Running a session
Some Client Patterns
Some Counsellor Patterns
CCI communities
CCI Membership
The Principles of Co-Counselling

Running a Session

A co-co session

How to start:
  1. agree on time
  2. who goes first
  3. type of contract
  4. ID check if necessary (new person)
  5. check warning time required
During a session:
  1. Start with 'What's on top?' / direction / intensive
  2. techniques
  3. warning time: 'you have X minutes left'
  4. if distressed 'Do you want more time?' (equalaity of time to be re-negotiated) NB extra time to be repaid
  1. Re-evaluate
  2. Target practice
  3. Goal set
  4. Celebrate
  5. Back to 'present time'
Switch over:
  1. Free attention
  2. Normal: counsellor intervenes when client gets stuck or presents contradictory messages
  3. Intensive: counsellor picks up most of client's signals
  1. Start the session as soon as partner arrives chats and tea can come after - if offered!
  2. Phone off the hook/answer phone on.
  3. Notice on front door - "not to be disturbed"
  4. Neighbours warned of any noise - eg. practise for an amateur dramatics murder scene!
  5. Children and animals out of the way and suitable provision made for preventing them intruding.
  1. If you are the visiting Co-counsellor, remember you are a guest in another person's house and are invited in on trust.
  2. The rules of Co-counselling prevail which means
    1. The counsellor is only obliged to give free attention
    2. Requests are confined to co-counselling techniques
    3. Both counsellor and client have a right to reject a request.
Ways In
  • Start with - What's on top
  • Scanning
  • Direction Holding
  • Intensive
  • Sentence Completion

N.B. It is useful at this stage to be aware of any client and/or counsellor patterns which may be emerging during your sessions.

Social norms prevail!

Some Client Patterns

Some client patterns

  1. analytic 'talking about' problems / distress
  2. mechanical repetition
  3. trying hard / doing it well / getting down to the heavy stuff
  4. serious - life is suffering
  5. self-deprecation
  6. pleasing the counsellor, entertaining
  7. relapse into chat
  8. dramatisation
  9. I have too many problems
  10. I'd have got into it if I had (had) more time

Since patterns are manifest in all we do, co-counselling sessions are no exception. As client or counsellor, these roles may bring up unaware 'acting out' of these patterns.

  1. It is much easier (less threatening) to 'talk about' an experience.
    It is a dissociated way of 'being'. However, at the same time it may be essential as a survival skill to leave some painful emotion intact for the time being. In co-counselling sessions encourage the client to use the present tense and to own statements.
  2. This is using words without getting down to the real feelings.
  3. This is the opposite of (2). It doesn't have to be hard work. It can be as light as asking for free attention while being still.
  4. Not true.
  5. "Putting oneself down" in new situations is a distorted way of regarding oneself - a quantum leap in thinking. Since there exists a pre-knowledge about inability to perform satisfactorily in one way, then ... (and here comes the LEAP) ... there must be an inability to perform anything satisfactorily. This is to use our 'generalisation' process in a totally distorted fashion. One experience is not a satisfactory guide as to how others will be experienced
  6. The client is sucked into performing / pleasing - a sensitive counsellor can 'elegantly' draw attention to this to aid in the discharge of such a pattern. As client, it is your session - you do not have to please anyone.
  7. Conversation is possible anywhere. A co-counselling session is not a conversation. Seeking another's views, wanting feedback, can indicate a distressed need.
  8. Exaggerating in this way can be another way of eluding the emotional feeling, an attempt to distract from the real issue and making light of hurt feelings.
  9. Excuses to avoid, but there can be a reality to this.
  10. Excuses to avoid, but there can be a reality to this.

After a session counsellors can always ask for feedback. Clients should never ask for feedback nor should counsellors ever give feedback.

