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Professor brings unique counseling method to Southwest Florida

When a new semester starts, both students and faculty have to get used to early mornings, long nights, and a significant decrease in free time. For Russell Sabella, a professor of counseling in the College of Health Professions and Social Work, the beginning of a new school year also includes preparing for a workshop targeting professionals in the area.
“I’ve actually been doing this workshop for over 20 years,” Sabella said. Sabella also serves as the president of Sabella & Associates, an education management company focused on consultation and training in counseling, technology and education. “I’ve been giving that workshop throughout the county in different school districts and throughout other agencies as well.”
The workshop Solution Focused Brief Counseling and Consultation, will focus on teaching school counselors, mental health counselors, marriage and family therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers, human services professionals and educators a fi ve-step systematic approach that assist clients, students and parents to focus on solutions rather than problems. The Office of Continuing Education and Off-Campus Programs is presenting the workshops.
“I learned about the approach back in the ‘90s as it was used in mental health and substance abuse,” Sabella said. “I was one of the original developers that took it into school systems to fi gure out how it works with kids. I’m also developing the model for how it works with parent teacher conferences.”
The model takes a different approach to counseling – instead of focusing on the negative, professionals who work with it help their patients and students focus on the positive.
“It’s an innovative and creative approach for helping people to rediscover their strengths and resources as well as focus on solutions,” Sabella said. “This model actually flips the script as you can actually focus on solutions and implement those solutions. For someone who is depressed, they don’t have to understand why they are depressed, but focus on what it means to be happier. They develop a new way of feeling and thinking.”
Along with his work on the model and at FGCU, Sabella has had several articles published in magazines, journals and newsletters. He has also co-written two books, “Confronting Sexual Harassment: Learning Activities for Teens,” and “Counseling in the 21st Century: Using Technology to Improve Practice.”
This is the first event of its kind that is being held by the Office of Continuing Education and Off-Campus Programs. Sabella wanted to bring it to FGCU to cater to the Southwest Florida community. “I’ve been doing this for a long time and this is an area I’ve been interested in,” he said. “This approach to counseling is something I’ve been developing throughout the years.”
The workshops will be held on Saturday, Sept. 10 from 8:30 a.m. to noon at The Atrium on 8695 College Parkway, Suite 1181 in Fort Myers as well as Saturday Oct. 8 at the same time and place. Sabella chose The Atrium, an executive center, was chosen as the location rather than on campus at FGCU, to better cater toward the community. While the programs are mostly catered toward professionals in the Southwest Florida area, Sabella welcomes FGCU students as well.
“I certainly welcome any FGCU students that want to attend,” Sabella said. “I’ve also been doing this approach with parents.”
To register for the workshops, call 239-425-3270 or visit For more information about the workshops, contact Paul Thorton at 239-425-3274 or [email protected]

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