Re-Evaluation/Goal Setting/Celebration
Rules in Co-Counselling
Have to > Choose to
Contracts of Co-Counselling
Free Attention
Coming back After a Session
Normal Contract
What is the Thought?
Literal Description
Balance of Attention
Identity Check
What is on Top
Talking to the Cushion
Role Play
Reverse Role Play
Sentence Completion
Direction Holding
Dealing with Sexual Behaviour
Acting into...
Emotional Map
Intensive contract
Celebration as a group exercise

Re-Evaluation/Goal Setting/Celebration

The whole purpose of co-counselling is to re-evaluate and goal set

After discharge and completion of unfinished business ...

Counsellor interventions

  • "Can you say how that affected your life?"
Encourage client to make statements to contradict patterned behaviour, e.g.
  • "I am no longer that frightened child"
  • "In the present I am strong"
  • "I have a right to be me"
  • "I can say no / change my mind"
  • "Can you see new ways of dealing with these situations"
  • "I will do/be when ..."
  • ""

NB The purpose of a session is to work through some distress pattern in order to gain insight to re-evaluate your life and to set goals

Free you natural self!

The word 'evaluate' means 'to ascertain amount of' ... 'find numerical expression for' (The Concise Oxford Dictionary).

I therefore find it difficult to precisely define the word...

'RE-EVALUATION' in the context of co-counselling since the possibilities open to fully interpreting this word seem to rely on an 'understanding' of what this means. My understanding is as follows:-

'To ascertain again the amount of ('truth')

At this point I bring in other 'like' words, namely Re-examine, Re-establish, Re-fashion, and Re-decide. All seem to have a relevance. In order to more fully understand Re-evaluation, I have divided the analysis into two parts:

1. The act of re-evaluation

When I talk about what Re-evaluation is, I am linking this specifically with our Belief Systems - the core of our behaviour. So the Act of Re-evaluation is, for me, the ability to ascertain the 'truth' of an early laid down self-belief and the decision to change it because the 'truth' no longer applies. Beliefs are usually in the form of "I am" statements e.g. "I am no good" "I am lazy" or injunctions such as "I must be perfect" "I have to please my parents (the world)".

2. The process of re-evaluation

"Re-evaluation in co-counselling occurs when certain conditions are present" (John Heron)

The following is my understanding of these conditions and their consequences:

Cathartic Release: the nature of catharsis has been dealt with in a previous section. It will suffice to remind the reader that the purpose of discharge is to clear away the distress of an early critical incident. Do not confuse the necessity to discharge emotion with the purpose of discharge which is to gain insight and be able to re-evaluate. The effect of catharsis is therefore to gain insight.

Insight: the mind is liberated through catharsis to make a truly discriminating appraisal of what was really going on in the early critical incident and in subsequent re-plays.

Understanding of old Patterned Behaviour: the person's intelligence previously occluded by inhibited emotional tension will be released. This enables them to see clearly what it was they needed at the time and how this need was interrupted and how the pain around this interruption has given rise to a set of elaborate past behaviours (patterns). Asking the client to say how the original hurt has effected their lives enables them to begin to formulate new behaviours in their current life.

Belief Formulation : seeing clearly what it was they needed, the person is now able to ascertain what it was they learnt to believe about themselves and why. By understanding how the belief was formed and the inappropriateness of this in their current adult life the client is in a place to ascertain the 'real truth of their authentic self' and what they can now believe about themselves.

Behavioural Re-decision: with their new understanding the client can begin to formulate the ways in which their behaviour can be freed from these now obsolete patterns. A new set of responses can be formulated, under-pinned by their new found belief.

(This is my explanation of the various stages in the process of re-evaluation within co-counselling. I am sure that outside of co-counselling alternative ways for changing inappropriate beliefs exist).

Goal Setting

Re-evaluation frees the client to create new behaviour and feeling states in similar future situations, which is what goal setting is all about. By applying the understanding and insight to the future, this firms up the work he/she has just done.


This ideally comes at the end of each session. Asking the client to celebrate something about themselves usually directly related to the session, aids in further reinforcement of the work and insight achieved. Positive affirmations of the natural self are powerful tools of change and are not to be overlooked. I put it to you that you are the best friend you ever have. You are there when you wake up, when you need comfort, when you want to go anywhere. The most reliable person you know, you are therefore worth valuing.

Celebration also becomes a growing theme in co-counselling communities. Beginning with the notion at the end of each session to opening and closing circles, where the positive celebration of self and/or a specific aspect of another is invited. Group exercises reinforce the right to celebrate the positive aspects of ourselves. (see additional material)

Rules in Co-counselling

Co-counselling is 1:1. It is a reciprocal relationship. Golden Rules

  1. Confidentiality: not only is the content of the work not disclosed to anyone else, it is not even mentioned to those clients afterwards
  2. No physical violence: towards another person, or destruction of objects. All emotional energy is to be directed to cushions, etc.
  3. Equal time: share the available time equally - each person being the client and counsellor in each session
  4. Client decides contract to be used:
  5. Responsibility: Each client takes full responsibility for their own work, speaking in the first person, and owning statements
  6. Counsellor does not advise or judge: Counsellor supports the client while they are working through their 'problem'; learns to develop unconditional positive regard; 'keeps time'.
  7. No artificial mood changers: e.g. drugs, alcohol

1. Confidentiality

There are three fundamental basic reasons for not mentioning the client's material content to them after a session or at any future date:

  1. Talking about content can unpack the work just completed. Insights take time to integrate. The person will do this unconsciously if allowed the space with no interference.
  2. It is really none of anyone else's business. The problem belongs to the client who is the only one to decide whether it is brought up in conversation. A counsellor who has been privileged to be a party to a client's problems during a session, has no right to discuss, mention or even enquire about the subject. The argument sometimes put forward during training is that it seems an uncaring attitude not to show concern about another's problems. This leads to the second point which is:-
  3. An enquiry of this nature, however well intentioned, is a kind of interference or 'knowsiness' that says more about the questioner's need to know than sensitivity to the other person's emotions and space. The client has more than likely moved on from where they were when working originally through the issue. Although insight, understanding and resolutions for future action can be taken during a co-counselling session, further insights and understanding very often also evolve during the daily life of the person after a co-counselling session. It is therefore totally irrelevant to remind the client by an enquiry of where they were, and is also illogical when the problem may no longer exist or may have changed in character.

2. No physical violence

Safety in sessions is only ensured if this rule is understood, agreed to and observed. Being with another human being whilst they release their fear, anger or other energetic types of emotion, is safe only when the client fully respects this rule. The release of anger in our society is seen to be a negative type of behaviour and therefore 'a bad thing' to do. One reason for this is that anger is usually experienced as an outburst of emotion with the angry person being 'out of control' - this situation may then lead to violence or destruction to other persons or property. A very real fear has thus built up as a result of these connections being made, but anger does not have to be equivalent to violence to others or property.

A considerable part of co-counselling training is devoted to the education of 'safe' ways to release anger, fear etc., safe here being for both the client and counsellor. The fact that there are 'safe' ways available, without violence to others or destruction of property, does not in any way mitigate the effectiveness of the release of these emotions. In co-counselling we use cushions, mattresses or other soft, non-destructible items - never another human being or valued objects. Destructible items such as cardboard boxes, newspaper, can be used if some 'real' destruction needs to be seen or felt.

3. Equal Time

This means equal time as counsellor and equal time as client in one session. The time is agreed by the two people concerned prior to a session e.g.. 10 minutes or half an hour each way whatever time suits and is required by both parties. This aspect of equality underpins the whole concept of co- counselling - one human being, equal to another human being (in 'humanitarian terms') assisting and being assisted to work through issues. Where there is unequal time it can be argued that here is an unequal ability/power to give and be given to, which goes against the co-counselling principle of a peer and reciprocal relationship and can also have its basis in 'Patterned' behaviour.

