me when I’m in the mindset of a servant. 

     I graduated from college the week a different company took over the photography at Epcot.  Ironic huh?  I went on to a different job and attended graduate school for psychology full time.  Instead of failing out this time, I earned straight A's all the way through, which is a different story for another day.  But after graduate school I was responsible for the safety and treatment of twelve foster children and twenty staff members at a therapeutic group home.  I had become an authority figure.  I didn't ask for it.  In fact, it was a role that ate therapists for lunch.  I always remembered the lessons that I learned at Epcot, and taught the foster kids and the staff to overcome the unfairness that they were focused on by serving others.  They came to me with the idea that the world owed them something, and for the most part, it was hard to argue that point.  The kids had already had everything stripped from them.  The staff were responsible for things that were seemingly beyond their control.  But teaching them to serve others was much better than any behavior modification program.  Encouraging someone to help their friends and their authority figures is easier to do and more appropriate than behavioral therapy in the moment.  Everyone can understand loving your neighbor.

     How about you?  Do you feel inspired to lead?  If you do, then what is your motivation to lead?  Is it to gain wealth?  Power and fame?  Do you feel like the world owes you something?  It's a painful road to try to convince the world that it needs you.  It's much easier to meet people where they hurt and to try to help them overcome the thing that is holding them back from accomplishing their goals.

     I return to Epcot from time to time to remind myself where I come from and to remember my friends.  I am blessed to bring my wife and daughter.  I try to remember that I am not entitled to the life that I have.  It is a blessing to have this life, in spite of the fact that I wounded other people along the way.  I promise my memory of my friends that I will always honor their time in my life by encouraging people to be a servant instead of being an authority.  I want my daughter to be able to return to this spot, and stand on the raised ledge at the front gate of Epcot.    I want her to know that each picture of a family in front of Space Ship Earth has a story.  I want her to know that her story started here. 

Why Men Don't Want to Go To Therapy

Men don’t really do therapy. Many men have a major issue with therapists. They believe they have to surrender to the therapist as the first step of therapy.  After all, men take a big risk to acknowledge that they cannot fix what is causing their challenge.  We are supposed to be capable of fixing all of our own issues.  It’s in the unwritten “man code” after all.  We fix flat tires, we mow the yard, we figure out how to get where we’re going without stopping to ask for directions.  We even have a habit of telling our wives how to fix their problems before they ask.  Admitting we can’t fix everything is against the code.  By the way, we are surprised when our wives don’t appreciate us for giving them solutions to the things they talk about.  The idea of talking and listening as an actual activity instead of a request for help is foreign to us.  We want to offer solutions to our wives problems.  It’s what we think we are supposed to do.  Actually, we are trying to protect you.  It’s just against the code to say it.  You might think we’re too cheesy.  Appearing cheesy is against the code too.
So maybe you have decided you and your husband need some couples counseling.  When you ask your husband if he will go to see a counselor with you, it’s all about how you present it.  He might need to know what’s in it for him.  It sounds kind of silly doesn’t it?  You see the need.  You love your husband, but maybe you are at a place in your relationship where you want some deeper communication or intimacy.  You are going to need to spell it out for him.  So now I’m going to tell you everything you need to know about men before going to therapy.  I’m a guy so I’m all about fixing things too.  I’m going to tell you all you need to know about getting your man ready for therapy.  This is relevant, first hand experience too.  Ready?  Repeat after me…
“Men are dumb.”  That’s it.  Now you know everything we’ve been trying to hide from you all these years.   
When I gave that speech to teenage girls in therapy it was quite different.  It went like this…
“Boys are dumb.”
All we really need is a reason to protect you or your honor from some outside force and we will be motivated for world conquest.  Remember how earlier I said that men think they have to surrender to a therapist in order to do therapy?  When he thinks therapy is about him, he thinks he has to sacrifice his honor.  When it’s about the two of you, it’s about him protecting your honor if he goes.  But your husband may need you to help him see how going to therapy is about protection.  Therapy is a process, and men have a hard time understanding a process unless it’s been numbered.  This is why we like negotiating car deals.  When we negotiate a good deal, there is feeling that our honor has been gratified, and we protected you from a bad car deal.  
You might need to help him see the goal at the end.  You may need to tell him what he gets out of therapy such as, “I know that sexuality in our relationship is important to you, but lately I feel like you are trying to fix me.  I believe a counselor might be able to help us reduce our arguments.   Since I agreed to give it a try for three months without therapy, I think starting with a counselor now may give us a better chance to help things in our love life.  I want to try counseling once a week for three months.  If things aren’t better by the end of the three months, then we will have tried both of our ideas and we can stop.  If it is better, then we may have a better love life, and we can plan how to …(choose your own ending.)
By trying this approach, you will be claiming the right that you have to an equal vote in your marriage.   Plus, in this example you have said that you tried his way for three months.  His way didn’t fix it when you gave him the opportunity.  He didn’t have a plan.  (This is because guys use escape-type coping skills like sports, video games and extra work in their jobs.)  We avoid the problem for as long as possible.  We try to keep busy doing other things.  We hope the problem will go away if we just avoid it altogether. 
 What you are doing is trying to bring in someone with a plan to get things back on track.  He will learn when he goes to the first session that the therapist does not want him to surrender his role as the husband.  He will learn that the therapist actually understands how men work, and will help him take advantage of his strengths as a man in your particular relationship and situation.  He will be glad that you are able to see how he is still an honorable man even if he needs a little help seeing the benefits of therapy.

