Sue Berry is a Practicum Supervisor and Take Charge Of Your Life facilitator in Port Lincoln, South Australia. Sue is a Clinical Counsellor using Reality Therapy in her counselling practice and has extensive experience of working with young people and their families.

“Hands-on” Self-Evaluation

After little pause, Jamie replied somewhat emphatically

“Well my Power when up when I shouted at her”

“So did that have any effect on any of the other needs?”

He thought for a moment.

“Yes well, Freedom went down because I had to go out of the class, Fun went down because I wasn’t having any fun where I was and Love and belonging went down because I wasn’t with my friends and the teacher was really mad at me.”

In counselling I had been talking with my 12 year old client Jamie about a recent school situation he had been relating. Jamie had been sent out for yelling at the teacher and thought it wasn’t fair. He was using a self-evaluation “gadget” that I have developed. This device which I have called a Needometer, can show visually how successfully a person is meeting their needs at a moment in time.

This article uses a fictitious case study to describe how I use the Needometer in counselling.

I work for a community organisation as family and youth counsellor. My main client group is young people aged 10 to 25 and their families. I have also used the Needometer as part of my Take Charge of Your Life presentations. As part of counselling I often teach people the five needs using the poster below. We talk about their Quality World and look at how this relates to what they need. We talk about the idea that everyone has a different ‘needs profile’.

Figure 1

The device that I have developed as a counselling tool aims to help a person look at whether they are meeting their needs either overall, or at a particular point in time. I would like to acknowledge that this idea came from Sylvia Habel who used it in her counselling work with young people. To my knowledge it is her inspiration. From her ‘prototype’ made with paper (and with her permission) I have developed this more durable model. For want of a better name I’ve called this device a “Needometer”.

Figure 2. The “Needometer”

Small, movable magnetic sliders shown in Figure 2 in red are placed on ‘cylinders’ which are printed on a metal or magnetic background. Here the sliders represent a person who is meeting their needs. They would probably describe themselves as “happy”. It should be noted that we each have a different needs profile and therefore the cylinders would not necessarily be the same size. I talk to the client about this and they understand that the height of the cylinder represents the maximum amount of that need for them. It is difficult to imagine creating a device that could take into account the variation inherent in individual needs profiles.

Figure 3 No-one has any difficulty in identifying Figure 3 as representing a very “unhappy” person!

The Needometer can be used to self-evaluate a specific unhappy incident to find new choices.


At school Jamie had poor skills at gaining a teacher’s attention appropriately. He often complained that the teacher didn’t listen. In the incident referred to earlier, Jamie had wanted help with some work and the teacher seemed to take no notice of his requests so he had yelled at her.

I asked him which need he thought he was trying to meet when he yelled and then asked him to show that on the Needometer. He moved the power slider up. Then I asked him what effect that had on the other needs and he moved them into the positions shown below.

This is how he placed the sliders:

Jamie said he had felt a bit threatened too – unsafe, as reflected in the lower level of the Survival need. I asked him what he wanted when he yelled and he said he just wanted the teacher to listen to him. The way was then open for me to talk further with him about whether this choice had been helpful or not in getting what he wanted. At that moment Jamie’s predominant need was for Power. His needs profile suggests an overall high need for Fun and for Love and Belonging. His actions were clearly not meeting his needs – hence the upset!  The Needometer gave him a way to express what was going on, to communicate it to me and give the emotion some words apart from his angry criticisms of the teacher. Holding it in his hands when he moved the sliders helped him to see that his action of yelling had certain impacts on him. Importantly, at that moment of self-reflection, his focus had become internal.