4. Client decides contract to be used

At each co-counselling session, the person who is the client decides which contract they want to use. The counsellor accepts this decision and keeps to it throughout the time they are in the counsellor role.

5. Responsibility

It is an important concept of co-counselling that the client takes full responsibility, whilst working, for that session. The counsellor is there to support, and where a normal or intensive contract is requested, to draw attention to and make suggestions about the client's cues, using co-counselling techniques.

6. Owning Statements

From the beginning of a Fundamentals course co-counsellors are encouraged to use the pronouns 'I', 'me' , 'mine', etc., when talking about the self. It is more usual in our culture to use the words 'you', 'one', or 'we'. This in effect creates a dissociation from the self. The techniques of co-counselling aim to redress this and put ourselves in touch with our own feelings, actions and perceptions. Using 'I' etc., does this. It is also not possible to speak for another person either in perception or emotion. The use of 'you' is only advocated when addressing another person.

6. Do not Advise, Judge, Interpret or Comfort

As a counsellor in a co-counselling session it is a fundamental condition that advice and judgements are not given. This is an enabling concept which allows the client to take responsibility for their self and to work at their own depth and pace. How and what the client works on is entirely up to them. The allotted time span (originally agreed by both parties) is to be used in any way by the client which does not violate any of the rules of co-counselling. The solution to a person's problems lies within their 'self'. The value of self-discovery cannot be over-emphasised, both in the solution being the best fit for the client concerned and by experiencing the joy of discovery.

Within this method is a self-commitment and motivation for the client to accept their own solution. Accepting another person's perceived solution is never the same and even if 'spot on' can carry with it an overload of parental or 'significant' others' input. Telling someone how to behave or to take some form of action is therefore avoided in co-counselling. Learning to accept (not necessarily like) another human being and their individual right to be who and what they are and to attach no conditions to this is also part of the philosophy of co-counselling. This underpins a large part of the techniques.

7. No artificial mood changers

e.g. drugs, alcohol. The influence of such changers is to further become out of touch with emotions. Since co-counselling aims to access our feelings in order to learn how to express them appropriately, any artificial means of suppression is not acceptable.

Have to > Choose to

Exercise in pairs
Firstly 1 minute each way on all the things I have to do, e.g.

  • I have to get dressed
  • I have to go shopping
  • I have to clean my teeth, etc. etc ....

Counsellor only listens.

Secondly 1 minute each way on all the above but changing the "I have to" to "I choose to" - whether or not there is a feeling of choice e.g.

  • I choose to get dressed
  • I choose to go shopping
  • I choose to clean my teeth, etc. etc

Counsellor can prompt if client leaves anything out.

This exercise highlights the notion of 'self directed' behaviour as against 'other directed' behaviour.

Feelings of 'pressure' and possibly being stifled, can be experienced when we give our power away and allow others to determine how and what we should do or be. Understanding the principle of choice in our own lives is to introduce two major principles:-

  1. that any person has the right to live their life in a manner that is most acceptable to them
  2. that in the living of their life, full responsibility is taken for the consequences to self and others.

These two principles acknowledge freely the interdependence of people with each other. This means that if a relationship is important or a job is important, introducing the element of choice in the maintenance of these important life states creates a different perspective, one that is less 'onerous', less 'pressurised'.

Let me propose that right now you are where you need to be. This is not to imply that you like how things are for you, only that you have set things up for yourself in order to learn something important. It is my belief that we give ourselves problems to work through. When this has been accomplished we move into a different arena where those previous problems do not exist since they are no longer necessary for our learning. We are now available to meet other problems.

Let us further take this notion that we are masters of our own Destiny. This argument begins with the proposal that Humans are a form of energy. Other animals and plants are also energy. We are all essentially composed of similar substances i.e. Carbon, Oxygen, Nitrogen etc., in different proportions. All are energy. This being the case, whatever emanates from a human is also energy. So thought is a light form of energy and as such must make a journey. All creation begins with a dream. The chairs we sit on, the tables we eat from, all began as a dream in the mind of a human being. Dreams are thoughts.

I like to think of thoughts as strands of wires emanating from the brain and at the far end having a plug with which to find a socket. Thoughts make connections and contacts and have a bearing on the future state. How often have you heard people say - 'whatever I do seems to turn out wrong' and conversely the opposite. Those people are setting the scene for their future. "Say it and it will happen".

In the above two ways we create our own lives. This is both an empowering and responsible thought. (Interested readers may like to refer to Joseph Chiltern Pearce, The Bond of Power, Meditation and Wholeness, Chapter Three)


The gull sees farthest who flies highest
Jonathan Livingstone Seagull Richard Bach (1973) Pan Books Ltd

Contracts of Co-counselling

  1. Free Attention
  2. Normal
  3. Intensive

These are the three types of co-counselling contracts. A particular contract is always chosen by the client at the commencement of a session. Understanding these contracts enables both the client and counsellor to work together in a harmonious and enabling manner.


You get what you give
and giving is
Learning to give whether you get
anything back or not - otherwise you are trading


Free Attention

Free attention contract

  1. Counsellor maintains eye contact
  2. Physical touch e.g. holding hands (check with client)
  3. Do not make any interventions
    • Be with the client, for the client
    • No judgements or advice
  4. Be aware
    • of client's body posture
    • of words used
    • of tone of voice

NB Not necessary to understand all the client is saying

In my opinion, giving time to another human being is one of the greatest gifts available, since Time is a finite commodity.

Free Attention is the first type of co-counselling contract. It is the only contract that the counsellor in any session is obliged to give. It is a very special kind of listening skill and to generally describe it I use the phrase 'being outwith'. This usage of the word 'outwith' is in a different context than commonly applied. To explain:-

The counsellor is 'out' of themselves and 'with' the client. 'Out' here meaning free from their own emotional response to the client's material.

Conversely, a counsellor who is not 'out' of themselves will be connecting with their own material and reacting emotionally in some way to the client. This reaction can range from being very restimulated and experiencing their own grief, sadness etc. which may prevent their continuation as counsellor - to an enthusiastic encouragement to the client to try a technique because 'all will become clear' for the client. These behaviours are indicative that the counsellor is not totally 'with' the client.
'With' means being able to achieve a deeper and broader picture of the client's material, and also the ability to objectively pick up the cues which the client gives.

Learning to be 'out' of ones emotions as a counsellor is a gradual process which begins with the acceptance of the conscious concept of being 'outwith'. By setting this as a desirable goal and continuing to work on ones own material as client, enables the counsellor to become free of as much restimulation as is possible.

1. Eye Contact

In giving free attention, it is necessary to support the client with gentle eye contact, i.e. one that does not intrude or at worst, distract the client. It is a way of showing the client that as counsellor you are there, accepting him/her non-judgemental and with positive regard, as a person in their own right. This is a most enabling experience for helping the client to feel safe and one which will aid the client for working on distressing material.

2. Physical Touch

This can be both enabling and restricting depending on how it is used, and the historical experience of the client.

A smothering type of embrace is probably more to do with the need/perception of the giver. In order to give added support to a distressed client, a gentle touching of the hand/foot, which in effect says "I'm with you whilst you work through this material", is likely to be most helpful. If a client needs more, then s/he is at liberty to ask. Gentle holding while the client discharges can be very enabling. However, a word of warning here. It is possible that some clients may find even a gentle touch sufficient to stop them discharging emotion. The reason can be explained by previous conditioning processes when, as a child, the distressed adults around have held (down) and patted (down) the child with the verbal or non-verbal messages "there, there, don't cry" (because if you cry that puts me in touch with my own distress and I can't bear it).

The process of accepting and not becoming distressed by a client's discharge when being counsellor is learnt through experiencing the process as client. A counsellor is largely as effective as s/he is effective as client.

