Summer Camp Work

Discussion: Nurturing Campers’ Psychological Needs – An Interview with Bob Ditter

The American Camp Association in the latest edition of their Camp Magazine posted an article that discussed the Psychological Needs of Campers in an interview with Bob Ditter. In this interview Bob Ditter discussed the three most important aspects of camper development: connection, mastery, and autonomy. These three aspects of camp are related to Self Determination Theory’s three needs of relatedness, competence, and autonomy (notice connection and mastery are could be synonyms for connection and mastery). Bob Ditter addresses some of the key issues that camps are facing in their programming and discusses what camps could do in order to better address these needs.  To see the full article follow this link:

I am highlighting this resource of information because in my experience at summer camps as both a camper and a worker I have found that the ideas of connection, mastery, and autonomy that Bob Ditter speaks about are truly valuable. When you combine these concepts of motivation with showing campers unconditional positive regard, genuineness, and empathy as much as possible. By forming a relationship in this way you are able to help others grow. Carl Rogers the theorist behind Person Centered Therapy explained that these three aspects of a relationship are the foundation of work with clients. Without a relationship being founded on these principles all your words are just normal conversation and chances of a unique or beneficial experience for the person you are interacting with becomes less probable. Are we all meant to be counselors? No. Are we all capable of including some of these attributes in our conversations with others? yes.

A colleague of mine Bill James ( explained to me his concept of the Platinum Rule. The Platinum Rule takes the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would like done unto you” a step further. If you were going to invite someone to your house for something to eat the Golden Rule would imply that if you are vegetarian you might serve a vegetarian dish to your guests since you would want them to serve you a vegetarian dish. The Platinum Rule would have you instead of assuming that you a vegetarian dish would be good ask your guest if they have any preferred meals or dietary restrictions. Obviously, these phrases are up to interpretation and semantics but the key point is that whether a child, teenager, young adult, adult, or older adult the concepts of giving respect, equality, and understanding are easy to encourage but are harder to implement. The only way to get better at implementing them is by practicing them with everyone that you meet and making them a part of the way you communicate.