Making a new plan:

At that point in counselling there are a number of ways to go. For example,

  1. I could explore Jamie’s Total Behaviour and asked Jamie to look at what he was feeling, what his body was telling him, and then move to what he was thinking and his action of yelling. We could then look at the preferred future of how he would like to be feeling in that situation and then what he could be doing and thinking to get that. This can lead to a new plan.
  1. Perceptual System: We could look at what Jamie was noticing about the situation and also explore the teacher’s perception of what was going on to expand his point of view.
  1. Quality World: We could look at what Jamie really wanted in the situation so that we could identify and create pictures of how he wanted to be in the classroom.
  1. Behavioural System: We could brainstorm some actions that Jamie had already tried and then come up with some other choices about how he could get what he wanted, and then practise them.
  1. Comparing Place. I could talk to Jamie about his ‘scales being tipped’ and about finding a way to balance them. We could use the Needometer again to explore the options.

When we have worked out a new plan Jamie could use the Needometer to show where the sliders might be if that plan was successful.

Self-evaluating the new plan

Let’s imagine that one new plan we came up with was for Jamie to wait longer for the teacher, perhaps quietly doing some drawing, while he kept his hand up. This is an example self-evaluation.

Figure 5

The Needometer can also be used in a more general way to help a client find new choices to feel happier.


Jamie lived with his younger brother Bill and his dad, who was a pensioner with poor health. Jamie was 12 and struggled at school. Jamie had few friends and his family had little money. Sometimes dad’s friends visited and they drank too much alcohol. Jamie was good at sport. He loved to have fun and learn new things. He enjoyed video games and played these on his own or with his brother at home. Although Jamie and his dad were close, they were often in conflict and his father was not tuned in to his needs. Jamie could represent this on the Needometer as follows:

Figure 6

Because Jamie had strengths in sport and wanted to play in a team I encouraged him to ask his dad to let him play sport on the weekend. Jamie proved to be a good basketball player. He could identify on the Needometer that playing sport moved a number of the need levels up and he felt happier. He had friends to connect with at basketball, he was successful and had lots of fun. This might appear on the Needometer as follows:

                                        Figure 7

In summary

I find young people as young as 10 can easily grasp the idea of self-evaluation using the Needometer. However adults also find the device very useful. People can use it to explain what they are experiencing and identify what they want. Then they can make some new choices on their own, or we can make a plan together so they can move towards getting more of what they want.

One of the advantages of the Needometer is that the person can control where they put the sliders and they can alter them as they like. I find that people are quite careful about where they position the sliders and enjoy explaining their choice.

It is a quick, easily learnt and useful way of getting information about what is happening in a person’s life and, importantly, one they can learn to use themselves outside a counselling session. I find that people often check with the needs poster as they are positioning the sliders. This helps reinforce the learning.

The process is a tactile, kinaesthetic experience which young people particularly respond to. There is a sense of fun. This process allows for some distance to be created between the inner experience and the outer representation of it. I think this feels safe for the client.

Because it is visual it is very easy to communicate information. This provides me as counsellor with a rich opportunity for useful questions stemming from where the person has decided to put the sliders. Another advantage is that I can quickly photocopy the pattern to keep as part of the record of the session.

I enjoy using this device and from the number of times young people just pick it up and show me what’s going on for them I believe it is very useful. Many have asked to take one home. I hope that counsellors will enjoy adapting it for their own purposes!


I also use this device as part of our Take Charge of Your Life presentations and have found there has been a lot of interest – so much so that we now sell small Needometers at just above cost price. They can be is stuck on the fridge and accessed at any point. One participant commented that her partner had noticed her Love and Belonging slider was low and asked her if she wanted to go for a walk!!


Sylvia Habel for the original idea for the Needometer

Joan Hoogstad for the wording of the Basic Needs poster

  • Maureen Sansom
    Posted at 05:21h, 05 March Reply

    Thank you Sue for your detailed blog about the Needometer.

    I agree, it could be a very useful, practical and simple tool to use at both personal and professional levels for Self-evaluation and while exploring all concepts of Choice Theory.

    I have demonstrated the use of the ‘Needometer’ while facilitating a ‘Take Charge of Your Life’ workshop. The participants easily understood the concept of the Needometer and used it to self-evaluate whether their needs were being satisfied during the workshop. Although it was a simple exercise during the workshop, I can see how it could be very useful in a counselling situation.

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