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Counsellor Bob: Fire! Fire! Fire! (Part 1)

Updated: Nov 28, 2019

A grade one student is petrified of fire drills. She asks Bob-the-counsellor for some of his magic.


Fire Red feels delightful; Red Fire can feel threatening or welcoming. The choice is ours. Our thoughts create our feelings, says Marcus Aurelius and so does CBT.

Fire! Fire! Fire!


© 2018 Robert Davies



“Mr. Jenkins!”

It was Wennie Evans who taught a grade kindergarten/grade one split class. She was standing at her classroom door.

“Listen, I have a rather anxious child in my class. Her mother dropped by after school yesterday. She says her daughter is very worried about fire. She keeps asking about whether her home could burn down, how far away the fire station is, if they have enough smoke detectors and could their home be struck by lightning.”

“Poor child.”

“Yes, poor thing. She is having a hard time paying attention and focusing.”

“Sounds like anxiety.”

“And her mother says it is a daily occurrence.”

Mr. Jenkins hung on her every word.

“Anything else?”

“Yes, could you give the mother a call today. The child’s name is Rowena Davis. She’s a grade one student.”

“I’ll call her right now. The more information the better,” said the Bob-the-counsellor.

“If the mother agrees, I will try to see Rowena today.”


***


Just after recess, the phone call had been made and already Rowena was talking a mile a minute to Mr. Jenkins.

“So you don’t feel very safe in this school and the fire alarm practicing has been really scaring you.”

Rowena's head bobbed up and down.

A quick assessment showed her anxiety was extreme.

“Well, Rowena, as is to be expected your anxiety is extreme. You feel very threatened at school. Listen, this is how I can help you. You are feeling very anxious. It is a terrible feeling. You are worried something bad will happen. You are thinking fire is the bad thing. Is that right?”

“Yes.”

“Now, when you feel worried about anything, it is because you are thinking something bad about something. The thought about the something causes the worried feeling. If you change the thought, we can change the feeling. Would you like to change the feeling of anxiety?”

“Oh, please, Mr. Jenkins. I want to learn.”


(Checking on Client Resistance)

“But, you know something, Rowena, you are getting a lot of attention from your teacher and your mother and me, Mr. Jenkins. If you get rid of your anxiety, you will not have as much attention. You won’t see me at all and your teacher, well, you won’t need her as much. Maybe, it’s better getting all that attention. You had said you liked everyone looking after you. Maybe I shouldn’t help you. What do you think?”

“Mr. Jenkins. I don’t want to stay this way. I gotta change. I want to be a big girl, not a cry-baby, like the boys say I am.”

"Are you sure? You will be just like all the other students after that, just an ordinary student as I am an ordinary school counsellor. Don't you want to be special and have people worried about you and checking in on you all the time?"

"No, I don't, Mr. Jenkins. I want everything to get normal again. Please don't send me back to class."


“Okay, you sure you want to change and not stay anxious.”

“Yes, Mr. Jenkins. I don’t like it. My Mom is telling me to stop bothering her, and I am also bothering the teacher about my worries about fires.”

“It sounds like a tough time for you, Rowena?”

“It sure is. I need your magic.”

“Well, it is not magic, Rowena. I have some tools, and I teach you to use them. You are the one to change things. Do you want to learn how? It is called TEAM-CBT.”

Rowena nodded very vigorously.


“This is how we do it. First, you tell me exactly what is bothering you. You said the thought of getting hurt in a school fire. Okay write that down."

Mr. Jenkins has all sorts of forms for his clients.


GETTING HURT IN A SCHOOL FIRE

“Now, lets look at our feelings when you think about getting hurt in a school fire.


MY NEGATIVE FEELINGS

Rowena circled her negative feelings: Sad, anxious, incompetent, foolish, discouraged, frustrated, upset, overwhelmed and embarrassed. She then wrote how strong each were by using the graph below.

0%......10%......20%.....30%......40%.....50%.....60%.....70%.....80%.....90%......100%

Soon both Mr. Jenkins and Rowena had a whole bunch of feelings circled with their corresponding strengths, anywhere from a low of 30% up to 100% and even higher (Sometimes, a child wants to stress the strong feeling by writing 104% or 500% or even 100 “kadrillion” percent.


WRITING DOWN THE NEGATIVE THOUGHTS

Using the feelings, Mr. Jenkins continued.

“Rowena, when you were feeling sad at 80%, what were you thinking? What were you saying to yourself?”

Mr. Jenkins would write down all the thoughts. Often in order to get more meaning, Mr. Jenkins would ask about the thought.

