School of Education - George Mason University

VSCA: Tough Kids, Cool Counseling

February 10, 2020

Mason School Counseling Master’s program students Rebecca Mattern, Carolina Medrano, Yesley Gonzalez, and Anne Carro attended the Virginia School Counselor Association’s Spring Symposium Workshop Tough Kids, Cool Counseling with Dr. John Sommers-Flanagan on March 2nd, 2020 in Richmond, VA.

Counseling “tough kids” can be immensely frustrating or splendidly gratifying. In this workshop, the students sharpened their counseling skills by viewing and discussing video clips from actual counseling sessions, discussing key issues, and participating in live demonstrations. Over 20 specific cognitive, emotional, and constructive counseling techniques were illustrated and demonstrated. During and after the workshop students had the opportunity to meet Dr. Sommers-Flanagan and pose for a quick photo.

Dr. Sommers-Flanagan is a Professor of Counseling at the University of Montana and author or coauthor of over 100 publications, including eight books, numerous professional video trainings with, Alexander Street Press, and John Wiley & Sons, and many professional journal articles. Some of his books, co-written with his wife Rita, include Tough Kids, Cool Counseling (2nd ed., American Counseling Association, 2007), How to Listen so Parents will Talk and Talk so Parents will Listen (John Wiley & Sons, 2011), Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories in Context and Practice (2nd ed., John Wiley & Sons, 2012), and Clinical Interviewing (6th ed., Wiley, 2017).

The students provided the following reflections on the experience:

"The VSCA Spring Symposium was an informative and engaging event that taught us techniques to work with students in challenging situations. I really enjoyed the interactive aspect of the workshop, and how we were able to put some of the strategies we learned into practice." - Annie Carro

"By acknowledging the idiosyncrasies related to the development of students labeled as ‘challenging students’; I was able to sharpen my counseling skills and techniques. In depth assessments of various students’ issues within the workshop helped demonstrate that there are no tough kids, but rather kids in tough situations." - Yesly Gonzalez

"I really enjoyed going to the VSCA Spring Symposium with my classmates. It was cool to see one of the authors of our textbooks, Dr. Sommers-Flanagan, in person. He presented on theories and strategies for counseling resistant children and adolescents, which I'm excited to add to my toolkit. Overall, it was a great experience that made me even more motivated to join the school counseling field!" - Rebecca Mattern

“The spring symposium was an awesome experience! It was great meeting other school counselors from all over the state and being able to network. The speaker, Dr. John Sommers-Flanagan, was phenomenal! He kept us entertained the whole time!” - Carolina Medrano

The Spring Symposium was a great day of learning and fellowship; there were 267 school counselors in attendance, and Mason was well represented at the event.

For more information about the Virginia School Counselor Association and upcoming events visit: for details.