Burdenski: July 2012

Scholar’s Corner: Thomas K. Burdenski, Jr.


In 2007, I was selected from an international group of applicants to be named as a "Glasser Scholar." The Glasser Scholars program offered me certification in choice theory/reality therapy in exchange for agreeing to teach graduate students about choice theory/reality therapy and to conduct research studies on the effectiveness of choice theory/reality therapy in educational and clinical settings. To date, I have published one book chapter and nine articles in academic journals about CT/RT.


After becoming choice theory/reality therapy certified in 2008, I began teaching choice theory/reality therapy to graduate counseling students planning to work in community and educational settings in my "Brief Therapy" course. To deepen my teaching and supervising students to practice CT/RT, I also became certified as a Basic and Advanced Practicum Supervisor, and became a Basic Instructor for The William Glasser Institute in 2011. I am presently supervising two advanced practicum students for The Institute and I plan to supervise many more.


On the research side, I completed a study in the fall semester of 2008 at Tarleton State University (Burdenski & Faulkner, 2010) and investigated the extent to which teaching choice theory to provisionally admitted freshmen college students increased their perceived satisfaction of their five basic needs of belonging, power, freedom, fun, and survival; their composite need satisfaction (all five needs summed); their self-esteem; and their inner locus of control. The results suggested that teaching college freshmen to evaluate and better meet their basic needs had a positive effect on their satisfaction of the belonging need, their composite need satisfaction, and their self-esteem.


A second study (Faulkner & Burdenski, 2011) investigated the extent to which exposure to choice theory increased first generation/low-income developmental math college students’ perceived satisfaction of their five basic needs of belonging, power, freedom, fun, and survival; their composite need satisfaction; and their academic self-efficacy. The results of the second study indicated that teaching first-semester developmental math students to evaluate and better meet their basic needs also had a positive effect on their satisfaction of the belonging need and their composite need satisfaction. The Texas Counseling Association awarded me their Educational Endowment Fund Award in both 2008 and 2009 to support these two research studies.


In 2011, I wrote an article with Dr. Bob Wubbolding (Burdenski & Wubbolding, 2011) entitled "Extending Reality Therapy with Focusing: A Humanistic Road for the Total Behavior Car." In that article, we asserted that Glasser’s choice theory/reality therapy can be enhanced by making use of Eugene Gendlin’s "focusing" technique. Focusing is an experiential technique that helps clients tune into the two rear wheels of their total behavior car (feelings and physiology), so that emotional roadblocks can be resolved before making new behavioral choices.


My most recent publication (Burdenski, 2012) was a book chapter entitled "Recovering from Substance Misuse," published in a book entitled Contemporary Issues in Couples Counseling, edited by Patricia Robey, Robert E. Wubbolding, and Jon Carlson (2012). In this chapter, I assert that behavioral couples therapy (BCT; O’Farrell & Fals-Stewart, 2006), a substance misuse therapy that helps both relationship partners face the challenges of alcohol abuse or dependence together by focusing on both continued recovery and repairing rifts in the relationship, is highly compatible with choice theory/reality therapy and 12-step group participation.


The choice theory/reality therapy approach (Wubbolding & Brickell, 1999) fits very well with BCT because both models focus on current behaviors, the risks of continuing to use drugs or drink alcohol, and taking personal responsibility for one’s behavior. In this chapter, I outline how to merge the practice of reality therapy with utilizing O’Farrell and Fals-Stewart’s recovery contract and four other strategies to promote abstinence, four strategies to improve the couple’s relationship; and finally, taking steps to continue recovery after counseling ends.


Having been awarded tenure and promotion to Associate Professor at Tarleton State University effective, September 1, 2012, I am continuing my interest in Glasser’s theory by examining his application of choice theory/reality therapy to effective teaching and supervisory practices, which he calls "lead management." The goal of this current study (Duba, Burdenski, & Palmer Mason; manuscript in preparation) is two-fold: (a) fulfill a gap in the literature regarding effective teaching in counseling, and (b) approach the survey from a theoretical approach that embraces the definition of effective teaching found in the literature.


Results from this study will suggest if professors in counseling programs perceive themselves as providing quality teaching, and if they believe they are providing a need satisfying environment for all students. Several implications of the findings may include: (a) a summary regarding how new counselor educators actually perceive their teaching; (b) recommendations for engaging in reflective teaching practice; (c) suggestions for providing support for new counselor educators; and (d) possible suggestions regarding the doctoral counselor education curriculum.


Thomas K. Burdenski,Jr. PhD

Associate Professor, Department of Psychology and Counseling

Tarleton State University, Fort Worth, TX.