Monthly news & updates
November 24, 2021 Volume 11 Number 11

John Brickell Uses Reality Therapy When Treating Patients with Chronic Pain

Conversation with Dr. John Brickell immediately reveals he is a lifelong learner. Born and educated in England, he spent several years as a professional soccer player (in England and New Zealand) before qualifying as a school teacher. Experience quickly taught him he did not care for classroom work, so he went on to become a counselor and worked for several years in addictions treatment. During the 1980's Reality Therapy was prominent in the addictions field. It was then that John came across Glasser’s earlier writings, most notably Reality Therapy A New Approach to Psychiatry (1965) and began to study RT. John was fortunate enough to complete virtually all his RT/CT Certification training with Dr. Bob Wubbolding in Cincinnati. ?From 1988 on, Bob went to the UK, as a “pioneer facilitator,” to support John in getting CT/RT started. John says, “Without a doubt, Bob was a huge influence and role model in our establishing CT/RT in the UK. We owe him an enormous debt.”
John and Dr. Wubbolding have written two books, specifically applying Reality Therapy to counseling:
- Counselling with Reality Therapy (introduction to RT)
Together they have also written numerous articles on Reality Therapy, including an extensive one on recovery entitled “Reality Therapy in Recovery.”.

John went on to establish a UK Reality Therapy association (now the William Glasser Institute – UK). Dr. and Mrs. Glasser came to London several times to speak to multiple different groups and enjoy the city. Dr. Glasser often extended his trip to Europe, Slovenia and Croatia and John accompanied him at times. John describes the learning as “Brilliant”. Several years later John was able to support Leon and Boba Lojk in presenting Reality Therapy to the European Association for Psychotherapy and achieve the initial accreditation of Reality Therapists in Europe. In appreciation for his contribution and acknowledgement of his skills, he has been awarded honorary accreditation as a psychotherapist by the European Association for Reality Therapy.
After all of this experience, John confides that he really prefers conducting workshops in CT/RT. As a Senior Faculty member of the 'William Glasser International and UK organizations, and he has taught these ideas & skills in North America, the Far East, the Middle East, in several European countries and throughout the UK. Now, for the first time since the pandemic began, he will be able, in December, to travel to Singapore to conduct training programs.

At home, John has been practicing as a licensed counselor in the Southampton area of England. In the course of his practice, he became interested in McTimoney chiropractic, an holistic school of chiropractic taught in England. He earned his license as a chiropractor, adding to his training and counseling activities, so his practice truly utilizes a mind and body approach. This combination led to his special expertise in using CT/RT to manage chronic pain. (see below) 