You Are The Therapy

     I want to do a little bit of self-disclosure for this blog post.  The most important thing I learned in graduate school was a very simple sentence.  I will never forget my professor Dr. Lawson saying, “You are the therapy.”  
     “What the heck did that mean?” I thought. 
     What he meant was that my therapy comes from my experience.   It also meant that what I learned from life would be the medicine that I would bring to people.  It stuck out in my mind because of the conviction in his voice when he said it.  At that time I had not really learned enough about counseling to know how much of a guiding principle this would be for me.  I knew that I was attending graduate school for counseling psychology because I felt God leading me in that direction.  I was also trying to hide the guilt from my past.  I was trying to keep it from my psychology teachers…I was a little paranoid.  I thought many times to myself that maybe they were on to me.  I just knew they were secretly diagnosing me.  Could they use their secret psychology powers to discover the things I had done in my previous college “experiences?”  If they found out would they think less of me as a Christian, or as a student?  Ok, that’s enough self -disclosure.  You might learn too much about me if you keep nagging me like this.  Ok, fine.  I’ll tell you.
     I became aware of a verse in Romans and it changed my life.  Romans 8:28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”  I was immediately aware that Paul, who wrote this passage, struggled with his own sin, and he was a prominent writer of New Testament books.  If Paul could struggle with his own life story and be confident that God was using his life to point to Jesus, then who am I to say that God could not use my life to point to Jesus?  This made Dr. Lawson’s point hit home for me. 
     Now, as a therapist and as a teacher, I draw on my life stories to normalize what people reveal in therapy and class.  I don’t want people to be paranoid about my “secret psychology powers.”  The truth is I’m at least as broken as they are.  I have days where my wife tolerates me, and my daughter is not impressed with how I push her on the swing.  But one thing I have found is that just being genuine with my wife and my daughter works much better than trying to be perfect or trying to hide behind appearing to be perfect.  Also as a teacher, I find that people relate to my stories of having stuttering problems as a teenager (up until I was about 21 really).  They like to hear that I was suspended from college (twice, but who’s counting) for bad grades.  People appreciate a humble person who has learned from mistakes, more than they respect an egomaniac.   They would much rather hear that I was broken for several years, and then made a dramatic turnaround.  So when I talk about overcoming failure in college, the story doesn’t end in me dropping out of school.   I turned from my sinful choices, and then went on to make straight A’s throughout the rest of college and graduate school.  When I think back to my days of failure, it makes my current situation seem unreal.  How does a stuttering, kid who can’t motivate himself enough to actually show up to his classes, go on to make straight A’s in graduate school?  How does he become a licensed talk therapist and then marry a speech therapist?  Because… God causes all things to work together for good, to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.  It’s a much better, and more real story than the letters behind my name would lead you to believe.  Billy Barnett MS, LMHC. 


Teenagers have a special gift.  They know just what to say to get parents on opposing sides of an issue.  Let’s pretend your teenaged daughter wants to wear an outfit that her friend loaned her.  You being the dad really haven’t paid much attention to what she was preparing to wear tonight.  She gets ready to leave, and you are involved in something.  Maybe you’re cleaning the kitchen or washing your wife’s car or something.  You know you’re always doing productive things for the family right? 

So out comes your daughter and she says, “Bye dad.”  You look up and notice that you don’t recognize those shorts that she’s wearing, and she’s just about to get past you.  You think to yourself, “Man, those shorts don’t look okay.”  What do you do?  Thoughts speed through your mind like a flash of lightning.