3. No Interventions

The contract of free attention is a silent one. This gives the client free reign to explore their own issues without any interruptions. "THE SOLUTIONS TO ALL OUR PROBLEMS LIE WITHIN US". The client, thus enabled, can make an uninterrupted journey of exploration. Freedom to explore out own problems in this way is very rarely experienced. Usually others are only too eager to offer their advice and help which leads on to a further condition of free attention.

4. No judgments or advice

A counsellor giving either of these is in effect imposing their own perspective about the situation. This is likely to be the result of their own life experience of a similar situation. However, it is never possible to really know how it is for another person, and as a result of this the solution offered is unlikely to be useful. Even worse, it can hinder the client in finding the best solution to their problems for their self. Since the client is the only one in this scenario who knows all the variables - his/her own feelings and belief systems - then logically it is the client who, given time, is the only person to be able to come up with the solution that 'fits best' into their life. Getting to the solution oneself, understanding the situation in a different light is a most rewarding experience. Being told, is not the same thing at all and can remove the joy and subsequent commitment to dealing with the problem. It is not uncommon to hear of a parent who complains that s/he has told little Johnny time and time again not to do this or that. My response is that s/he can continue to 'tell little Johnny' a thousand and one times more and still. not achieve any change. Understanding through arriving at the solution oneself is more likely to lead to a commitment and fulfilment.

There are also other important underlying messages when giving unsolicited advice and it goes something like this:- "I can see your problem clearer than you" or "you need me to sort your problem out" or "you cannot sort out your problems yourself" or "you are stupid - can't you see....... " etc., etc., which is implicitly informing the client that s/he is no good/of no use/has no ability to cope etc., etc. This is a 'big number' to lay on another person, and again it is more likely to be the counsellor's/advice giver's 'material' of needing to be needed/regarded etc..

Free Attention is not easy. All the techniques in co-counselling, whilst simple, require a degree of skill rather like learning to ride a bike. Once all the separate skills have been put together then the operation becomes smoother and easier.

Remember, co-counselling is never a conversation. In addition, experiencing the giving of Free Attention enables the counsellor to learn important principles prior to using all other techniques in co-counselling.

Be aware of non-verbal signs

As a counsellor with full attention 'out' and 'with' the client, there is much to notice - body posture, movements, words used, tone of voice and eye movements. In being totally aware of these by being 'out', it is possible for the counsellor to be much more 'with' the client. A useful goal to aim for in noticing what the client is doing etc., is to be only a 'second' behind in this process. Practising this skill of being a 'second' behind what the client is expressing, will enable the counsellor to increasingly be alert to clues the client is giving. Free attention is the foundation for this skill.

Not Necessary to Understand

'Understand' is used here in the conventional sense of knowing who 'Aunt Mabel' is or why 'Allen' was bad tempered. Questions to the client - checking out about the problem - are irrelevant since the client already knows who Aunt Mabel is and possibly why Allen was bad tempered. Understanding in this conventional sense is therefore not useful to the client.

Other counselling techniques (not co-counselling) describe listening skills as active listening. This is a method where by a counsellor checks with the client about the problem in order for the counsellor to fully understand. This is not a technique used in co-counselling.

Furthermore, a question to the client asking about something they have said, maybe to do with the questioner (counsellor) wanting to know, could be an intrusion into client time. Such questioning may direct where the client goes in his/her journey and this pathway may not be, appropriate or necessary to the client. In effect, it can interrupt the client's own journey and become counsellor directed rather than client directed. (All interventions taught in co-counselling are aimed at facilitating the client to maintain their own journey. The concept and practice of free attention is the first most vital and enabling component in this process prior to interventions being taught and practised).

Understanding in the co-counselling sense is to be aware of all the ways in which the client is expressing themselves. It is therefore possible to give free attention to another person who speaks a foreign language and for this to be totally enabling for the client.

Coming Back After a Session

Coming Back After a Session

Present time or attention switching techniques to aid the client's return to the 'here and now'

  1. Notice your immediate environment:
    • describe your counsellor
    • describe the room
    • look for six blue objects, etc.
  2. Look at yourself from the outside:
    • follow your breathing
    • count your pulse
  3. Walk around the room placing your feet one in front of the other
    • balance on one leg
    • rearrange furniture or books
  4. Count
    • up to a hundred in fives
    • say the alphabet backwards
    • count the number of objects on a shelf or wall
  5. Remember things earlier in the day which were not distressing, pleasant past memories, move from one to another quickly
  6. Look at positive themes in your life

Knowing how to come back to 'here and now' awareness at the end of a session is a bit like learning how to stop a car prior to first learning to drive. It is in a sense a real safety net/life line which allows deep feelings to be explored.

At the end of your client's session always use these techniques to bring your client back into 'present time'. It is a method which draws attention away from the past 'hurt material'. Distracting the client through observation of their surroundings or being physically involved in an activity, all help the client to 'leave' the material. In my view it is more of a counsellor led activity to ensure the client is fully present in the 'here and now' before switching roles or returning home.

N.B. Please note that this technique is necessary even when a Free Attention contract has been agreed. Coming Back occurs after the session work has been completed.

Normal Contract

Normal contract

NB all interventions are suggestions of a procedural nature only

  1. Counsellor responds to the major verbal and non-verbal clues that the client has missed
  2. Counsellor offers standard co-counselling interventions if the client needs help.

This is the second type of contract available and heralds all the techniques that follow. The counsellor in fulfilling this contract for the client draws attention to those clues the client is missing - verbally or non-verbally in ways defined later on in this manual, when the client appears to have lost their way, to be blocking, to be in pattern or to be missing their own cues.

NB: These interventions are always aimed at facilitating the client to maintain their own journey and to find their own solutions. When learning the co-counselling interventions it is useful to remember that as counsellor you can only make a tentative mental guess about what is going on for the client. The interventions therefore need to be in the form of suggestions i.e. reminders of a potentially useful way of working in the session. Remember:-

  1. The client is in charge and can accept or reject any suggestion (incidentally that is all they are rejecting not you the counsellor)
  2. When offering an "inappropriate" intervention it can highlight for the client what is 'right' for them - so it still leads to a discovery.
  3. Where there is an acceptance that the deep unconscious knows who it is best to work with on a particular issue, then the interventions of the counsellor are likely to be right for that client at that particular time.

Confidence in suggesting any of the following techniques to a client in a co-counselling session is gained through experiencing them as client. One rule that I find generates safety is: - I never ask my client to go where I have never been myself.

Implicit in a co-counselling contract is the acceptance by both parties that the client is in charge. It is therefore irrelevant when making suggestions to ask them if they want to do this or that, since the client can always refuse. Making direct suggestions such as 'do/say that again - louder', will serve to move the client on unless they decide otherwise. Deciding whether they will or not is to add another irrelevant dimension to their implicit willingness to work, since they have already requested a session and decided on the type of contract. Finally, in facilitating this type of contract, the counsellor never has any certain knowledge about what is going on for the client or what the client needs. The only things to go on are the cues given by the client, who will, to a greater or lesser extent, lay out his/her stall in front of you. As a counsellor it is important to remember that all interventions will not elicit a response or even be 'appropriate' for the client. Keep trying things out, be flexible and open to what is going on for the client. Let go of suggestions that do not work - give them away freely; go with those that seem meaningful to the client.

Some Counsellor Interventions

  • "How about ...?"
  • "I suggest you ..."
  • "May I make a suggestion ..."
  • "Would you like to ..."

Pooh Bear "And if anyone knows anything about anything", said Bear to himself, "its owl who knows something about something," he said, "or my name's not Winnie the Pooh" he said. "Which it is" he added. "So there you are."
"The Tao of Pooh" - Benjamin Hoff 1982 Methuen Children's Books Pooh Bear

What's the thought

What's the Thought?

A client, making a journey in a session, is likely to have other thoughts which emerge from the unconscious mind and seemingly flutter across their conscious mind. These thoughts are a bit like butterflies flying past. An invitation from the counsellor (who has noticed this happening) to 'catch hold' of one of these thoughts in order to examine it, can lead to deeper material. Counsellor intervention "What's the thought?", "Thought?"

