Interview with Donna Wheatcroft About Mental Reframing Techniques
At Disability Credit Canada, we strive to do more than simply advocate for people to access the Disability Tax Credits that they qualify for. We are also passionately driven to promote and spread the reach of platforms and programs that can improve the quality of life for those dealing with disabling challenges.
Today, we have partnered with Donna Wheatcroft, of “The Virtues Project” an organization that has been around over 20 years and uses a series of virtue-and-strength-based reframing techniques to increase self-esteem, confidence and communication, (and more) amongst people.
Support comes in all forms, and we are excited today to lend our attention to Donna, as she joins us for an interview about The Virtues Project, and all that it has accomplished. The techniques and methods in the Virtues can be of benefit to anyone and may provide additional supports to those with disabilities.
Please tell us a little about The Virtues Project™ and its background
The virtues project was created by three people, who were concerned about the violence against children and by children. Linda Kavelin-Popov a psychotherapist, her husband Dan a pediatric clinical psychologist and her brother, an Imagineer for Disney in Japan, realized that virtues are ubiquitous throughout every faith and culture. Using their combined wisdom based on their expertise and experience they developed 5 strategies that would enable people to use their virtues.
Linda authored the first book, “The Family Virtues Guide” and they published it out of their garage. The book sold and requests for their seminars/workshops came pouring in from all over the world. Penguin picked up the book in the early 90’s and it became a bestseller. A poster and cards with 52 virtues were published. At that time they incorporated and their business became Virtues Project International Inc.
Teachers were seeing the benefits of virtues, executed by the 5 strategies, for developing a culture of character in schools. In 2000, a second book, “The virtues Project™” Educators Guide” was published along with a poster and cards with 52 virtues.
Other resources have been created and published. Many translations are available. In over 140 countries thousands of people have been trained in The Virtues Project. Workshops are given for personal work, parents, schools, workplaces and organizations.
How did you become involved with the project?
On a March night in 2000, I was surfing the TV channels. I stopped to listen to the last 7 minutes of a program, as it resonated with me. I knew I needed to learn more so I phoned the TV station the next morning and asked what I was listening to the night before at about 8:30 p.m. They told me what I had been watching and gave me the name of the video distributor, who in turn provided me with a phone number, which connected me with The Virtues Project™, namely Linda Kavelin-Popov on Salt Spring Island, BC.
She sent me the Educator’s Guide, which was just completed and about to be released. I devoured the book and scoured the website, phoned her back and we arranged that I would sponsor a 5-day workshop in Calgary in October so I could get trained. Forty-seven people participated in the 2-day introductory workshop and twenty-four went on to take the 3-day facilitator program. As a long-time teacher, I was always looking for newer and better ways of connecting with my students and The Virtues Project offered that.
What are The Virtues? How are they implemented?
Virtues,” as one 6-year-old said, “is what’s good about us.” Virtues are the simple elements of character, the qualities of the human spirit, and the very essence of who we are. They are the attributes that make us human and give meaning to our lives. They are our strengths.
Virtues are implemented by using the 5 strategies of The Virtues Project™
* Use the Language of Virtues to bring out the best in ourselves and others.
* Recognize Teachable Moments as gifts for our growth to cultivate character.
* Set Clear Boundaries for safe, peaceful, healthy lives and better relationships.
* Experience simple ways to Honor the Spirit and respect the nobility and dignity of each person.
* Offer Companioning to help ourselves and others to respond effectively to grief, moral dilemma, problem-solving, anger, and conflict resolution as well as express gratitude and joy
What are some of the things The Virtues Project has accomplished?
– Around the world, when The Virtues Project is embraced by the whole staff and implemented in a school there is more and better parental communication and involvement with the school, staff and students connect more effectively, discipline incidents may drop by half and even more in a year, achievement, attitude and attendance improve, students feel safer and less stressed, teachers are re-invigorated.
– Living with virtues in the workplace results in higher morale and productivity along with better communication, quality leadership, teamwork, engagement and more satisfying relationships
– In Fiji communities, a cultural norm was reversed, which resulted in better working relations between the men and women. Cooperation leads to improved community conditions and children and women suffer much less violence and abuse.
– At the request of an Interfaith group in Walkerton, ON, the Popovs presented workshops to help in the healing of the community. After a mishap with the town drinking water supply, the citizens needed restoration towards peace and harmony.
– In Tanzania, The Virtues Project schools are showing another way to discipline in schools, which is eliminating systemic corporal punishment and creating a safer and caring culture.
How do virtues help individuals?
The five simple strategies show us how to use the virtues to live kinder and more purposeful lives, to raise children of integrity and compassion, create a culture of character and caring in our schools, and inspire excellence and ethics in the workplace.
Can these virtues help people with disabilities?
Yes. Within the five domains of human potential The Virtues Project helps us directly in our social, emotional, and spiritual endeavors, and enhances our physical and mental well-being. All of these domains need to be developed equally and fully within the capacity of the individual. Imagine a bicycle wheel with five spokes evenly spaced around the rim. When one of the spaces is bigger than another the tire will collapse into that space and you will travel down the road bumpity-bump/bumpity-bump. Virtues are transformational.
Why does The Virtues Project work so well for people?
– It is a simple, effective, strengths-based and positive program
– The virtues are in each and every one of us – like gems – just waiting to be mined and polished. – The five strategies bring the virtues to light.
Is the Virtues Project helpful for people with Disabilities? How so?
Yes. The virtues are the very essence of who we are. They are our inherent nature. They are essential for anyone wanting to live a good life, learn and grow. I believe that applies to each and every one of us regardless of age, inclination or abilities. People recognize a virtue when they hear one and you can tell by a shift in their energy that it has had an impact on them.
Where can people go to find out more?
You can access more information by reaching “virtues” on the net by using your browser.
Anything else you’d like to add?
My last 13 years before leaving teaching and doing The Virtues Project workshops for 10 years world-wide were as a supply/substitute teacher. I mostly worked in classrooms for special education in which I used the five strategies. They made my work a lot easier.
Using the language of the virtues for acknowledging, guiding and correcting the students encouraged them and made their situations more meaningful. They learned who they really are.
In teachable moments we found the virtues we forgot and the virtues we needed to use. Students learned what to do; not what not to do. If a student didn’t know a virtue being used they usually asked and learned a new virtue, which, by the palpable shift in energy you could tell that they could see something new, yet familiar in themselves.
We created boundaries together for all of us to live up to. Everyone knew what was expected of them and when they erred they made amends by coming back to the virtues they forgot.
Honoring the spirit meant looking for the little spark in each student that would ignite the flame that animated them as a unique and special person.
Companioning is a wonderful strategy that makes students feel heard. With curiosity and openness, asking open-ended what and how questions helped students “empty their cup” and get to the heart of the matter. Almost always they came to a solution to their own problems.
Professionally and personally The Virtues Project has changed my life.
We are so very grateful that Donna joined us today to share more about The Virtues Projects and the incredible changes it has made in communities all over the world. Mental reframing techniques are just one of the many ways we can improve the world around us for ourselves and each other.
For many people, the quest for support goes beyond the mental and emotional, especially when dealing with a disabling condition. Many people find specialized and individualized therapies are difficult to access or have a high barrier of entry in the form of additional costs. In situations like this, however, the disabled individual may be eligible to receive the Disability Tax Credit to help offset the costs associated with treating their impairment.
Interested in finding out more? Disability Credit Canada offers FREE assessments, and a plethora of free resources, including a comprehensive Guide To The Disability Tax Credit and a Disability Tax Credit Calculator.