Tag Archives: Brent Richardson

Why Xavier University Students in Cincinnati Sent Me a Petition . . .

Yesterday I had the honor of receiving my first-ever petition from a group of “disgruntled” graduate students. Actually, the petition arrived in my email in-box, but was addressed to my publisher, John Wiley and Sons.

I read it anyway. Here it is:

Petition for Wiley Publishing – 4/27/16

We, the undersigned and overworked graduate counseling students in Dr. Brent Richardson’s Counseling Theories and Techniques course at Xavier University strongly object to the inference on page 480 of “Counseling and Psychotherapy Theories” that  Dr. Brent Richardson only “thinks he is funny.” All of us have chuckled at least one time over the past 14 weeks. We declare that he is actually funny and demand that this phrase be amended to reflect this fact in future editions.


The names and signatures of 14 students followed, along with an electronic copy of page 480.

I have the following response to offer the “petitioners.”

Dear Petitioners.

Your note to Wiley raises a number of concerns.

First and foremost, it makes me worry about the level of academic discourse that may or may not be happening in your class with Dr. Richardson. Here’s the passage toward which you are alleging offense:

As one of our colleagues who thinks he’s funny says, “Sometimes counselors mix up the words eclectic and electric—they think they can just do whatever turns them on” (Richardson, personal communication, November 2002).

I think a close reading of this passage makes it obvious that we’re just maintaining truth and objectivity. In no way are we claiming or implying that Dr. Richardson is NOT funny. We’re only staying within the safe harbor of direct observation. It seems indisputable that Dr. Richardson THINKS HE’S FUNNY. But is he objectively funny? We admit (a) we’ve laughed at him, (b) we’ve seen him laugh at himself, and (c) we’ve witnessed other people laughing at him during professional presentations . . . but how can we be sure that people (including Dr. Richardson) weren’t laughing out of their discomfort because he sometimes uses words like “piss” when he tells counseling stories. We just didn’t feel right privileging the text with our assumptive biases. Let that be a lesson to you in your future petition-writing.

Second, inasmuch as we respect your lived experience and it appears you signed your petition in solidarity, how can we be certain that each of you really think Dr. Richardson is funny? He obviously still has an evaluative relationship with you and, given that relational component, some or all of you may have felt compelled to sign said petition. This is of especial concern because the petition was delivered to me via email from the man who, quite obviously, thinks he’s funny.

Third, and I’m taking an educated guess here, but it shouldn’t be left unsaid that many alternative interpretations exist for you forwarding this petition to me through Dr. Richardson. One prominent alternative interpretation is that vicarious learning/imitation/modeling might have occurred.

In your case, because Dr. Richardson thinks he’s funny and you’ve been exposed to him for the past 14 weeks, you’ve probably started thinking you’re funny too. It’s natural. My evidence? The phrasing,  “We, the undersigned and overworked graduate counseling students . . .” This phrase appears to be an effort at humor. Am I correct? And so I am loathe, but forced to conclude, that you have absorbed Dr. Richardson’s way of being and consequently, are at risk for future incidents where you end up thinking you’re pretty darn funny.

And so finally, to the question of whether I’ll forward this to John Wiley and Sons and make corrections for the forthcoming 3rd edition? The answer: It depends on whether 14 students who may well have been coerced and who most certainly are under the impression that they’re funny, can provide me with more concrete and substantial evidence that either you or Dr. Richardson are objectively funny. . . because I’m really on the fence about that right now.

Sincerely yours,

John SF

Here’s a photo of Dr. Brent Richardson. Does he look funny? Just curious.

Brent Richardson

What You Missed in Cincinnati

For me, the hardest thing about presenting professional workshops is time management. I want participants to comment, but how can I plan in advance for exactly how long their comments will be? Even worse, how can I accurately estimate the length of my own impromptu moments? It seems obvious that there’s a need for spontaneity. I don’t want to cut off potentially valuable comments from participants . . . and I don’t want to cut off my own creative musings either. Clearly, the clock is my workshop enemy.

For example, how could I know in advance that I would suddenly feel compelled to share a personal dream of mine with 85 of my new Cincinnati counselor friends? Never before had I shared with a workshop audience that 45 years-ago I dreamt I was Felix-the-Cat and then while crossing the road (as Felix), I got hit by a car . . . and died.

But then I woke up and have kept on living.

I like to think that particular disclosure is a perfectly normal thing to do when you’ve got a group of professional counselors to listen to you.

The point was to bust the myth that some teenage client have (and will talk about in counseling) that if they dream they die, it is prophetic and means they’ll die soon in real life also.

And beyond my personal dream disclosure, how would I know that one of the participants would have such passion that he would accept an invitation to come up to the microphone and share a physical relaxation technique that he uses with elementary school students.

These are just two samples of the sort of thing you missed because you weren’t in Cincinnati at the Schiff Center on the Xavier University campus yesterday.

But you also missed the start of the workshop where I decided on the spot that it was just the right time and place for me to open the workshop with a story of the most embarrassing moment in my life. It struck me as an awesome idea at the time . . . and it really was the most embarrassing moment of my life . . . until a few hours later when I shared my Felix-the-Cat dream.

There are always bigger mountains to climb.

You also missed meeting my incredibly gracious hosts from the Greater Cincinnati Counseling Association including, Butch Losey (who’s the most humble and understated guy who should be famous I’ve ever met), Kay Russ (who’s right up there with the most responsible person I’ve ever met), and Brent Richardson (who is as irreverent and insightful as ever), and Robert Wubbolding (who may be on his way to Casablanca to do a week long choice theory/reality therapy workshop by the time I post this and yet took eight hours out of his life to attend the workshop anyway).

So that’s just a little taste of what you missed in Cincinnati.

I’ll bet you wish you were there. I know I’m glad I was.