Eye Movements

When a person looks up they are 'seeing' images either constructed (i.e. future or how things could be) or remembered (a past event). When remembering what has been said in the past, the eyes will move sideways and when feelings are being expressed then usually in a right handed person the eyes will look downwards and to the right (left handed people to the left). This, according to Bandler and Grinder, is a demonstration of how we access stored material and the sequences of eye movements demonstrate how we organise our thinking and feeling processes in response to events being talked about.

In order to pick up the client's fleeting thoughts it is necessary to notice their eye movements. When a person looks upwards while speaking it is likely to assume they are 'seeing' pictures of an event - in other words a thought has popped in. This looking up may be to the right or left or even shift from one to the other. The intervention 'what's the thought?' or 'thought?' will be sufficient for the client to recognise that they have had a thought and to make the choice of working on it or not.

My experience of working on these subconscious thoughts is that whilst they may at first glance appear to be totally irrelevant to the subject being worked on, in some way they do have a real significance when explored. Quite often this is a way into emotions and past associations. The reason for this is not hard to understand. As human beings we are constantly giving messages/clues to the world at large. To use another analogy displaying 'tips of icebergs' about our subconscious feelings and beliefs. To identify the tip and to explore it can lead to larger, hidden parts of ourselves, the deeper larger part of the iceberg lying below the surface. As with all the techniques, this is a way in to these unconscious 'hidden' depths. An experienced client will become more and more accustomed to recognising these thoughts popping up and will be able to hone in on them (without prompting) saying "The thought is........... "

Debunking a Myth

There is a commonly held mis-conceived notion which states that a person who "doesn't look you straight in the eyes when talking to you" is not to be trusted. This is going against the natural accessing process which is necessary to use when talking, because when recalling incidents it is natural to use our eyes to follow our internal ways of recalling what we have seen, heard and felt, and our eyes move appropriately to do this. To impose a 'fixed' look ahead is to prevent the speaker recalling the events accurately and incidentally is more likely to result in a 'misstatement'. Therefore to order a child to "look at me when you speak to me!" is a totally unnatural and inappropriate command for the child to follow. (Bandler and Grinder 1979). Similarly the client in co-counselling, who is naturally more likely to look around whilst speaking, cannot continuously look directly at the counsellor. At the same time the counsellor, who is not accessing internal thoughts and feelings, can maintain gentle eye contact with the client.

Body Movements and Thoughts

When a client suddenly moves his/her body while talking, this is also an indication of an energy charge moving through the body, stemming from a thought that has just occurred (another indication that thought is energy). Attention can be drawn to this with the same phrase 'What's the thought?'.

Literal Description

Literal description

  1. Specific event
  2. Use present tense: "I am ..."
  3. Describe literal descriptions of scenes and actions as if they are happening now. Using balance of attention, evoke sounds, smells, colours etc. (Do not talk about.)
  4. Deal with unfinished business. "What's left unsaid?"

The client is invited to describe the relevant events which may have occurred either recently or way back in time, as if they are really happening now. The client is therefore encouraged to use the present tense for describing what they can see, what they can hear, smell, touch etc., and then the emotions associated with an event are more likely to be re-experienced. This time however, there is a difference. By experiencing these emotions again (and remember, - if they were not in us already, we could not experience them) they can now be experienced in a way that was not possible at the original incident by:

  • Fully discharging the grief, fear, etc., in a safe and supportive place - the here and now.
  • Speaking to the person(s) and expressing both verbally and non-verbally, what was not possible at the time of the original incident. When speaking to the 'people' in the experience, the client is encouraged to talk to them as if they are present and to use the word 'you'.

(Use also 'talking to the cushion' technique, or counsellor in 'role play'). Story-telling and talking about, are to be discouraged as they dissociate the emotion from the event and the emotion needs to be discharged in order to clear the way for insight to occur.

Deal with unfinished business

In working through the emotion of a past event, the client gains insight about what was really going on for them, and also for the significant other people in the same scenario. Finding his/her own power to now deal with the situation in a new way is an enabling process. This dealing with the 'unfinished business' of the past aids in the healing process, because having dealt with the problem, the burden is not carried around anymore. The client is freed from any 'oppression' of the original event. Energy is released for daily living and insight of the self-worth of the client is realised. Life can then be viewed from a different perspective.

In using co-counselling to deal with our past hurts I use the analogy of dismantling a log fire. We first take off the top logs to begin with - those that can more easily be removed and then we are able to work around to the deeper larger ones. Co- counselling does not mean doing it all at once - you decide.

Some Counsellor Interventions

  • "How old are you?"
  • "When was the first time?"
  • "Say that in the present tense."
  • "What do you need to say/do to x?"
  • "Can you say that directly to x?"
  • "Can you say/do to x what little ... couldn't at the time?"

Balance of Attention

In order to dip back into the past, it is necessary to keep what is known as a 'balance of attention'. This is where the 'adult' client allows their self to reach down and back in time to the unexpressed feelings of the 'child' within whilst at the same time keeping part of their awareness in the 'here and now'. By being aware of the 'here and now' and at the same time allowing their 'past child' to scream/shout/sob/shake etc. the locked in emotion can be safely and fully discharged. An imbalance occurs when the client is so swamped in their material that no attention is in the present. The client experiences a state of 'wallowing in the mire'. This can lead to a reinforcement of the past material. This state is also one in which the client is dis-identified with their original setting so that no real experiencing or learning can take place nor insight occur.

As counsellor you will become increasingly aware of when this might be happening. A way to redress this imbalance is to invite the client to give you eye contact for a brief moment. "Can you look at me?" This will not affect the flow of the work but will aid the 'adult' in the client to balance with the 'child' material. Becoming practised in this technique- of maintaining a balance of attention leads to the ability to work on deeply repressive material. Balance of attention

Repetition/Exaggeration Contradiction

Repetition, Exaggeration, Contradiction

  • "Can you repeat that?"
  • "Can you do / say that again?"
  • "Do that again ... again ..."
  • "Can you exaggerate that"
  • "Louder"
  • "I can't hear you"
  • "Can you contradict that?"
  • "What's the opposite?"
  • "How about saying the opposite?"

These three connected techniques can be applied to the verbal and non-verbal cues of the client.


Asking the client to repeat an emotionally charged statement/phrase will usually access the hidden emotion. As counsellor, encourage the client to stay with the repetition of words or body movements, especially when discharge is taking place, until all the emotion is spent, and the client moves on of his/her own free will.


Where a client is mechanically repeating a phrase or movement, it can be useful to ask them to exaggerate by saying the phrase louder or making the movement stronger and putting more energy into it. The effect of this is to access the body energy, creating an arousal state which allows the emotions to emerge.

Another way of working with exaggeration is to encourage the client to go with the patterned feeling or body posture. By exaggerating this for as long as is necessary, it will serve to help the client to eventually let go. By going with it totally - the negatives become 'spent' and the client can begin to free themselves of restrictive and incongruent behaviour patterns. Working with Exaggeration and, Repetition allows a client to express in an 'uncensored fashion', all negative thoughts and judgements about someone or a situation they are working on in a session.


Here the client is encouraged to use 'going against statements'. This is likely to intensify distress and produce discharge - initially laughter. The client does not have to believe the contradictions while they are saying them, just use them as leverage to begin to experience the feelings. Clients are encouraged to find contradictions to the uncensored negatives they say.

Especially useful if "stuck" or the negative statements are said as if true or without feeling. This removal of the client's 'qualifications' applies equally to the non-verbals.

Example - 'I love being here' - said at the same time as a leg is kicking out (A mismatch of words and body messages). Contradicting the statement and exaggerating the contradiction at the same time allows the relief of stored tension.

