Dick Mitchell, or “Chief Mitch” was the Director of a wilderness camp for emotionally troubled youth. I was fortunate that he chose to become a mentor for me while I worked at the camp. He believed in me, held me accountable when I strayed, made me laugh, played golf with me, and taught me how to be a better counselor. Often when I am facilitating BIP classes I get faced with situations where it is appropriate to employ a tool or strategy that I learned from “Chief Mitch”. While I wish I could remember more of his wonderful “pearls” of wisdom", the one that has been on my mind lately is a comment that he made to me over 25 years ago.
I was having difficulty figuring out how to get my group of 10 troubled kids to function well. My group was not accomplishing much and the kids in my care were extremely challenging in their behavior. I tried everything I knew to improve the situation, but nothing seemed to work. Out of frustration, I told Chief Mitch, "these kids are impossible!"
Chief Mitch came down to my campsite one afternoon to evaluate the situation. After spending a long, difficult afternoon with the kids and me, he said something like, “You know Steve, I think that probably 80% of the problems that happen in the groups around here are the result of counselor error. As counselors get better, problems seem to go away.” Then he walked away leaving me to puzzle over his words.
I think that Chief Mitch would agree with me when I say that probably 80% of the problems that arise in a BIP classroom are a result of “facilitator error”.
Chief Mitch recognized that while I thought I knew what I was doing, and I was willing to try hard, I had a great deal to learn. His statement marked the true beginning of my road to “get better”. He was asking me to examine myself, listen to the kids, and accept influence from those more experienced. As I slowly learned to be more introspective and open, I began to grow as a counselor.
I think that Chief Mitch would agree with me when I say that probably 80% of the problems that arise in a BIP classroom are a result of “facilitator error”. This can arise in a number of instances. Common examples that I have seen—and committed over the years—would include:
* Disrespecting a participant in a blatant or subtle fashion
* Creating a “we vs them” culture in the class
* Inappropriately or prematurely holding participants accountable
* Having unrealistic expectations of a participant
* Being overconfident
* Failing to build a trusting relationship before asking a person to be vulnerable
* Allowing our own “baggage” to interfere
* Not following through with agreements
There are many examples beyond these of how we create many of our own problems and complications while facilitating groups. The antidote for these "facilitator errors" is almost always introspection. The more I am willing and able to look at myself and understand what is happening within me, the better equipped I am to navigate a room of people who are commonly less skilled at introspection themselves.
The antidote for these "facilitator errors" is almost always introspection.
The Family Peace Initiative created the Facilitator Training Series, because in the end, the more we can sit comfortably with ourselves, the more we can sit comfortably and calmly with others while they are learning to look at themselves. It is essential for facilitators to pursue introspection regardless of level of skill.
Dick Mitchell passed away a year or so ago. His contribution to a better world lives on through the kids and the counselors he helped along the way. Not only was Chief Mitch a master of his craft, but also an inspiration for many to never give up the quest to "get better".
Happy July everyone. Thanks for your dedication to mastering your craft.