What happened to my little girl?
What would my lovely wife say about those shorts?
My wife would look really good in those shorts.
I wonder what my wife is wearing right now…
Is that a scratch on the car?
I need to finish washing this car so I can go fishing.
What time did my wife say she would be home tonight?
Where are my keys?

You stop.  Does your daughter have your keys?  No, the important thing to stay focused on right now is that your daughter is about to get away, wearing the most inappropriate shorts, and who’s going to get in trouble for it when your wife gets home?  You’re daughter?  No.  You are!  Why?  You’re going to get in trouble because you know teenaged boys better than your daughter does.  More specifically, your daughter is testing your boundaries, and she is attempting to take advantage of a psychology term called, “Splitting.”  This is when your daughter attempts to elevate one parent while demoting the other parent.  You are demoted by her attempt to avoid you.  Your wife is elevated in this example, but your daughter avoids her, because she knows she wouldn’t be allowed to wear those clothes if mom was there. 

Your daughter knows your wife is not home.  She knows that you are a softy.  She is attempting to split you from your wife.  She knows that she can take advantage of the fact that her mother is not here to help reinforce the rules about her dress code.  She assumes that since you are not able to communicate with your wife at this very moment, she will have the advantage of plausible deniability about her choices.  She knows the rules regarding her clothes, but she can just say she didn’t know.  Since you saw her in her clothes, and you let her out of the house it must be your responsibility.  News flash!  It is your responsibility.  You have just as much responsibility to point her towards her behaviors as her mother does.  You also have the added responsibility to remind your daughter that you and your wife are on the same page about everything.  (Even if you're not on the same page about everything.)

You also have the fatherly task of assuring that your daughter understands the role of safety in the outside world.  She needs to know that it relates to what she is wearing too.  It may be fine for someone else’s family to put their daughter out there as an advertisement for a men’s magazine, but your daughter is a teenager.  She does not need a man for a few more years.  She needs to understand this concept in a manner that communicates that she has value as a young woman.  The best way for you to do this is to communicate how much you value her and your own wife.

This is where you tell your daughter that you and your wife have already discussed the acceptable way to dress with your daughter.  You can remind her that she has already agreed that she will not wear those shorts since they violate the rules for clothes.  Tell her that your love for her and her mother is what motivates you to tell her to go back inside and change clothes before she leaves.  Tell her that she can go out with her friends when she demonstrates that she is going to make better choices with her clothes.  Do something, but don’t let her split you from your wife by letting her leave.  You set the expectation that she can attempt to come between you and your wife in the future if you just let her go.  If she continues this pattern, she may believe that it’s okay to try to continue coming between mom and dad.

 Your respect for your wife will speak more to your daughter’s heart than the clothes that she got from her friend.  She will see your respect for her mother as a genuine thing to internalize and learn from (bring in to her heart).  She will also remember that her friend who gave her the clothes has the opposite issue.  Her friend’s clothes speak against safety, structure and genuine love.  She knows that those clothes were her friend’s way to get attention.  She’ll probably remember how her friend cried several times about being manipulated by guys…and not understanding why.  Over time, your daughter will grow to realize the difference between selfless love, and self-centered love.  She will understand the love of Jesus by you pointing her to the rules and safety that you set up as a family. 

The Scripts: Savior or Rescuer

The Scripts:  Savior or Rescuer

Remember the kid in school who always went and told on your classmates?  Did you notice that it was usually the same kid who was picking on other kids who went to “tattle” on the teacher’s pet?   We call him the “ Savior” or the “Rescuer” in the drama triangle.  Can’t you just remember him waiting around for you to accidentally drop your pencil?  He would blurt out in class that you were “Out of your seat without permission.”  He just wanted to help the teacher do her job, right?

How did the teacher react?

Did she see through his clever plan?  Did she remember that he was the actual bully?  Why did he seem to think that the adult teacher needed that extra bit of help to find out what you were doing?  Why did he feel the need to portray you as a hooligan anyways? You weren’t doing anything really bad.  You were just trying to get your pencil right?  This is the third part of the “Drama Triangle, or Victim Triangle,” that we have been discussing in other articles.  Dr. Steven Carpman conceptualized the drama triangle in the 1960’s.  This is a great way to see what motivates people. 