Resistance to discharge has been taught to us from an early age. People vary in their control patterns - some are able to release emotions easily, whilst others remain calm and controlled - compulsively holding in discharge under conditions of tension. Observing these, according to Jackins, is to take notice of things you observe the client doing in the present. By contradicting these, the rigidity is disturbed. So, if a client is talking rapidly - request a slow repetition of one thought repeatedly. The fast talking control will be interrupted and discharge is likely to occur. A client who is holding their body tightly - arms and legs crossed - when contradicted, by uncrossing and opening the arms and legs, can result in discharge. Similarly a 'cool' controlled person can be asked to act in a jittery way etc..

When a client is invalidating him/herself, help them to contradict the pattern by asking them to say 'I am the most handsome, smartest and tidiest hero in the world', or 'I am the most loving, open, beautiful and intelligent woman in the world'.

These contradictions are best said with as much energy as possible - saying them loudly and confidently and allowing discharge to occur, then making another effort to say them loudly, and so on. Making these statements while standing up assists the reduction of restricted bodily control patterns.

Ask the client to try using a specific phrase. If distress feelings get stronger it is a contradiction and will take the client into catharsis. If the client starts to feel better, the phrase is a validation and will bring the client out of catharsis. This makes a good basis for celebration. Experiencing this as client will show you how useful - or not this technique is.

Identity Check

Identity Check

These can always be used when you find yourself inexplicably drawn to someone, as well as if you find there is something negative going on.

Counsellor interventions

  1. "Who do I remind you of?"
  2. "In what ways do I remind you of X?"
  3. "What do you want to say to X?"
  4. "Is there anything still unfinished with X?"
  5. "In what ways do I differ from X?"
  6. "Who am I?"

This technique is ideally used when co-counselling with a new partner. The reason is to clear away any connections with past acquaintances.

During our lives we meet many situations and make many associations. This is a useful way of operating since it allows us to connect one set of principles to others that are similar. For example, a child learns that a door knob will open a door. The child remembers this when confronted with other doors having knobs/handles. A human being would make very little progress without this ability to use one experience and by generalising, apply it to other experiences. However, this attribute can work against us and nowhere more markedly than with people. The phrases "Oh I know your sort", or "I just hate people with red hair", are familiar to us. What has occurred is a negative response to a previous acquaintance in a person's life and this negative response is being 'dumped' on a 'here and now' person who in some way resembles the previous acquaintance. This process of generalisation, when applied to another person, who may in some way look or seem like the previous acquaintance, is inappropriate. The similarity is likely to be related to the way a person sounds/looks/does their hair/shape of face or the name they are called by and nothing to do with how they really are as a human being.

Our previous experiences may equally have been 'good' or 'bad' and if we carry either of these feelings around and 'dump' them on another person we have just met, it is illogical and inappropriate. More often than not, we are totally unaware that we are 'dumping'. What happens is that we are inexplicably drawn to, or have a repellent reaction to, a person on or very soon after first meeting/seeing them. There is no way that a person can be 'summed up' so quickly. It is much more likely to be tied in with a previous experience.

Where one previous experience has been 'good', then it is possible for 'unrealistic expectations' for warmth and support to be forthcoming, and eventual surprise and disappointment when this does not happen. This is likely to end up in resentment and statements such as 's/he really let me down', 'when I really got to know him/her they really showed their true colours', will be made. The recipient of the initial warm and friendly emotions is also likely to be confused and wonder what is expected of them. This confusion will turn to bewilderment when they are eventually shunned because they have not "come up with the goodies". Similarly, if a previous experience with another person has been 'bad', then avoidance of similar people may take place and all kinds of angry, resentful feelings are likely to be spilling out, either verbally or non-verbally. Any current person does not deserve the undischarged negative emotions being laid on them which are to to do with the unfinished business of a previous experience. As a co-counsellor, it is important to clear these other 'past people' from the scene, so that they do not get in the way of working with a new partner. The set of phrases used will enable both parties to work on and 'clear' these 'ghosts' from the past allowing each co-counsellor to address each other more clearly. Another useful way to use the Identity Check technique is to ask the counsellor to stand in for the person I have issues about in my every day life i.e. If I have an issue around my boss I ask my counsellor to represent my boss and ask me the sequence of ID-check questions. This enables me to identify who the boss reminds me of, clear any unfinished business, acknowledge the boss for whom s/he is and acknowledge the counsellor for whom s/he is. It is important to de-role the boss as reminded person and the counsellor as my stand-in boss.

What's on Top?

'What's on top?' literally means what is foremost in conscious thought for the client - and an invitation for the client to articulate this without necessarily making sense or censoring. This is useful as a start to a session, especially when the client is not consciously aware of any particular 'problem' or issue they need to work on. By giving free reign to thoughts, the subconscious is given the opportunity to emerge. Evidence of this will be through words used or other thoughts and associations or some body movement indicating there is a charge of energy. Counsellor interventions which draw attention to the verbal and non-verbal clues that the client may be missing, will move the client towards emerging material.

Counsellor interventions

  • "What's on top?"

There are no other interventions specific to this technique. However, the following are useful 'moving on' techniques to use when the client is generalising.

  • "Who are you really saying that to?"
  • "Who specifically?"
  • "What do you need to say to them?"

Where a client is making a quantum leap in cause and effect

  • "How does x cause y?
  • "How do you know?"
  • "Where did you learn that?"

When a client is talking about a problem, ask them to

  • "Say it in the present tense"

The counsellor can suggest, if appropriate

  • "What do you want to do about that?"
  • "What would happen if you did/didn't?"
  • "What is the worst thing that can happen?"
  • "And now?"

Other techniques and interventions can be used as and when a client requests or a counsellor senses it is appropriate to the client's material.

Tree "He that leaveth nothing to chance will do few things ill, but he will do very few things."
Charles Baudelaire Small tree

Talking to the Cushion

Talking to a cushion

Work with cushions

To provide a focus for and to access my emotions. to bypass "about-ism"
As client
Instead of talking about someone / feeling or a part of me,
put 'them' on a cushion and talk directly to the person / feeling or part.
As counsellor
  • (Can you / would you like to) put your ... on the cushion
  • What do you want to say to ...?
  • Tell him/her that directly, say "you"

This essentially Gestalt method of working, uses a cushion as a symbol. This means that the cushion can be used to represent another person, a feeling, behaviour or part of the client. By placing a cushion near the client s/he can talk to the person as if they are really there. Using the cushion as a means to talk to a part of their self enables the client to dissociate themselves from an internal emotion or part. Placing the emotional part of their self in front allows feelings to be explored and expressed. This is a very effective method of dealing with as many internal parts or feelings as the client is experiencing problems with. Cushions of differing shapes, sizes or colours can be used to represent these different parts. Using the cushion symbolically as another person enables the client to more easily verbalise what they are not able to say to the real person. The counsellor can suggest at this point that the client switches cushions and 'experience the reaction' of receiving the client's message.

It is important as the client, to address the cushion as 'you' - this gets in touch with the held in statements and feelings that need to be said, explored or given vent to. The cushion can be the safe recipient of verbal and non-verbal discharge of emotion. By sitting on the cushion and becoming the other person or part and explaining to the 'client' how things are from a different viewpoint, enables insight to emerge. Also questions which ask 'why' from the client to the cushion, are a cue to switch cushions and take on the role of the other person or part and talk back to his/her 'client' expressing the imagined feelings bottled up. Switching over continues whenever a question is asked or an explanation is given - this allows the client to explore the issue fully until resolved. Speaking as if the other person can lead to some surprises.

Using the cushion is a safe way to fully discharge anger towards another person. Co-counselling parents have ample opportunities to symbolically 'murder' or 'bash' their children and release their anger safely on the cushion. As a result of thus discharging their anger parents can interact with their offspring in a clear and positive way.

Counsellor Interventions

Where the client seems to be missing cues:

  • "Who are you really saying that to?"
  • "Would you like to say that to ----- (putting cushion there)
  • "Say what you were unable to say"

NB: Experienced clients will increasingly recognise their need to talk to 'cushions' and will initiate this technique for themselves. Switching cushions becomes a natural process until a solution is arrived at.

