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  • Writer's pictureRobert Davies

Bob the Counsellor: Fire! Fire! Fire! (Part 2)

Updated: Nov 28, 2019

Rowena wants Mr. Jenkins to use his magic to make her anxiety go away. Mr. Jenkins says that Rowena can do it all by herself with some coaching.

Fire is warm. Fire is a blessing, but it can still burn.

Robert Davies © 2018

Mr. Jenkins had returned early to his office to prepare the survey that he and Rowena would use to “check out the facts”.

After getting permission from the classroom teacher to meet at 1PM, Mr. Jenkins had explained the following quickly and quietly at the classroom doorway.

“Good, so at 12:45, Rowena, you and I will catch the teachers in the primary-grade two hallway to ask them some questions about keeping students safe. They are a big part of the fire protection. Let’s do a survey and we’ll check the teachers in your hallway right after lunch. But come and see me in the office at 12:30. I’ll let the secretary know you are coming in, Okay?”

“Okay!” said Rowena.

At 12:30PM, Rowena sat beside Mr. Jenkins at the computer.

“It is important to find out first of all if our teachers have been in a school fire. Secondly, it is important to find out how long they have been practicing fire drills.”

Quickly Mr. Jenkins with Michelle’s help prepared a short survey to ask the teachers.

The questions in the survey could be answered very quickly. They were:

1. How many years have you been teaching

2. How many schools have you taught in?

3. How many times a year have you done a fire drill?

4. How many school fires have you been in?

Mr. Jenkins made 12 copies. Together they quickly went to the designated corridor where the 9 teachers were standing, waiting for their students coming in from the noon break. Rowena walked quickly and gave each of them the survey. Of course, Mr. Jenkins had let the teachers know this was going to happen. He caught most in the lunch room and another few in their classrooms over lunch.

Rowena and Mr. Jenkins finished very quickly using only one hallway. They asked the kindergarten’s, grade one’s and some /grade one/two combined classes. They surveyed all nine teachers. Then Rowena went back to the office at about 1PM with Mr. Jenkins to do the adding up. It was important that Rowena be part of the survey.”

Mr. Jenkins looked at what the teachers had told him. Some had been teachers more than 30 years of teaching experience; some just five or ten. Some had taught in more than one school. Some had as many as 20 schools, others 12 and still others 5. Everyone had done at least 3 fire drills each year and some had done as many as 6 fire drills per year.

“ Rowena helped Mr. Jenkins using the calculator to add up the number of years of experience. Then Mr. Jenkins said that he would average it out between the nine teachers.”

“Okay, Rowena, you added up all the years of experience, How many did you get?”

“Well, there was 35, 30, 20, 25, 2, 9, 15, 18 and 8. So, I got 157.”

“Okay, we are going to divide that by 9 to get the average. That will be sharing the time between the 9 teachers. What do we have?”

Rowena, punched in 157 divided by 9

“That would be 18 roughly”

“Okay, Rowena, we have 25 classrooms and 25 classroom teachers. That means we have 25 teachers with at least 18 years of experience in our large elementary. So multiply them.”

Mr. Jenkins showed Rowena what keys to punch.

“How many?”


“Okay, we have 450 years of experience.”

“Rowena, how many teachers had been in a school fire?”

“No one, Mr. Jenkins.”

“How many fire drills have the teachers done?”

“Well, it was always 3 but I know that last year in kindergarten we did more.”

“That’s right, teachers are doing 6 a year now.”

“Anyway, let’s just say each teacher in the school has done at least 3 per year. Now punch in 450 times 3, which is how much?”


“Okay, Rowena, that means this school has more than one thousand years of experience keeping children safe from fires. That’ s important for you. All together the teachers have had more than 1,350 safe fire evacuations. So besides the fire extinguishers, the smoke detectors, the fire-closing doors, the smoke detectors in the ceiling, the water sprinklers on all the ceilings, the fire doors, the electronic fire watcher, the fact that the fire department is connected to the school’s fire system at the fire station, the special parking for fire trucks outside the front and back of our school and being just up the hill from the fire station. Heck, we are only five minutes away. Then there is the following facts for our entire school … which is brick and has gyprock, both are fire proof.”

Rowena was listening closely.

“ Rowena, lets look at that thought again of yours. - I have nothing to protect me in the school if there was a fire ?”

“Is that okay with you, Rowena?”

“Yes, Mr. Jenkins.”

“Let’s see what mind traps might be in that thought?

Cognitive Distortion (Mind Trap) # 3 - Negative Filter: Looking only at the negative.

“ Rowena, number three means that you are thinking only about the negative things like a fire in the school but nothing about the positive things such as everything we have to protect us from fire.”

Rowena sat listening.

“For example, because you were only thinking about school fires and danger, negative things did you at all think about the positive things.”

