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Monday, January 21, 2013

Counseling Boys

I attended a counselor training that provided a lot of great ideas for working with boys. The speaker was Michael Gurian, Founder of the Gurian Institute ( He discussed how a male's brain is very different from a female's brain. For example, when a female's brain is in a resting/bored state, about half of her brain is still active (I cant remember the exact stats...). For a male's brain in a resting/bored state, nearly his entire brain shuts down (minus what he HAS to have to survive). Obviously, it would be difficult to talk to a male student when his brain has shut down, so here are some tips to remember when working with boys:

  • Talk shoulder to shoulder instead of face to face. Allow the boy to not make eye contact with you.
  • Toss a ball while talking. Do any kind of work while moving an object through space. "Tossing a ball opens the windows of the boy's soul" -M.Gurian
  • Walk and talk
  • Talk about things in your environment. Find similarities between an object in the environment and the situation. 
  • Do not discuss a behavior incident immediately after it occurs. Try to wait several hours if possible. If you must talk to him right away, give him a few minutes of physical activity/service to do to allow him time to privately process the events. If he does not have this period of time to process the events, he may not be able to completely recall what has happened or how he felt (because of how the male brain works).
  • Have male teachers from school lead a boy's group for struggling boys. They can discuss things that a female counselor could never completely understand. The counselor could come up with a suggested group agenda if needed.(male mentors at school)
  • Use expressive arts
  • Less verbal praise for general behavior, more praise for achievements or accomplishments
  • Hang boy-friendly pictures up in the office (sports, insects, etc)
  • Have an object for the boy to squeeze while talking to you (nerf ball, playdough)
  • Give the boy responsibilities (at school and at home)
  • If completing a writing assignment, allow them to draw a picture of the topic first. This provides the much needed visual aid to help them process the written assignment.
  • This one was emphasized over and over: USE VISUALS! Group discussions should have a picture to reference. Use charts and diagrams. Give handouts. Watch video clips. Use Powerpoint presentations.
  • Set goals and objectives.
  • Ask what their father figure would say in any given situation
  • Use humor.
  • Dont try to talk to a boy while he is crying. Give him processing time

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