Player 1Player 2
"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts...
William Shakespeare As You Like It, Act 3 Scene 2

Player 3

Player 4

Role Play

Role play

  • "Do you want me to be X?"
  • "What are the words?"

NB Counsellor does not invent the words of the oppressor

Reverse Role play

Switch roles. (Client and counsellor change cushions.)
Client becomes oppressor. Counsellor "speaks" as client.
NB Counsellor can voice what the client is not saying

Role play outside co-counselling involves the client and other group characters to be given a brief set by the group facilitator. All of these characters therefore require 'acting a part' other than themselves.

Another form of role play can be seen in Psychodrama where the client is being themselves and using other group members to become the characters of their past history to enable the client to work. These other characters can invent their own imagined response whilst in 'role'.

In co-counselling role-play, the counsellor does not invent the words of the client's oppressor but maintains the set words/phrase for as long as the client requests or material comes up. It is not unusual for the client to change the words several times before arriving at those which have the most emotive response for him/her. The client may also wish the words to be said in a particular way and the counsellor needs to be sensitive to these requests. The counsellor can suggest or the client can initiate a Role Play technique.

Bringing in the cushion to allow the client to 'speak' to the oppressor, requires the counsellor to notice the appropriate moment for this to take place. Once material has been accessed by the client, it is useful for the counsellor to slip out of the oppressor role and become the supportive counsellor again. A statement to clarify any change can be made - i.e. "Shall I be counsellor now?" or "I'm counsellor again", when the role play technique has served its purpose for the client.

Inventions from other people can detract from the 'reality' for the client, which is one reason for conventional role play not being used in co-counselling. Another reason is that 'role players' can become 'hooked' into the role and deny the human response, whatever the client comes up with. This can result in an impasse situation. Co-counselling is all about our own real life drama with the client both directing and acting out the situation.

Psychodrama is nearer to co-counselling role play because the client is playing themselves. Both Role Play and Literal Description technique are a form of Psychodrama. Role Play can also be used for the the client to work through a negative belief. Here the client directs the counsellor to repeatedly say a phrase that the client believes about themselves:- 'You're no good', 'You have to be perfect', 'You never get anything right', etc., etc.. Initially, the client may have no idea 'who' is saying this, but once this has been identified the cushion can be brought in for the client to continue working with their oppressor and the counsellor to be in the supportive role.

Counsellor Interventions

  • "Would you like me to be x?"
  • ("How about) say(ing) it to me as if to him/her?"
  • "What are the words/actions?"
  • "Talk to the cushion - Tell x -- say 'You'
  • "What have you not said?"
  • "What might you have said if you hadn't had to hold back?"

Reverse Role Play

This technique is useful if the client feels 'stuck' in response to the oppressor's phrase or action whilst in role play. Reversing the roles so that the client becomes the oppressor and the counsellor becomes the client, enables the real client to hear any responses the 'counsellor as client' comes up with. This is the only technique where the counsellor can tentatively say or do what the client is not able to. Experiencing being their own oppressor the client can also test the experience of the response that the counsellor as client has come up with. This can be enlightening for the client. Switching back again to the counsellor as the oppressor and the client as themselves, enables the client to then try out for themselves the phrase/words they have just heard and explore how that feels, in order to deal effectively with their response/reactions to the oppressor. The client can request the counsellor to reverse role play as many times as it takes to work through and come up with a satisfactory conclusion.

Behind this technique is the theory that the counsellor, being an objective observer of the situation, is likely to see how the client is 'stuck' - and because the counsellor is an objective observer will not become sucked into the overwhelming emotional response that the client finds themselves in, and can thus react to the "oppressor" in a clear way. As counsellor it is important to be aware that you do not get sucked into an oppressive/rescuing role, passionate to relieve suffering and demanding the acceptance of your interventions (ideas).

Counsellor Interventions

  • "Shall we switch roles?"

Sentence Completion

Sentence completion

"I am feeling ... because ... and that makes me feel ..."

Can be used to

  • explore a feeling
  • keep a direction

Direction holding

Counsellor aids client to maintain a requested direction. (Issue statement.)

Counsellor interventions

  • "May I suggest you come back to your direction?"
  • "May I suggest you keep your direction?"
  • "Try saying 'I am feeling angry / frightened / sad / embarrassed' and name a few feelings?"
  • "Which one fits?"

A technique which can be usefully used at any time in a session. It is also an effective way 'in' to material at the beginning of a session. By using the phrase and developing the theme, the effect is to work through layers of feelings to access one that has some energy for the client to stay with. Vague indeterminate feelings can be helped to emerge. Similarly, it is a useful starting off technique for the client to use when wanting to keep to a particular direction for working on an issue.

Counsellor Interventions

  • (Can you say) "I am feeling...... because .... and that makes me feel ... "
  • Try saying "I'm feeling angry ... frightened ... sad ... embarrassed ... Which one fits?"

Direction Holding

Direction Holding is used where the client has a particular issue they wish to address, and may request the counsellor to help them in maintaining this focus. Having a counsellor there to constantly bring the client back to the direction, helps when the tendency is to slip away from it given half a chance. The use of repetition here also helps not only to promote discharge but also during discharge.

Direction holding also involves the sustained use of contradiction either verbally or non-verbally. The effect is usually to bring up copious discharge until allowed to be spent (see Contradiction pp. 54-56).

Counsellor Interventions

  • "Can you come back to your direction?"



To survey repeated occurrences of a particular type of event or mental state, or "echoes" from the past.

Enables accessing of Patterns. These usually come from the past and are associated with, and active in, many current incidents. Identifying these then helps clients to work on the origins of these patterns and not the results.


  • 'Minor upsets of the past week'
  • 'Times I've been bored'
  • 'Times I've been angry'
  • 'Times I've felt frustrated'
  • 'Times someone said / did that to me.'
  • 'Times someone looked at me like that'

This is a technique which enables the client, through examination of every day upsets, to access original patterns.

Scanning requires the client to take a recent feeling and travel back in time, stopping off at times in the past when the same feeling predominated. Working through an identified situation, the client then travels back further and so on, working through issues along the way. This can be both a backward and forward journey in time, working through until the original event that affected the client has been reached.

An original event usually occurs between 0-6 years and is where a belief pattern about the self, others and the world may be formed. The journey can start from the original event - if the client is able to access this, reviewing later, similar experiences in roughly chronological order all the way up to the present. This process can be repeated many times. A combination of talking and/or silent reviewing in this scanning process seems to work well. Initially the client can verbally recount all the experiences first remembered, but on repetition, silently reviews the ones that have already been mentioned, or verbalises any new incidents as they show up. This method allows a very large number of experiences of a similar nature, most of which are restimulations of the same pattern, to be reviewed in a short period of time. Discharge may occur with the verbalisation or even with the silent reviews. This discharging, which can include laughter, is a relieving of the distress and will result in a 'fading' or reduction in the energy of these patterns. This varies according to the strength of the belief which has resulted from the original experience.

In many ways it is a series of literal descriptions, either verbalised or experienced silently, in order to gain insight about the original event, and facilitate the client to be in an emotional state to re-evaluate this and set future targets for similar situations of a restimulatory nature to be overcome. Scanning is useful for beginning this tracing back process or when more work seems to be needed. It can be used at any time.

Counsellor Interventions

All techniques are appropriate

  • "Can you scan that?"
  • "Have you had that feeling before?"
  • "When was the last time you had that feeling?"
  • "Was that the first time?"
  • "When was the first time?"
  • "Can you take that feeling and go back further?"

Dealing with Sexual Behaviour

"-of sex or the sexes...... classification based on the distinction of sexes. Hence sexuality." (Concise Oxford Dictionary)

Being either male or female in our society carries a weight of rules, injunctions, expectations and some misunderstanding of being a man or a woman as distinct from the sexual urges and expression of these urges.

