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What do therapy models and Disney have in common? Ask Linda Metcalf

A photo of Linda Metcalf wearing a black blouse next to Mickey Mouse in a tuxedo with a yellow bow tie.

Sitting on the shelves in Dr. Linda Metcalf's office are Disney characters, hundreds of books and smiling family photos taken at Disney World. It's not only her unique treasures, but the thousands of memories she's made in the extraordinary life as one of the most world-renowned professional therapists teaching solution-based therapies.

Many people in the Texas Wesleyan community know Metcalf as a professor of graduate counseling — but did you know she's a huge Walt Disney fan? And not just for the parks or movies, either.

"I'm a huge Disney World fan. Not only because I love going to the parks, but because of who Walt Disney was," she said. "He was creative and loved his country, people and progress, and was into showing kindness. I love all of that."

She mentioned how his quote, "If you can dream it, you can do it," inspires her way of thinking. She believes in the magic of trying until you succeed, just like Disney did.

"He was told he didn't have enough imagination to be successful," she said. "He failed and failed, and then one day he hit it. That's what I think you have to keep doing — keep trying until you get it."

And it's those words of wisdom that has made Metcalf an inspiration herself. Besides being a professor at Texas Wesleyan, she's also written 11 books and has traveled around the world to speak about solution-based therapy.

But Metcalf didn't start her career in therapy. In fact, she was a middle school art and earth sciences teacher before she became a school counselor, which helped her in building Texas Wesleyan's graduate school counseling program — which is designed to help teachers become school counselors.

“I remember going to a high school counseling job I had and being told ‘don’t even think about doing counseling because you’ll be so busy with scheduling’ and I thought, well if I can have time for scheduling, I can have time to talk to kids,” she said. “So, I did that. I really, really enjoyed how quickly the students would turn around, and it was exciting to watch them. 

“I loved the misunderstood kids, the ones that were quirky or acting out. They come in just expecting me to be one more adult that's going to tell them what to do. And I didn't do that — I asked them what they wanted.” 

Through school counseling, she learned about solution-focused therapy, which was not a common counseling strategy at the time. 

“It changed the way I work with people,” she said.  

After having success with the solutions-focused therapy, Metcalf wrote a book in 1995 called “Counseling Toward Solutions.” The book helps school counselors work with teachers, students and parents to help empower the student with behavioral changes. It was an instant bestseller and now the third edition is being worked on — which Texas Wesleyan graduate counseling students are helping write. 

“It’s been a great experience and that book has taken me to a lot of places,” she said. “It’s been delightful. I remember carrying that book around for days [after it had been produced.]”  

Metcalf has spoken on solution-based therapy in places like Europe, Singapore, Japan and Australia. However, there were times in countries Metcalf was afraid of saying something that could put her in a foreign jail. She mentioned that many countries don’t have all the same freedoms and beliefs as the United States, which would put her at risk if she mentioned therapies for certain ideals — like people in the LGBTQ+ community.  

“I was afraid of going to jail. You have to watch what you say,” she said. “But most of it was great because the people [at the seminars] were doing really great work.”  

She’s also faced jealousy from people as she’s gained success in her career. 

“When you start publishing things, there’s jealousy that happens. You really have to watch your back a bit,” she said. “And there’s always push back.”  

Metcalf mentioned that people have doubted her therapy models, saying they don’t believe it will create solutions in behavior modification. But she’s more than proven her solutions have worked, as many school counselors and therapists from across the world have given her praise.  

Beyond writing books, Metcalf also hosts seminars, workshops, trainings, podcasts and more. And many of that changed in 2020 when counseling moved from in-person sessions to an online platform due to COVID-19.  

In 2020, she was able to create a free online webinar to help school counselors, which had 60 people sign up in just one hour.  

“It was crazy,” she said when she mentioned how fast people were signing up. “Our poor teachers were trying the same things they did before [COVID] and it’s just not working. Kids are anxious and out of sync still. This takes a whole different kind of approach.” 

The next webinar, she had 1,700 people sign up. The webinars then led her to have an email list of over 14,000 people.  And after seeing the success of the webinars, Metcalf also went on to produce a podcast. These efforts led her to even more speaking engagements at schools all over the country and meetings with several people from around the world.  

“I’m very proud of that,” she said. “It's really beginning to spread the word on what this work is. And I take that into my school counseling classes at Texas Wesleyan. And I think it's really impacted [the students] because they get jobs very fast when they start applying." 

Through all the things she’s done over her career, Metcalf says finding a balance and making a plan is what has made her successful. She advises other women to do things that are meaningful and that they enjoy. 

“You set your sights on something you want, but make sure you get something back from it,” she said. “Decide on what you want to contribute and what difference it would make to you. Most of us will work on something that means something to us.  

“It’s got to be something you find fascinating and exciting — and you pursue it. It will take work and you may get criticism, but if it means something to you, you’ll want to go to work every day.”  

Metcalf has literally gone far in her career and hopes to inspire others to pursue their hopes and dreams, just like Walt Disney did. And only the words of Walt Disney can best summarize her career: 

“Whatever you do, do it well. Do it so well that when people see you do it, they will want to come back and see you do it again, and they will want to bring others and show them how well you do what you do.” 

You can learn more about Dr. Linda Metcalf on her website. Or if you’d like to learn more about her therapy models, check out some of her classes in our graduate counseling program.  

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The mission of the Diversity and Inclusion Council is to increase multicultural awareness and cross-cultural competencies. The functional definition of diversity refers to the exploration of our collective experiences in a safe and positive environment