People tend to start using these scripts because they do not really want to learn a lesson.  They are stuck in the process of learning to be responsible for their actions.  Their family and friends may actually expect them to grow up and stop doing bad things in the future, so they blame others for their own behaviors.  This lets them live in an ongoing habit of finding some fault in the people around them as the reason for their behaviors.  The three points on the triangle are labeled Persecutor, Victim and Rescuer.  Before I found out that it was Dr. Carpman’s theory, I called them Bully, Victim and Savior.  The savior role is the most entertaining to me.

I remember kids in my past job that always wanted to “help” their caregivers by pointing out the behaviors of other kids.  They would then justify their “right” to act up, because of the things the other kids had done.  It was a constant “bait and switch” scheme.  I learned to help kids with the drama triangle by telling them that they were safe to learn a lesson.  I told them that if they accepted responsibility for their actions, they would be adding something to the inside of their personality.  This would make their personality grow, and heal from things that are hurting right now.  I told them that the next time something like this happens they will be more grown up.  I told them it would be a little bit easier to handle the stress next time, and it would not hurt as much.

How do you see the rescuer or savior role in your daily life?  I’m sure it reminds you of some people you may know.  I would like to encourage you.  Try to show them that you don’t need help, when you really don’t or if you didn’t ask for it.  You will be showing them that they are responsible for being consistent and that you won’t be easily manipulated into “needing” them.

The Scripts: Bully

The Scripts:  Bully or Persecutor

So have you ever found yourself feeling like a friend or a loved one was setting you up? 

Ever felt like you were going to get in trouble no matter what kind of response you gave?

Have you ever heard this line, “Does this dress make me look fat?”

If you say yes, you’re in serious trouble! 
What if you say no?  Maybe you’re being truthful…but maybe you’re being set up for a conflict.  The “non-fat” friend of yours could reply back with something like…well are you saying the other dress makes me look fat?
It’s a no-win for you isn’t it?

How about this one:   “It’s your fault I over drew the checking account! You said I could buy what I want.”

The language that we use is based on our personality.  These are examples of people using the Bully script.  It is also called the persecutor or the perpetrator.  This is one of the three scripts in the Drama Triangle or the Victim Triangle.  The Drama Triangle was a concept put forward by Dr. Stephen Carpman.   He viewed personality conflict through a triangle with three different scripts.  Each script puts the responsibility for behavior on the other person in the relationship.  Not on the one doing the talking. 

I remember being in the group home where I worked for two years as a therapist.  I would constantly watch kids attempting to get out of trouble by blaming other kids or staff members for the unjust treatment that they thought they were about to get.  It usually came about because of something they had done wrong, but they were frantically working on a story that put the responsibility for their behaviors on someone else.  Usually they tried to come up with something they remembered from earlier in the day.  They would try to spin the story so that they were the victim in the situation. The thing that struck me was that fifteen minutes later they would be staring down some other poor kid, and threatening unspeakable things they were going to do to them.  Where did that poor victim go?  It had only been fifteen minutes and they were threatening to beat up on another kid.  They hadn’t learned anything from the consequence that was used or attempts to make them feel like less of a victim.  (Assuming they were convincing enough to the staff member involved with them.)

I was introduced to the Victim Triangle through these episodes.  I used this concept in treatment every day…all day.  Here’s what I would do.

A teenaged child would approach me, usually screaming about what they were going to do to so and so, if they didn’t start getting some respect.   Usually there would be some other poor teenager backed into a corner.  I would ask them, “I didn’t know you were such a perpetrator (Or bully)…Is that what you are telling me you want me to believe, or is there something else you are trying to tell me?  Usually that was enough of a warning about the child’s behavior to get them to stop for a minute from their tirade.  Usually the other kid (or staff member) was even more intrigued, because few people actually talk in this type of language in their daily life.  Think about it.  I’m not saying they are a perpetrator, or a bully.  They approached me and said they were about to do something painful and bullying to someone else.  Their own language already shows their intended choice through a threat of bodily harm to someone else.  I’m just taking them seriously…but I had already spent time with the same child as they were using the victim script.  I had empathized with them when they believed they were the victim.  I didn’t necessarily enable that belief.  I empathized with them. 

Sometimes I reality checked with them about twisted thinking in the victim script too.  But I empathized with them when they were the victim.  I validated their healthy choices, and offered alternative ways to think for future situations.   The other child always safely got out of the corner.  The Bully was also able to save face, because I was actually calling them a bully, which was what they wanted their victim to perceive.  But they made the choice to step away from the bully role in the episode.  It also showed the actual potential victim in the situation how to use de-escalating language in the moment.