Heron draws attention to the fact that "the cathartic cycle" (which is behavioural) "is quite distinct from the orgasmic cycle" (which is sexual). This is because "orgasm does not unload fear, anger.. grief, embarrassment, whereas catharsis does." There is an obvious similarity in the release and this may lead to confusion of the outcome.

In our non-cathartic society there is also a confusion about the expression of human nurturing needs and the association of these with eroticism. Heron also states that the distinction between nurturing needs i.e.- touching, holding, embracing, stroking, caressing, where sexual arousal is absent, minimal or entirely secondary, and the sexual function which culminates in ecstatic convulsions, is little understood. The one is confused with the other. This produces an anxiety in human contact as to its purpose.

The free giving of nurturing needs is advocated in co-counselling. The true acceptance and giving of human warmth and body contact without sexual invitation being expected or required, frees co-counsellors and others practising personal growth to delight in each other as human beings to an extent that is usually not possible with others in society.

Compulsive sexual behaviour can result if a person blindly acts out in the present, the unfinished business of the past; Examples include:

  1. the rapist or prostitute who unawarely acts out his/her anger towards his/her mother/father
  2. the man or woman constantly seeking sexual partners in an attempt to fulfil past denied love and acceptance.

Patterns are thus present in the expression of sexual encounters as in any other encounter or acts. Distress around repressed feelings can therefore manifest in the sexual act but not be discharged by it. As with any other pattern, the origin needs to be accessed and distress discharged around that first time in order to achieve a lasting release.

The sexually wise person does not confuse gender with sexual arousal and can distinguish in the latter, according to Heron:

  1. sexual interest in himself/herself and in another person that is rooted in hidden distress
  2. sexual interest, the expression of which, is a true celebration of human values.

Exercise (normal or intensive contract helps in this)

  • "As a man/woman I'm expected to"
  • "As a man/woman I expect others to"
  • "As a man/woman I expect myself to"

Allow sufficient time to explore one or all of these statements, and at the end of a session:

  • Celebrate as man/woman.

Human potential

Acting into

This is precisely what it says. The technique initially requires the client to "act" into an emotion. The emotions usually "acted" into are anger, fear, grief or embarrassment since these emotions are the ones we have learned to repress and find difficult to access, but all emotions can be worked on. Each type of emotion has a particular body position and movements which will help to mobilise the body energy. In the normal functioning state, the emotions are kept down. This being the case, it is necessary to alter the energy level in the body to allow the emotion to emerge. It is also important to remember that in 'acting into' the client has to inject energy into the exercise which is equal to the holding in of the emotion in a stable position ... " when an immovable object meets an irresistible force..." This exercise needs to be physically safe for the client for two reasons:

1. so that no physical damage will result

2. the knowledge of this safety will help the client to energise by going fully into the exercise

Acting into Anger

The position mostly adopted for Acting Into Anger is kneeling in front of a pile of cushions. In this position the client repeatedly brings his/her arms and fist down onto the cushions slowly building up in intensity and increasing the pace. This "slow build up to a bursting forth" (release) is a simulation of our natural bodily functions of digestion, orgasm, ejaculation and giving birth. If there are suitable words to use in the same way, then so much the better. This process is repeated over and over again until the client actually contacts the anger within. Once accessed and discharging, then normal interventions will allow further material to be accessed.

In this technique, there is a responsibility with the counsellor to maintain an adequate pile of soft cushions for the client to energise with. The golden rule of 'No physical violence' is an important aspect for the success of this exercise from both client and counsellor perspectives. The client is free to hit, murder, strangle and throw cushions around and totally vent feelings in this way whilst the second important rule of balance of attention is also maintained.

Acting into Fear

This is simulated by trembling and shaking. This may be done kneeling, standing alone or digging the fingers into the small of the counsellor's back. Letting out yells, shouts and screams or hyperventilating, all help to allow the fear to surface, which can then be worked on using any other techniques.

Acting into Sadness/Grief

Being hunched up on the knees is the position which most simulates sadness/grief. A foetal position of lying down and curled up, is more likely to develop into a primal "rebirthing". Using the breathing 'as if sad' with sighing and shaky intake of breath, expressing and exaggerating moaning/wailing sounds, will all help the sadness to emerge.

Acting into Joy

Making exaggerated joyful movements and sounds, such as continuous laughter, may access real joy, but be prepared for any other emotion that may surface. This can be a powerful contradiction method which accesses grief/sadness or anger.

Acting into Boredom

Use exaggerated yawning and sighing or other emergent sounds together with stretching, clenching/unclenching hands if the client goes with whatever movement seems appropriate, right.

Real catharsis occurs when the movements become involuntary and spontaneous as a consequence of the feeling intensifying to a level which becomes unbearable.

It is very important that the client is aware of being in charge throughout, so the depth of feelings and the extent of the exploration is decided upon by the client. Giving oneself permission to experience repressed emotions and then be able to discharge them, is one of the most enabling methods available.

As counsellor, always be aware that the presenting distress may have an underlying distress. Asking for the earliest memory of this feeling or "Who are you really saying this to" will further enable the distress to be discharged from source.

Counsellor Interventions

  • "Can you put more energy into that?"
  • "Say that louder"..... "Exaggerate that"
  • "Repeat that..... and again" - "Is there a noise/words?" - "Try pretending a noise/action as if it were real"
  • "Who are you really saying that to?"
  • "How old are you?" - "If you were someone else expressing the feeling, how might you do it?"

Child 1 Child 2
You are led
through your lifetime
by the inner learning creature,
the playful spiritual being that
is your real self.

Don't turn away
from possible futures
before you're certain you don't have
anything to learn from them.

You're always free
to change your mind and
choose a different future, or
a different
"Illusions" (The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah,) Richard Bach,1978. Pan Books Ltd.
Child 3 Child 4 Child 5

Emotional Map

Emotional map

"The map is not the territory."
Bandler & Grinder

In order to go on any journey it is necessary to have a map. Above is a suggested 'map of emotions'.

Implicit messages around us state that excessive emotions are not OK. and must therefore be kept hidden from others. Keeping emotions 'down' in this way can lead to them being so buried that the individual loses touch of them. To be fully alive and responsive to life and living, all areas need to be experienced. Living in the positive side alone is to miss out a great deal that goes on with negatives which will eventually lead to and enrich our experience and joy in the positives. To fully appreciate happiness it is necessary at some level to experience unhappiness etc.

The main advantage in drawing your own map is to put in those positive and negative aspects that are personal to you. Knowing then how to shift from one square to another i.e.- out of negative passive to negative active will lead to either positive passive or active. Learning how to get unstuck through co-counselling and then doing it, is one of the most freeing experiences. Co-counselling is therefore a very effective way of dealing with depression - one of the most 'stuck' places to be.

Emotions are not hierarchical. All emotions are equal and to be experienced. Each emotion enriches the experience of the individual. The aim of being in touch with all emotions - some painful, some joyous, but all worthwhile, is a useful and enriching experience - there is no need to avoid them.

One technique suggested to move from passive negative to active negative is 'acting into'. After the emotion is accessed and allowed to run-off, it is usual for calm to be experienced i.e. passive positive and then a move towards active positive is possible. Although the suggested journey starts from the passive negative to the active negative, then onto the passive positive and eventually to the active positive, it is possible to move from any one quarter to any other quarter.

The important requirement in shifting, especially from negative to positive, is energy. Any of the techniques to mobilise emotional energy are a prerequisite.


  • Acting Into (this is the most used and seemingly useful)
  • Role-Play
  • Repetition/Exaggeration/Contradiction
  • Literal Description


This is a technique suitable for use in either normal or intensive co-counselling contracts.

