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Co-Counselling (CCI)

  • A self-directed approach to personal growth
  • A powerful tool for personal development
  • A means to develop emotional competence
  • A way to become the person you want to be

Courses in the Fundamentals of Co-Counselling

Current courses can be seen here.

What is Co-Counselling?

Co-counselling is "reciprocal peer counselling". It is reciprocal because participants take turns to be a "client" and a "counsellor". It is peer because all co-counsellors have the same status. It is counselling because you talk through or work on things you want to change in your life with the attention and help of a counsellor.

It operates within a network of people who have satisfactorily completed the basic "fundamentals" training course. Each person chooses for themselves how much they want to do as an equal partner either in pairs or in groups. An important feature of co-counselling is that it is free - you exchange your time and skills.

How does it work?

Theories about why co-counselling works are perhaps not so important as the fact that it does work!

When we are physically and emotionally in a space where we feel safe, valued and cared for, sooner or later we will in some way start to let out our emotions. When this happens, we find that we feel better and start to discover things about ourselves. There is nothing new or startling about this, and many people (and indeed many large companies) are seeing the practical benefits of this aspect of personal development.

Co-counsellors believe that we all have the potential to live more fully, to co-operate and to find a balance between our own and other's interests. However, the theory goes, painful experiences in the past have conditioned us to respond in particular set ways. These "patterns" of behaviour restrict our choices when we meet new situations, so that we do not find ourselves free to act in the most appropriate way.

We can gain access to more of our potential by learning to explore and then release the suppressed feelings that make us behave in "patterned" ways. This release or catharsis is known in co-counselling as "discharge", and it has positive and beneficial effects.

Discharge is not about thinking and talking through, it involves emotional and physical processes. Co-counselling recognises that we cannot separate what goes on in our minds and in our bodies.

Adults as well as children grow through being loved and appreciated rather than through criticism. We practice valuing our own strengths and good qualities. This helps us to become free of the ways in which we have learned to put ourselves down.

Co-counselling is very safe even though it is also very powerful. Its safety comes from each person being in charge of themselves, knowing what they are doing and choosing what they want to do. We do talk of people taking risks, but the sorts of dangers are that they might find out something uncomfortable about themselves - or they might end up totally changing their lives! And each person decides for themselves what risks they want to take.

Who is it for?

Co-counselling is a powerful tool for personal development, and it is effective for people who are already functioning normally in society - you don't have to be ill to be better!

It is for you if:

  • you want and are ready to make changes in you life to realise your potential, increase you life skills and gain personal support.
  • you are willing to "open up" and take risks in order to do so.

You may not be ready for co-counselling if:

  • you need alcohol, medicines or other substances which affect the mind.
  • you are unable to give your undivided attention to another person, for example because you need a lot of attention yourself.

What will I gain?

After successfully completing the basic training course, you receive a list of co-counselling contacts throughout the UK and you will be put in touch with co-counsellors in your area. You will be able to arrange sessions with any other co-counsellors who are available. You may opt to join or help form a local group; you have the skills to share as and when you choose. You will also have access to the international network of co-counsellors and to co-counselling workshops throughout this and other countries.

How do I learn?

The basic training is a 40-hour course in the Fundamentals of co-counselling. No two courses will be exactly the same, but they are similar enough to allow you to work with any other trained co-counsellor anywhere in the world.

The course uses a safe, supportive and challenging environment. The course is practical and lively with plenty of exercises and practice - and fun! When the whole group is together it will usually be in a circle sitting on floor cushions. We tend not to sit in chairs because they keep us stuck in one position, and within ourselves. Co-counselling is about becoming unstuck!

As part of setting up the environment the group is required to adopt a set of working or "ground" rules. Important in these are strict rules of confidentiality. Other rules cover listening to other people and not expressing opinions about them, speaking for ourselves and commitment to the course. Your feelings and the way in which you express them are important, and they are neither criticised nor referred to subsequently. In this "workshop", you take responsibility for your own learning.

Learning co-counselling is mainly about learning how to be the "client". In the process, you learn counselling skills and techniques that you use to work on your own material. In Co-Counselling International the client is always in charge. Our counselling skill is rooted in our experience as client.

As a client, you learn to work with your feelings rather than discussing or suppressing them. You learn how to discard old and worn out "should”s and "ought”s. Unhelpful behaviour patterns are explored, often starting by dealing with current issues rather than digging for "deep" material.

As a counsellor the basic skill is the ability to give clear, caring and non-judgemental "free attention". The training also introduces you to a "tool kit" of observational skills, suggestions and interventions that can be used by your client. Interventions are used mainly as reminders or encouragement to help the client to work in the ways that they know. Co-counselling does not use techniques such as feedback, interpretation or questioning.

The background

Co-counselling methods and theory are drawn from methods in humanistic psychology developed over the past 30 years. The original process was developed by Harvey Jackins and is known as Re-evaluation Counselling.

In the early 1970s, John Heron, who founded the Human Potential Resource Project (as it was then) at The University of Surrey, was one of the first Re-evaluation Counselling trainers in this country. Along with some people in The USA, he began to feel that co-counselling, with its basis of equality, did not work well in a hierarchical organisation. They set up Co-Counselling International (CCI) as a peer network: a logical extension of the co-counselling relationship of equality. CCI is a network of individuals and many different groups, some with hundreds of people (e.g. London) and some that are quite small.

Despite its lack of structure members of CCI do a lot of organising. There are weekend or longer regional, national and international gatherings open to all members of CCI. CCI is active in, for example, Australia, Germany, Holland, Ireland, Hungary, New Zealand and The USA.

Will it train me to be a counsellor?

No, co-counselling does not train you to take responsibility for another person's work, only your own. It is a set of tools for use by peers/equals, (i.e. not where one person is the counsellor all the time). In one-way counselling, the client does not have to have any skills or awareness.

Despite these differences, co-counselling can give useful expertise and enable you to be a much better one-way counsellor, but it offers no formal qualifications or credentials. It helps people to respond to emotions in relaxed and supportive ways. It offers valuable support for people whose work involves dealing with people, e.g. counsellors, managers, leaders or teachers. It gives an opportunity to off-load with supportive confidentiality, and the space to work on issues such as "why did I do that?", "what's in this for me?" or "why do I feel inadequate when..".

Further information

Can be accessed here.

Updated 27th August 2020

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