By taking the threatening behavior seriously and telling them what it is, I give them the opportunity to be responsible for choosing which role they want to occupy.  They can’t be all three things (Bully, Victim, Rescuer) in the matter of an hour.  They know it’s not consistent.  Over the course of the relationship with the children, I would spend time empathizing with them, regardless of what script they used.  They always needed empathy, because they were working on changing aspects of how they cope with others.  I was challenging how they view the world, and how they believed others perceived them. 

The most important part for me as a therapist was that the children learned that I would be consistent and available.  I would not reject them based on the script that they were using at the time.  For a bully to learn that someone close can call them out on their behavior, and still stick with them, is the part that helps them grow.

A Little Off Topic: Trayvon Martin

     I just got home with my wife and daughter.  We were playing at a local park here in Orlando.  I sat down at a table and began reading the newspaper that my wife gets, so she can coupon.  On the front page of the paper today was a headline that said, “Gun owners debate shooting, law.”  It was correct.  Gun owners are debating the shooting of Travon Martin.  I wasn’t really intending on writing about this topic, but looking around at this playground gave me some perspective.  I have been around guns my entire life.  I have been following several forums concerning guns for about two years now.  We are discussing this case.  But then I had a different thought after reading that article in the paper.
I looked up and it occurred to me that I was sitting next to a Hispanic man.  We had already laughed together about his kids while I was reading my paper.  I looked at my daughter playing there in the park.  I noticed that there was only one little curly blonde girl, with blue eyes on the playground.  She was mine.  There were about twenty different Hispanic kids and their parents.  Then I noticed three different groups of Asian families.  All of these families, and my little girl were playing on the playground together.  I moved close to where my wife and daughter had wandered off to, and I found another bench to sit on.  I watched them play for a little while, and a Caucasian man came and sat down beside me.  I noticed his child on the slide too.   He spoke to me about how the park gets more crowded when the weather gets warm like this.  I replied about the weather in a pretty stereotypical way, as I noticed his accent.  I believe it was eastern European.  What brings all of these families to this playground?  They are all playing together and having a good time.  My frustration became focused.  This is not the community or the America portrayed by the news.   This is a meeting of some seventy-five Americans on a playground.  They are from all over the world.  Why are they here?  If the news reports were right about America being a racist nation, then these people should be hiding in their homes.  Yet they come out here and play…and they bring their children.  Teeny-tiny ones.  One little boy and his parents were most likely from Pakistan.  They stuck out in my mind.  They brought their one year-old boy out to play at this playground.   Will he ever have to worry about being the wrong type of Muslim here in Orlando?  They’re killing each other by the truck load in Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Sudan, Libya, etc.  These are all countries overwhelmed by sectarian violence.  Our new foreign policies are a driving force behind changing these countries.  We are taking advantage of the racial and ethnic divides in these countries, and encouraging them to radically change in a short period of time, without really defining what the result should look like.  They are being
manipulated by opportunists here in America.
     With the recent shooting of Trayvon Martin, it’s easy to see the usual opportunists attempting to take advantage and hijack this situation.  In America, the shooting of an African American boy is a tragedy.  It creates such outrage that we all take notice.  It’s so unacceptable that it causes all of us to question our identity as Americans, and shakes our core identity.  It does this to us because it is a rare exception, and we do not intend, or desire for it to go unpunished.  It is not the norm when compared to the rest of the world.  This is because we are a nation that makes laws, which are designed to promote good intentions and morality.  But the opportunists know that we are a nation of good people and of laws.  They want to take advantage of our good intentions, by labeling the lawful society as the problem.  We are not the problem.  We are the reason why people come to this country from all over the world.  People know that they can escape their oppressive regimes and come play in my playground, ten miles from where Trayvon Martin was shot, and be safe.  They know that the laws exist here to deter people from targeting their families.  They know that America is not perfect.  But they are willing to overlook the imperfection, because they can easily see that the intent of the nation is to do what is right.  Which makes me beg the question, why do we want to fundamentally transform America?