Mirroring can be used by the counsellor in two major ways:

  1. As a means of being in close rapport with the client. Mirroring can be an unconscious message which says "I am here with you". In this case the counsellor matches the posture and shifting positions of the client in an unobtrusive and 'unnoticeable' way. It is important to notice if the client is comfortable with this. An immediate 'opposite' shift in body posture by the client will be an indication that this may not be the case. A few attempts at this will ascertain more certainly where the client is not comfortable about this practice. If so then the counsellor should discontinue.
  2. As a means of feeding back any negative/incongruent, non-verbal cues the client is in . Drawing attention in this way allows the client to 'see' in the counsellor what it is they are actually saying. Clients can experience varying degrees of discomfort by being thus confronted. Use sensitivity and support whilst using this technique which can press buttons about being 'mimicked' or 'mocked' or 'jeered at' - all negative messages only too frequent in society, especially as children.

Once the client is into material any other appropriate technique can be used.



"Words can lie but our bodies do not".
Bandler & Grinder 1979

Non-verbal and para-linguistic signs of internal messages

NB The non-verbal systems are often more of an accurate indicator than the verbal systems.

  • movement of the limbs
  • frown or grimace
  • fist clenching
  • hand wringing
  • foot movement / jerks
  • distance / general posture
  • eye movements
  • lack of expression in tone
  • emphasis on emotive words
  • coughing / choking on words
  • seeming slips of the tongue
  • impromptu asides

Counsellor interventions

  • Do that again ... and again
  • Exaggerate that
  • Try making a noise which goes with that
  • Do the opposite - voice / gesture / posture
  • What's the thought?
  • What is you right / left hand saying?
  • What is you right / left leg / foot saying?

To attend only to words being uttered is to attend to a comparatively small amount of information that is being given. In co-counselling, the noticing of body language aids the discovery, by the client, of occluded and incongruent messages. The counsellor is there only to draw attention to these and by doing so implicitly invites the client to explore them. It is another 'way in' to material.

Remember that EVERYTHING IS A MESSAGE - coughs, splutters, movements - are all messages in one form or another, mostly at an unconscious level. As mentioned previously, sudden body shifts, when linked either to words spoken by others or thoughts during speaking, indicate that a surge of energy has been generated. Using "What's the thought?", or Exaggeration/Repetition/Contradiction techniques will access these.

Allowing the 'body only' to speak can be a refreshing experience. Non-verbal sessions can be set up where the counsellor is requested to give Free Attention or Normal Contract and where the client only moves and lets out sounds, not words. The idea here is for the client to explore what his/her body wants and to go with it. The counsellor is there to draw attention to parts of the body by touching or verbally offering a technique to the client. I believe there is a counsellor responsibility in this type of session to ensure the client has sufficient padded material around for directing energised movements against, thus enabling the client to continue in a safe way to express themselves.

Counsellor Interventions

Free Attention
  • Gently touching a part of the client's body that is marginally displaying tension. This includes noticing the breathing.
  • (Pressure)
  • Normal "Can you repeat that/keep that going"
  • "Can you exaggerate that/harder"
  • "Contradict that movement/do the opposite" "What do you need to do?"
  • "Is there a sound/noise that goes with that?" "Keep breathing" - (when client holds breath) "Where are you breathing from?"
  • (Touch/pressure)

Intensive Contract

Intensive contract

  • Counsellor is contracted to make suggestions to the client at every available opportunity
  • Counsellor picks up and feeds back as many of the client's clues as possible

The counsellor's role in giving an intensive contract, is to pick up and feed back to the client as much of the client's material as possible, both verbal and non-verbal. Attempt to maintain a constant 'feedback stream' of these cues.

This type of contract is an important option open to experienced co-counsellors, and at the request of the client to help him/her deal with chronic patterns, occluded or avoided material. It is a very useful 'way in' to material and can be used instead of 'What's on top' / Direction Holding/Sentence Completion at the beginning of a session. Check with the client precisely how long the intensive contract is to last and whether Normal or Free Attention contract should follow. Usually it is only necessary for an intensive contract to last for about three minutes - shorter if the client is into material. Normal contract with appropriate techniques usually follows or the client may ask for an intensive contract until the relevant material is found and then say 'Normal Contract now please' or give a pre-arranged signal.

Experienced co-counsellors may ask for the whole of a session to be intensive. Interventions still take the same form i.e. suggestions for ways of working. Useful intensive techniques are Mirroring and Role Playing the oppressor.


Whilst this is not strictly a co-counselling technique, it is a useful means to clear issues with another person and at the same time acknowledge something of their worth.

In our society many negative messages are given, so it is useful to remember that there are as many positives to be found which require stating as well. By balancing the negatives and positives there is greater harmonisation.


  • "I resent the way you leave the cap off the toothpaste tube".
  • "I appreciate the way you bring me a cup of tea first thing in the morning."

So a useful session exercise to clear issues between two co-counsellors is to set a time limit e.g. two minutes, for all 'resents' followed by an equal amount of time for all 'appreciates' (a total of four minutes) and then to switch over. Whilst in the counsellor role free attention only is given.


Where a group (say between six and eight) of co-counsellors wish to use this technique, each person takes their turn at being in the "hot seat". The other members of the group each give a resent they feel towards the person in the hot seat. This can immediately be followed by an appreciate or a full round of resents then a full round of appreciates. Each client chooses the option they prefer. The client listens without making any response.

It is useful for the "hot seat" client to remember:-

  • all speech is autobiographical
  • other peoples' perceptions are to do with how they see the world
  • this perception may or may not be in accord with self knowledge/truth - and this applies to both negative and positive feedback
  • others project and recognise what is also going on for themselves

Through receiving and giving this kind of feedback, each member of the group learns how to handle criticism and also how to put another perspective on what may be going on for the giver.

Celebration as a group exercise

Co-counselling theory holds that human beings are born intelligent, creative, loving, flexible etc.. That being the case, co-counselling introduces methods of affirming this. The importance of celebration is to counter those negative messages that have been around for a long time i.e. scorn is thrown on self-appreciation and put downs such as "s/he has got a big head", "s/he is full of her/himself" or "It is wrong to boast" etc. are often used.

The reason for negatives being more acceptable than positives may be to do with the notion that selfishness is wrong and unselfishness is a virtue. This belief, in my opinion, fundamentally misinterprets how human beings operate. I am proposing that all humans act from thoughts, feelings, drives and urges that lie within. Even doing what we are told stems from a belief that "I have to do this". Hence all human actions stem from the self. These actions and behaviours can be described as selfish (selfishness being about, around, or within the self). Doing things for others still originates from the self in either one or all of the beliefs or feelings or motivations. By this definition it is therefore impossible for any human being to be unselfish.

To explain further:- Saying 'no' to a request from another person is equally as 'selfish' as saying 'yes'. The reason for this can be explained by the following hypothetical dialogue:-

If I say 'no' it is because:

  • I don't want to
  • I can't be bothered
  • I have something better to do, etc.

(all to do with the self -- note the use of the word 'I')

If I say 'yes' it is because:

  • I want to please this person
  • I will feel good doing this
  • If I do this for them then maybe when I want something done they will reciprocate
  • I like to see the pleasure on this person's face etc..

(all to do with the self - note the use of the word 'I')

Although in each case there is a different internal dialogue, both are to do with the internal needs, beliefs, gains and losses of the self.

It is my belief that understanding this principle frees interaction with other people from self and other game playing. I can only be me. I can only be myself. I operate 'selfishly' - and so does everyone else!

Exercise (1)

One person in a group stands up and celebrates their own identified qualities for one minute. When a non-verbal sign contradicts the positive statement, then the person is asked to "repeat that statement" or "convince me".

Exercise (2)

At the end of a group 'life' each person writes their name at the top of a large sheet of paper. These sheets of paper are passed around the group and all participants are asked to write a positive comment about each other person in the group.

Exercise (2) can be extended to each person standing up in turn and owning the two most sensitive statements made about them by members of the group. This can be profoundly cathartic.