“So, you were telling yourself that you don’t like fire drills – Why? Why don’t you like them?”

Well, I might die,” said Rowena.

“I might die,” echoed Mr. Jenkins.

“Why might you die?” asked Mr. Jenkins.

“Well, I am not safe. I don’t have equipment like a fireman.”

“And if you don’t have that equipment?”

I have nothing to protect me in the school if there was a fire.”

“Okay, Rowena, and how true is that?

“A lot true.”

“Okay, write in the amount.”

Rowena copied 70%.

“Now,” continued Mr. Jenkins, “what do you mean that there’s nothing to protect you. Can you explain it to me?”

“I can burn up. I don’t have a fire suit. I don’t have a tank or mask. There isn’t any water for me to put the fire out.”


DETECTIVE WORK

“Okay, the first thing we have to do is to check to see if it is really true that you have nothing to protect you in the school. We will be like detectives and look for proof that there is nothing to protect you. Does that sound like the way to go – to check it out and see if what you are thinking is really that true – 70% true?”

“Sure, Mr. Jenkins.”


“Okay. Let’s check the ceiling. Look way up.”

Mr. Jenkins and Rowena were staring up at the ceiling.

“Now do you see those things sticking out. Those ones with the little sort of wheel at the end? There is one there to the left and another towards the door. That’s two in this office. When you are in your classroom, count them on the ceiling. There are lots of them. ”

Rowena nodded, “ I will.”

“Well, those are hooked up to big water pipes. If there is a fire, the stuff in them melts and the water comes out in a big shower and soaks the whole office.”

“What about the computer on your desk and your books?”

“Well, they get soaked with water and probably will end up in the garbage. That’s expensive. BUT it stops us from burning up. The water is to protect you not the stuff in the school. You are way more important than a dumb ol' computer!"

“There are also smoke detectors up in those vents up there. Do you see the vents?"

"Yep."

“ So the smoke detector inside there will be pick up the presence of smoke and the alarm will go off. Then the fire department will come and stop the smoke before the fire even starts. See those vents up there again (Mr. Jenkins pointed to the ceiling again.) Well, those vents suck up the old air. (Mr. Jenkins made a loud sucking noise. Rowena looked at him, impressed.), and with those vents having smoke detectors in them, then if there are any strong smells like smoke or even oil, it'll go off and call the fire department. The school uses oil to heat the school. If any of the tanks that hold the oil were to leak, there’d be fumes. Neat eh?”

“What else is there?”

“Well,” added Mr. Jenkins, “there are the fire doors that stop any fire from spreading. Let’ s go out in the hallway and check.”

As Mr. Jenkins and Rowena headed out of the main office into the hallway, Mr. Jenkins addressed the secretary, “ Rowena and I are checking the fire doors and the electronic fire system.”

The secretary smiled. Mr. Jenkins was always doing some kind of detective work with his student-clients. Sometimes they did it around the school, in the classroom or just in Mr. Jenkins’ office.

Outside in the hallway, Mr. Jenkins and Rowena checked out the doors.

“You see how the door is stuck open up top? Well, those are magnets. When the fire alarm goes off, the magnet shuts down and the doors close all by themselves. Do you know why?”

“To stop the fire?”

“You got it!”

Mr. Jenkins grabbed the door.

“Check out this door. It is not your ordinary door. It is heavy. The glass is fireproof. Fire can’t get past it. Give it a kick."

Rowena gave it a kick.

"Wow. It is hard and heavy and thick."

Mr. Jenkins then walked to the main entrance to the school. Rowena tagged along. They stopped in front of a panel of lights.

“Now this is the main fire system. It is connected to every part of our school. If there is smoke, it tells you in what part. If there is fire, it tells you where. Plus it tells the fire department right away, so the fire trucks and all the firefighters can come to our school lickety-split.”

“Where do they come from?” asked Rowena.

“Well, they are at the bottom of our hill about five minutes away. That means the trucks and fighters can be here really quickly. Aren’t we in a good situation with all the help: the fire extinguishers, the smoke detectors, the self-closing doors, the fire doors, the electronic fire system and the fire department hooked up to our school!”

Rowena was impressed.

“But that is not all!”

“It isn’t?”

"NO, SIREE!" said Mr. Jenkins.

He continued, “It’s about lunchtime, so why don’t you come back and help me with the rest of the detective work. Is it a plan?”

“Yes, Mr. Jenkins.”

“Okay, let’s walk back to class and check with Ms. Davis if 1PM is a good time for us to meet.



Counsellor Bob: Fire! Fire! Fire! (Part Two )is continued in the next blog


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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