     Stories of violence make the news every day.  Sometimes people in America get killed.  That’s because evil exists.  Evil is not a respecter of race.  It doesn’t care what race you are.  Yes, you may hear about violence every week.  We have constant news coverage all over the country.  There are over three hundred million of us.  (We had violence in the group home where I worked, and there were only twelve kids in the entire population.) 
     How many people are killed per day in the Middle-East by religious sectarian violence?  There’s at least one truck bombing per month on a mosque that kills upwards of fifty people.  Yet the people still go to the mosques.  Our news media does not actually process these reports.  Where is the media outrage for those people’s families?  How many people die in foreign elections, yet they still vote.  Where is the media outrage?  These things happen in other countries, because there are no laws to prevent them from happening, and no punishments for those who commit the atrocities.   The fear of racism may be justified in America, and I freely admit that I have never had to worry about being profiled due to my race.  But I still have to do what is right.   The structure of the law punishes those who do harm.  If the laws were silent about this type of incident, there would indeed be reason to riot in the street when a boy is killed in cold blood.  But a man who made an idiotic choice to ignore law enforcement is an exception to the norm.  He is not a reason to disassemble the laws that allow people to come here.  What country will build a playground where minority families can play together?  What country will provide an environment without the fear of a truck bomb taking out an entire playground of minority children playing together?  Will a fundamentally transformed America provide a better place for my child to play with minority kids?  If so, why do the usual opportunists flock to this episode and try to dig up old racial profiling arguments.  Those arguments do not seem to reflect reality on my playground.     
     The real aim of this movement is to remove the ability that you and I have at the moment to own a weapon in our home.  They want to be able to remove your right to own a gun, and to rely upon the government to keep you safe.  They know they have to do it in progressive steps.  The easiest step is to attack Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law.  This case is not a stand your ground case.  You cannot pursue someone and claim that you were lawfully standing your ground.  All of the self-defense instructors teach that getting away from danger is the obvious best defense.  Standing your ground makes sense, because you should not have to prove that you ran away from danger in a self-defense scenario.  Image being mugged at gun-point and having to prove in court that you tried to run from the mugger.  He would have just shot you for running.  In other states you have to run from your house before you are allowed to defend yourself from your home being invaded.  Stand your ground is intended to prevent law-abiding citizens from being convicted for defending themselves against bad guys.  It is intended to allow you to defend yourself from attackers engaged in armed felonies.  It is enforced in your home as you defend your “Castle” and on the street if someone uses deadly force against you.  But it must be a threat of deadly force.  Being African American, or wearing a hoodie is not a deadly threat.  Nor does it warrant pursuit by an armed citizen.  Nothing warrants pursuit by an armed citizen unless they are a police officer.
     The usual opportunists desire to bring the lack of awareness on the part of the rest of the country in to Florida, to cast doubt upon our law.  The law is designed to allow law-abiding citizens to keep the burden of guilt upon the felon engaged in felony.  Not on the attacked victim.  In this case, the media is using “Stand Your Ground” as the first progressive step in eliminating the Florida law.  They want lots of gun control language encased in racial violence, on the public airwaves.  They want to bring as many social questions to this case so they can generalize it to their efforts of enforcing gun control nation wide.  It will be a tragic day if someone breaks in to your home, and you do not have the right to own a gun.  When criminals can be criminals without fear of retaliation, the government will know that they can govern without fear of retaliation.  This is why we have the Second Amendment.  It gives a healthy dose of fear to bad guys, regardless of their party affiliation.