“Positive things?” queried Rowena.

Cognitive Distortion (Mind Trap) # 4 – Discounting the Positive: Looking only at the negative and excluding the positive.

“Yes, positive things! When you were worried about school fires, did you think about fire doors, smoke detectors, fire lanes, electronic fire panel, fire sprinklers and all the experience your teacher and in fact every teacher has had in safely ushering out each and every student safely? Did you?”

“No. No, I didn’t, ” said Rowena with a shake of her head.

So, circle number 3 mind trap. Now, how about mind trap 4? If three is about thinking only about the negative, then mind trap 4 is about not thinking about the positive things just mentioned. Then you can circle mind trap number 4.”

Cognitive Distortion #5 - Jumping to Conclusions Not Warranted by the Facts with two types a) Mind Reading - you think you know what others are thinking and b) Fortune Telling - You predict the future.

Then there is mind trap 5, Jumping to Conclusions such as fortune telling. Can you tell the future?”

“Sure, I know school finishes at 2:15. That’s the future.”

“That is only the schedule,” said Mr. Jenkins. “Between now and then, you could get sick and have to go home before 2:15. Could that possibly happen?”


“Yes, maybe. That is the future. Maybe yes, maybe no. We don’t know. So you have mind trap 5 in your thought, too. Because you are predicting a fire and no one can predict accurately. It is only a guess which is may or may not happen. Can we say that you have been telling the future?”

“Yes, I have.”

Cognitive Distortion No 6 – Magnification (or minimization) – You think things are bigger than they really are.

“Then,” said Mr. Jenkins, that makes three mind traps all together. Let’s look at mind trap 6 – Magnification. Have you been making your problem bigger than it really is. You have no fire at the school. None of the teachers have been in a school fire. We have all sorts of things in the school building to warn us of any fire and also to stop any fire. Still, you kept thinking of fire. Sounds like magnification to me.”

“Hmmm,” agreed Michelle, nodding her head up and down.

Cognitive Distortion (Mind Trap ) # 7 – Emotional Reasoning: You use your feelings to think with.

“Feelings, Rowena, are all over the map. They are unreliable. You need your brains to think with not just how you feel. Have you heard the expression: Calm down and use your head. Well, that means get your feelings out of the way and start thinking with your head. Just because you feel like there may be a fire at school doesn’t mean there will be a fire. You can’t think with your feelings. Feelings don’t have brains. Have you been thinking with your feelings.”

“Yep, it sounds like it.”

So, we have lots of mind traps. That means your thought I have nothing to protect me in the school if there was a fire.” Can’t be true! What would be true?”

“I … “ Rowena paused.

Mr. Jenkins gave her some coaching.

“Well, didn’t we find lots of things to protect you in the school?”

“Yes, we did.”

“And didn’t we discover that there over fifty teachers with thousands of successful fire drills under their belt?”

“Well, then put that into a sentence, Rowena.”

“I have lots of things to protect me from school fires, and I have lots of teachers to protect me, too.”

“Would that be 100% true? Rowena.”


“Then how true is the thought that you have no one and nothing to protect you from a school fire?”

“That’s not true at all.”

“Okay, Rowena,” said Mr. Jenkins, “you write 0% true for the negative thoughts and write 100% for the new positive thought.

“Now, let us look at all those negative thoughts. How strong are they now?”

Rowena put zeroes in where there had been significant levels of negative emotion.

“How do you feel now that you are thinking more positively.”

“I feel wonderful. And next time, we can work on the lockdowns.”

“Okay,” said Mr. Jenkins.

Mr. Jenkins was at his other school the following day. When he returned the next day, he checked in with Rowena’s homeroom teacher. She was busy taking down the Halloween decorations.

“Mr. Jenkins! Good morning!”

“Good morning, Jennifer.”

“You wouldn’t believe what happened yesterday. We had a lockdown practice, and our little Rowena was as calm as a cucumber.”

That was the beginning of grade one for Rowena. She had told herself a thought that was both realistic and positive which put a lie to the negative thought. Thereafter, Rowena performed the fire drills and lockdown drills without a trace of anxiety.

“Well, done, little Miss Rowena!” thought Mr. Jenkins, “You have yourself a life skill to use again and again with anxiety, that rascally stealer of a child’s peace of mind.” (1737 words)

The End

Most people like stories, and therapy is all about stories. Telling stories about powerful techniques used in TEAM CBT therapy demystify this therapy one story at a time.

Yet, confidentiality is a cornerstone of all counselling. Without confidentiality, clients wouldn’t feel safe going to therapy to divulge the most painful areas of their lives. To safeguard clients while illustrating TEAM CBT techniques, confidentiality is kept by either having the client’s consent or by distorting the facts, making the client unrecognizable .

Robert Davies

Counselling Therapist

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