Bob Ditter is a licensed clinical social worker specializing in child, adolescent, and family therapy.

Six Habits I Wish Every Counselor Had

Many years ago I traveled from my hometown of Boston to four different cities in the United States — Los Angeles, Chicago, Philadelphia, and New York — and conducted a series of focus groups with campers who lived near those cities. One of the questions I asked campers involved having them think about their favorite counselors. I had campers tell me what their favorite counselors did and said that put them at the top of their list. The answers were surprisingly uniform no matter where the campers came from.

Sympathy, Empathy, and the Shift to Compassion

Learning about a revolutionary and powerful new understanding of the dynamic of caretaking may change the way you train your staff, talk with parents, and think about yourself.

Chill Out!

Dear Bob,

I have heard you talk about creating a space for campers who may need a time-out at camp because of their behavior. Can you expand on this idea? How do we set up such a space, what might we equip it with, how do we present it to campers, how do we explain it to parents, and how do we get staff to use it appropriately rather than as a "dumping ground?"

Need Relief!

Dear Relief,

Lessons from Summer 2016

Camp professionals pride themselves on the social and emotional learning that a quality camp experience can help children master. From my travels to camps this summer in Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina, California, Colorado, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Maine, New Jersey, and New York, I have selected a few topics that may be useful to directors across the country.

Staff Anxiety — The New Normal

“Wish we could turn back time, to the good old days
When the mommas sang us to sleep
But now we’re stressed out . . . .”
— Stressed Out, Twenty-one Pilots

Staying Out of the Point of Struggle

Scene 1: Tabatha, one of your five-year-old day campers, is going through her fussy-eating routine with you at lunchtime again. What happens is now so familiar to you that you’re certain you can play it out in your sleep. You offer her one food choice after another and she alternates between pretending she doesn’t hear you and screaming, “You know I hate that!” No matter what you try she doesn’t like it. It almost seems as if she enjoys this “dance” with you, even though the stress is taking a toll on both of you and is beginning to annoy the other children.

Camp Leadership for the 21st Century

Michael Yeh is standing in front of an audience of over 1,000 health care and mental health professionals telling a story about a recent surgical procedure he led at the UCLA Endocrine Surgical Unit, which he directs. An Associate Professor of Surgery and Medicine at UCLA, Dr. Yeh is describing the delicate surgical procedure while an actual videotape of the operation is being shown to the audience. What we see unfolding before us is a medical drama that rivals any reality TV show one could imagine. A few minutes into the procedure it is clear that the surgical team is losing the patient.

In the Trenches: Working with Camper Parents

Dear Bob,
I had a run in with a camper parent last summer that made me very uncomfortable. We have a visiting day for parents once each session, which, as you might imagine, is a stressful day for campers, parents, and staff all around. During the early afternoon, I was accosted by a parent who was demanding to know why her fifteen-year-old son wanted to go home. I tried to reason with her, but she caught me off guard, and I felt awkward discussing this in the open with other parents and campers around.