The Scripts

Once you have set up the ten rules in your home you will probably face some setbacks and frustrations.  Hopefully you will begin to see some positive results from having a “home base” to parent from.  The more you use them, the more you will notice that your language will start to follow a pattern.  You may find yourself repeating things.   You will develop what is termed a “script.”  We will call it a script from here on out. 

As you notice yourself practicing the rules, you may realize that your script is less about you or your child.  It’s actually about the behavior you are trying to correct.  For example, I might say to my little one, “Do we throw our toys?”  She would say no. 
“What do we do with our toys?” I would ask her.
“We play nicely with our toys.”  She would respond.
We’ve practiced this, so she knows she has misbehaved.  I’m just giving her the opportunity to be responsible for her behavior and to correct it through her own choice.

If she continues to throw her toy we would send her to time out and talk about the behavior again.  But the benefit here is that we did not resort to what would have been my early script without the rules.  It would go something like this.

I see her throwing her toys.
“What are you doing?” 
No response.
“Elizabeth!”   If you don’t stop that right now, you’re going to get a spanking.
No response.
Elizabeth, if you don’t stop doing that right now, daddy’s going to get mad.
She still continues.
Elizabeth don’t make daddy come over there.

Elizabeth continues…etc etc.  Until I follow through and spank her or change to a consequence I am willing to follow through with.
Notice my consequences kept getting less severe.  I’m already changing my strategy from cause/effect to trying to appeal to her.  I’ve told her she won, and I just want her to change her mind so she can preserve the relationship.  I’ve given her the responsibility of parenting because I didn’t do what I said I would do the first time. 

I never told her what she needed to stop doing.  I didn’t follow through with my pledge to spank her until at least the third or fourth warning.  This encourages her to continue to test the limit.

The script is habitual dialogue that I draw upon from the past with my child. Sometimes we take what we hear from our parents and make it snowball in the lives of our children. 

The victim triangle, or the drama triangle:
This is an approach to understanding personality dialogue and what’s called the externalization process.  It is credited to Dr. Steven Karpman MD.  He first devised this model in the 1960’s.  He came up with a dramatic script visual called the “victim triangle,” or the “drama triangle.”  This is a very helpful tool to understand the way people try to avoid responsibility in their daily interactions.

We are not constant victims of the world.  We choose what we do and how we feel.
“You always…”   (Always is an absolute term.  People are not absolute beings.)
“You never…”  (Never is an absolute term.)
“Don’t make me do…”  (People can’t really make you do things unless they violate your boundaries, such as a hostage situation).
“You make me feel…” (People can’t make you feel anything unless they are physically harming you). 

This is an example of the “victim” script.  The example is how our dialogue attempts to make us the victims of the people we are talking with. 

“Don’t make me spank you” would be an example of a parent making himself the victim of a noncompliant child.  The parent is implying that he is the victim of the child’s spanking.  It makes the consequence the problem and not the behavior. This diminishes the cause/effect relationship to the child’s choice to misbehave.  It also encourages a later attachment issue between the two.  We will discuss these issues in more detail later.

We will discuss the three main scripts and put them in a visual format.
The best way to avoid script language is to focus on the problem, not attacking the person.  In our pre-marital counseling, our pastor gave us a communication covenant.  One of the best lines in that document was that we would agree to never verbally attack our spouse.  We would always discuss the problem as being the problem and not the person as being the problem.  This is one of the most important points in counseling all relationship issues.  We will continue with the victim triangle and the concept of scripts in our next few blog articles.  

Why we have the Ten Rules

So for the last week I’ve been trying to narrow my focus for the “Ten Rules For Your Home” material.  I received a few questions from people asking how to get started in coming up with rules.  The main concerns were, “How do you keep the leadership role of the father in the home when the teenager is coming up with the rules?” Another question was, “Why do you do time out when it does not seem like it is working?”
            These are great questions.  When I enter the picture as a counselor, things have usually gotten to the point where the family needs immediate help.  They can’t wait three months to see improved behaviors in their child.  Usually the school is giving ultimatums to the family about their child’s behavior too.  A comforting word from an overly optimistic counselor will not get the school to stop sending home letters about their kid’s bad behavior.  There needs to be some sort of plan to get everyone in the child’s life on the same page.  This is why I needed something adaptable to the most difficult family situations.  Families with less intense issues can always scale back the plan if it is too much.
            Working with teenagers can be very frustrating at times.  Having the ability to manipulate concepts is a new skill for them.  They are sometimes overwhelmed by the new information that they are now capable of understanding, but they do not have all the right places in their mind to store the information from new processing abilities.

