Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Psychological Immunization - Albert Ellis, Jonas Salk and Martin Seligman

‘You can’t teach young students the ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance and it should only be used by a trained psychologist in the counselling setting.’ Albert Ellis railed against this kind of misinformation put forth to preserve the status of the psychologist as ‘expert.’ Ellis of course wanted his ABC Theory of Emotional Disturbance to be accessible to all, especially to teachers and students. Far better that young children learn why they feel and act as they do and to develop insights and skills preventatively and educatively in the school setting.

Jonas Salk who created the polio vaccine hypothesised that if we could ‘psychologically immunise’ students they would be less prone to mental health issues and would probably be physically better off too.
Dr Jonas Salk
Batfink, the cartoon character said to his enemies ‘your bullets cannot harm me, my wings are like shields of steel?’ He would wrap his wings around himself deflecting any harmful bullets from hitting him, thwarting those who would have him undone.  

Teaching students how to deflect psychological harm as part of daily curricula activities would be a useful thing. Rational Emotive Behaviour Education does just that by using some basic but essential counselling tools and ideas. To those who may think ‘I am not a psychologist and I have enough to teach’ consider the following and reap the benefits.

1.     Kids actions are determined largely by their constructed views (beliefs) about themselves, others and the world (as indeed our own are).
2.     These beliefs can be mostly helpful (rational) or unhelpful (irrational).
3.     Strength of emotion is also linked to these constructed views – ‘I want something and I must have it and I didn’t get it.’= anger. ‘I want something and I prefer to have it but I can wait.’ = disappointment.
4.     Thinking, feeling and behaving are connected – ‘Nothing is good or bad but thinking makes it so!’ Hamlet.


1.     Teach how broccoli is only good or bad depending on what you think about it (replace broccoli with ‘maths’ ‘chores’ etc)
2.     Teach the Emotional Thermometer – words for varying strength of feeling.
3.     Teach the Catastrophe Scale – how to put the severity of problems into reasonable perspective (is a sore toe as bad as your favourite pet gerbil being eaten by a cat)
4.     Provide behaviour specific feedback to students not person specific (you did that well/badly not you are a lazy klutz!)
5.     You can do dumb but not be dumb, a very important distinction (you ARE NOT what you DO. You ARE NOT what others THINK of you). You can fail at something but never can you BE a failure (unless you believe you are – irrational)

Use the idea of Batfink deflecting harmful bullets and encourage students to consider information and evidence to draw their own conclusions about their self worth and rejecting (deflecting) errant incoming data. Can a person be bad? No. A person can act badly which does not cancel out the positive qualities that remain.  Failure also doesn’t define a person nor does rejection i.e. we are worthwhile because we are here! (Albert Ellis – Unconditional Self-Acceptance).


Teachers at Para Hills P-7 work hard to impart the Batfink philosophy to all students. Mindfulness!

Martin Seligman - Positive Psychology

Sunday, 9 April 2017

The Call to Teach REBT/CBT in Schools - not a new idea!

Para Hills School P-7 in Adelaide South Australia is an anti depression school. It engages an arsenal of principles and practices designed to psychologically immunise students against the ravages of depression, anxiety and anger. As the great BatFink said 'Your bullets cannot harm me for my wings are like a shield of steel which deflect the harm that others may wish to inflict on me.' 

Educators help children develop psychological 'wings of steel' to ward off the potential harm of failure and rejection. This article CBT in schools advocates for CBT (cognitive behaviour therapy) to be taught in schools. Para Hills P-7 has been doing this for several years through Rational Emotive Behaviour Education which is based on REBT (Rational Emotive Behaviour Therapy).

Para Hills School P-7, South Australia

REBT is the creation of Dr Albert Ellis who supported this work in schools in South Australia up to his death in 2007 and continues to support us through 
The REBT Network

Dr Bill Knaus renowned REBT expert and advocate for Rational Emotive Behaviour Education provides his highly acclaimed school resource here Free REE Resource download for educators and counsellors in schools.

The call for REBT/CBT in schools is not a new one but perhaps now the time is right to capture the imagination of educational leaders everywhere!