Glasser Class Meetings
by Carleen Glasser

When my disconnected, failure-bound students complained, “This place is like a prison!”, they were actually describing a system that had failed them. Making small changes in the system like starting Choice Theory Class Meetings can turn students with a failure self-perception to fully engaged, curious, self confident, students doing competent work in school. Class meeting participation is designed to prepare students to enter society as contributing members, ready to use all their creativity to solve problems--not make them. Students of any age seem to gain personal power for themselves by participating in Class Meetings by Defining, Personalizing and Challenging topics that teach Choice Theory.
A Glasser Class Meeting is teacher-directed and the students sit in a circle in order to create a level playing field. Students help make and agree to common-sense ground rules. Only one person speaks at a time with no distracting side talk. Every person’s opinion counts. There are no wrong answers. No put-downs. Everyone is carefully listened to for better understanding. This communication pattern is foundational to establishing a choice theory environment. Class meetings were first introduced by Dr. Glasser in his book Schools Without Failure (pages 122-185).
In my experience facilitating Class Meetings, I found they succeeded best when my role was limited to introducing the topic and asking the questions provided in each lesson. My role was not to lecture or correct the students’ opinions. I found that once the students understood that their participation was to be self directed and voluntary, they opened up and became more confident and willing to participate. All I had to do was be non-judgmental and sincerely listen to what they chose to say. It took a while for them to trust me and to trust each other, but little by little group cohesion developed. Had I taken control using what is called “boss management,” the group would have shut down and been perceived oppressive.
My goal was to create a needs-satisfying environment for every student to feel safe, included and trusting of the process. It is extremely important in attempting to provide this kind of experience for students: so they all feel welcome, accepted and valued equally. When they are given the freedom to express their creativity and are listened to with respect, their potential can be realized. Class Meetings are fun. I have found that behavior problems decreased significantly, school attendance improved, and drop-out rates decreased in schools using programs with a Choice Theory curriculum.
 (From above) Dr. Brickell has, for several years, been a member of the Stress Illness Recovery Practionner’s Association, pioneered and influenced by Dr. John Sarno MD., whose ideas on psychosomatic illness and chronic pain were compatible with Dr Glasser's. Through SIRPA, he now receives referrals of people with treatment-resistant chronic pain. Their symptoms may or may not be related to a known injury from the past. By definition, chronic pain does not heal, even when an associated injury has healed, and is often associated with addiction.
For his initial client assessments John uses a Reality Therapy approach. In RT terms, chronic pain is an organized total behavior, and might be reorganized under careful supervision. John spends important time establishing communication with his client. He gives total credence to pain symptoms on the principle that all pain is natural and real. He further acknowledges the client’s experience by exploring the onset of the present pain. He is also interested in exploring the client’s beliefs about their pain. He notes that fear of pain as progressively damaging can induce prolonged and enhanced nerve sensitivity. Pain itself is not harmful, it is the fear that the pain could be damaging and never ending that needs to be addressed. He also says that many people have difficulty accepting that pain rooted in a “psychological” cause is not a weakness; but a real pain/discomfort, which can be extreme. John likes to use the term “neuroplastic”, suggesting the nervous system can change and engender healing.
After using the most gentle language possible about pain while establishing connection, John normally begins teaching the client a little Choice Theory, explaining how behaviors are created to fulfill needs/personal wants. He has adapted a simplified version of Dr. Glasser’s mind chart for his client. He explains the concept of the unbalanced scales associated with a dissatisfying picture, and also describes the idea of total behavior to illustrate how pain physiology is connected with the three other total behavior components. Then, he can introduce the idea that despite the fact that the physiological wheel/component is invariably, the most prominent “wheel” involved in pain; that changing one or more of the other three “wheels” (feelings, thinking and actions) can have a powerful effect on the direction of healing. In turn, these gradual changes in focus can lead to a full recovery (not just pain management) from chronic pain.
Current research evidence for a mind-body approach to pain recovery is appearing in the literature, but there is a recent article with support for this approach. (Please print the .pdf file for the full article.) Unfortunately, there is still scant evidence based medical research. As a result, millions of patients continue to suffer with chronic pain unnecessarily. However, John maintains the treatments he uses present scant risk for him or his patient.
John is continuing to enhance his practice through learning new methods for client care. He has qualified in two methods of ‘trauma reprocessing,’ (Lifespan Integration and Rewind Technique) and is currently undertaking study of another method called EMDR. John’s leadership as a counseling clinician is exemplary in showing the broad range and application of Choice Theory and Reality Therapy principles. Thank you, John, for showing us the way ahead.  

Wishing Everyone the Happiest of Holidays!
With winter holidays in full swing, I would like to wish my American friends a Happy Thanksgiving, and everyone around the world the best and most peaceful religious holidays. New Year 2022 will soon be upon us!
Holidays are usually gift-giving time, and we are pleased to announce a new online course: the electronic version of the Glasser Class Meeting Kit. See the sample card above right from Lesson 1. There is a teacher note at the beginning of each lesson to explain the Choice Theory topic or concept involved in that meeting. Subsequent slides include the questions for the entire curriculum.
 The slides are intended for use in computerized instruction, so the content can be used on the teacher’s tablet, and/or sent to the students’ tablets. The complete curriculum, all 37 lessons, are available on the web site. The entire program is $37.00, a dollar for each week’s lesson! In case the teacher would like a set of the cards to display in the classroom, the printed version is available from wglasser books. Maybe your favorite teacher would appreciate this useful resource as a holiday gift!

Perhaps you have someone on your gift list who wants to learn Choice Theory but would prefer an on-line course. There are three choices of Internrational Board endorsed online courses available:
-The first is affiliated with a college extension program in New Brunswick, Canada, and college credits for that institution have been available. See registration details. https://www.choice
-The second is via GIFCT. The course is online and interactive. There is a 90 day time limit for completion. General Information. Registration.
-The third alternative is via the US based Internal Empowerment web site organized by Les and RoxAnne Triché. They have a flexible, self-paced format. For questions see this link. Or, contact RoxAnne at +1 (909) 227-8152.
Nathanael Seers Ong, member of the Choice Theory Group in Singapore has a pre-Christmas suggestion for teaching Choice Theory. He has created a deck of multipurpose choice theory cards which might be used as a game, as flash cards, or as daily reminders to name a few. They cover a wide range of Glasser concepts--even from the Brain Chart. Shipping is included in the price.

William Glasser Books has the widest selection of original Glasser works available.

-Free shipping to one US address on orders $20 or more! 
-Buy two books, get the third free!
-Complimentary legacy book on orders of two books or more while supplies last
-Free Glasser Habits magnet with order of three books shipped to the same address.
-A personal message in the Order Notes, will be included in the shipping invoice.

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