I came up with the “Ten Rules” after my two years as a counselor in a Specialized Therapeutic Group Home.  I was responsible for the counseling of foster children who needed an extremely high level of supervision.  We had a 24-hour staff that was accountable to where the children were at all times.  These workers all had differing opinions of how things should be run, but we couldn’t do it a different way for each staff member.  Additionally, I learned that the kids would have been very happy for us to try to run the group home eighteen different ways.  They could exploit that.  That is why we emphasized the concept of “splitting” or divisions. By having a common plan, we were able to keep the children from using the different “parenting” styles of the workers against each other.  Sometimes the kids understood it better than the grown ups though. 
So when I left the group home I began working with children in an outpatient type setting.  They had at least one parent.  I realized that these children also had stability issues that I could address by simplifying the structure of the group home.  I wanted to also make it a Biblical model, because I am confident in the Bible’s relevance for everyone.  I noticed that many of the parents were mad because their kids were “disrespectful.”  I asked them to tell me how they will know their kids are being respectful.  They would say something like, “He’ll say yes ma’am or no ma’am.  He won’t use profanity anymore, or he won’t get into fights at school.” 
I would ask those same parents to write those down as rules, and about half the time, they would not write down those rules.   Since I had so many kids, and about half of the parents would not work on coming up with rules, I began working on the rules myself with the kids.  I would send the kids home with the rules, and many of them would get really excited about their counseling!  In turn, their behaviors at home would improve.  Imagine how a teenager feels when they are getting into trouble, and they begin to take responsibility for their actions.  It is so disappointing when they get home and their parent is not involved in the counseling that they demanded the child receive. The only time I had a hard time with this design was when parents just did not think it was necessary to be involved in participating in the therapy.  They would say things like, “Can’t you just get her to do what I say?” Unfortunately, those were the cases where I was least effective in helping the families.  The “Ten Rules” is a model designed to help the parents and the child communicate about expectations.  This behavior management template also allows the counselor to work on the deeper issues once the clear expectations are set at home.  Many times it even improved marriage conflict, because it gives the parents an opportunity to parent from the same set of expectations.  In time the “Ten Rules” get replaced with the language that the parents learn to use in the moment.  In essence, it teaches the parents how to step outside of the issues they inherited from their own development, and to parent from a Biblical model, instead of an inherited wound of the heart from their own parents.

Starting my practice

I wanted to take a minute to thank you for visiting my blog. You probably found me at this point after attending MOPs or Empowered Parents at FBC Oviedo. I wanted to give you some more background about where I am going as far as setting up a Christian minded private practice. I would like to provide counseling services in Oviedo. I am following God's direction in my life, and I must say that events are moving currently just about as quickly as I can keep up with them. My first concern each day is to be a good husband and father. I think that is a fitting goal for a counselor, focusing on families. I am also employed at Full Sail University as an Associate Course Director for our Behavioral Science class. In the mean time, I have been responding to a long term burden that God has placed on my heart for a local counseling ministry or private practice in Oviedo. That is the reason I decided to become a counselor in 2004.

I finished graduate school in 2007, after completing an internship down in Kissimmee at Park Place Behavioral Healthcare. The normal thing to do after finishing my internship would have been to leave that job since it was far away, and did not seem to be helping me address the burden that God gave me for counseling in Oviedo. I continued to work down there because God put a great opportunity in front of me. I met Dr. Garrett Griffin.

Dr. Griffin and I started talking because I was recommended to him as a candidate for a job. He needed a therapist at the group home that Park Place was operating. I felt led to bring up church in that conversation (can't remember why) and it turned out that we both went to FBC Oviedo. This was pretty ironic since both of us were working so far away from our homes and both attended the same church two counties to the North. What were the chances of that? 100% when we allow God to direct our paths. I worked for Dr. Griffin for two years at the group home and also for almost two more years in our children's outreach department. He became a mentor and a great buddy. Most of my professional development has occurred while I was working under Dr. Griffin's leadership, guidance and the opportunities that God has brought through him. After I earned my counseling license, I began focusing on my longer term goal of getting a job closer to home. It was very difficult for me to think about moving away from my ideal setting at Park Place and my friends at work. I believe that God led me to stay down there for those years, so I could become a much better therapist, and He wasn't finished with my education yet. The experience I gained as a result of working for Dr. Griffin, and Park Place are fundamental to who I am as a therapist. I was able to remain true to my identity in Christ and to develop as a professional therapist. I was also able to mature personally, while serving in some of the most complicated circumstances the state has to offer in the counseling field.

I know that I have the heart of a teacher, and that God is in charge of the direction of my life, so when the opportunity came about to interview at Full Sail, I jumped on it. I had been interested in Full Sail for many years due to my photography background and the friends that I have who earned their degrees there. So for the last eight months I have been getting myself established in my job, and fulfilling my obligations to get certified in the classes. I am also helping out as we re-write our textbook.

I have also been doing some counseling in the evenings which is helping to get the Christian private practice off the ground. I am getting a few referrals from families and schools in the area. I was also asked to speak for MOPS at FBC Oviedo, which was extremely fun! I have to say it was somewhat strange to be the only guy in the room though. Not to mention the fact that my own mom and my wife were part of the crowd! It's one thing for a guy to tell a bunch of ladies how to be better parents. It's a completely different thing when your own wife and mother are there..awkward! But we had fun. Now I am gearing up for the Empowered Parents meeting. I am praying that I am able to say what the Lord wants me to say, and that people's homes may benefit from the Biblical Foundation for Behavior Management and the Ten Rules for Your Family.