Some Counsellor Patterns

Some Counsellor Patterns

  1. Compulsive interruption / take-over
  2. Advice / interpretation / negative feedback at end
  3. Its my responsibility for my client to have a good session
  4. My client has to discharge or I've failed
  5. Afraid of making a mistake, so does not intervene
  6. You won't avoid my free attention
  7. Colluding with chat
  8. Frequently poor attention

NB "The only workable goal for a counsellor is the freeing of the client from aberration through discharge and re-evaluation." Harvey Jackins 1975

  1. To take over is to act compulsively in pattern. The need here is likely to be around recognition, having to get it right. If this seems to be around while being counsellor it can be useful to act out this role as client, in your session.
  2. Never - a golden rule fundamental to all co-counsellors. To violate this just once is likely to isolate that person from the co-counselling community since they will no longer be trusted.
  3. Wrong - the client is in charge. The pattern here is likely to be around the distress of needing to be looked after. We do to others what we most need for ourselves. Giving others responsibility is to empower them.
  4. As in (3). It also fails to acknowledge that the client can work through an issue in many ways - some discharge, others are quietly reflective. Each session is up to the client.
  5. The counsellor cannot make a mistake within co-counselling interventions. Either way the client knows. Let go easily of any co-counselling interventions that are nonproductive. It is not possible to know what is going on for the client - only the client knows. S/he will accept or reject. One intervention is not more important than the other.
  6. Intensive and non-supportive. Notice as counsellor if this is around for you. Distress pattern of anger intrusion etc.:
  7. See (7) for client patterns.
  8. Where this is happening then the client will not feel safe or supported. The pattern again can be around intrusion/anger/criticism. So much of our experience as little people has to do with adults' gaze. This can be very frightening and so avoidance is the survival strategy, which may not have to be true now.

CCI Communities

(Notion taken from Co-Counselling Teacher's Manual) (John Heron 1978) The CCI (Co-Counselling International) federates entirely independent communities of co-counsellors in several countries. These communities develop their own decision making procedures consonant with the peer principle and their own approach to the training, assessment and accreditation of teachers of this method. The following are proposed types of Communities.

Type One Community

A network of persons who engage in co-counselling sessions in each others homes. It is a community or an association exclusively for the purpose of co-counselling and of directly related matters such as:

  • Running 40 hour Fundamental Training Courses.
  • Running follow up workshops.
  • Running advanced co-counselling training workshops.
  • Running Co-Counselling Teacher Training Courses.
  • Providing up to date lists of trained co-counsellors.
  • Having independent sub groups that meet regularly for periods of time.
  • Having general workshops primarily for intensive co-counselling and group work.
  • Having theme workshops to develop awareness on such specific areas as sexuality, role stereotyping, parenthood, obesity, creativity, politics, third world etc.
  • Run marathon co-counselling sessions of continuous 3 to 4 hours as client with varying counsellors (needs a good mathematician!)
  • Run (peer) primalling workshops. Initially run by one person with birth work experiences, then progressively disseminated to peers.
  • Run Teachers workshops.

Type Two Community

This seeks to offer help in reciprocal fashion in areas other than co-counselling i.e. gardening/house repairs/decorating, etc. OR

  • Members work together to provide a resource for the group a centre for meetings, workshops, etc.
  • Members work together to introduce some change into their social systems - transport, local politics, education, etc.

Type Three Community

A community in a real sense where a group/association live together in a shared property and all that that entails.

CCI Membership

John Heron 1996

CCI is a planet-wide association of individuals and local networks committed to affirm a core discipline of co-counselling while encouraging, on an international and co-operative basis, the advancement of sound theory, effective practice, network development and planetary transformation. Local networks of co-counsellors within CCI are independent, self-governing peer organisations, exploring ways of being effective social structures while avoiding all forms of authoritarian control. Any person and network is a member of CCI if :

  1. they understand and apply the principles of co-counselling given below
  2. they have had at least 40 hours training from a member of CCI
  3. they grasp, in theory and practice, the ideas of pattern, discharge and re-evaluation

The Principles of Co-Counselling

John Heron (25 Dec 96)

  1. Co-counselling is usually practised in pairs with one person working, the client, one person facilitating, the counsellor, then they reverse these roles. In every session each person spends the same time in the role of both client and counsellor. A session is usually on the same occasion, although sometimes people may take turns as client and counsellor on different occasions.
  2. When co-counsellors work in groups of three or more, members take an equal time as client, each client either choosing one other person as counsellor, or working in a self-directing way with the silent, supportive attention of the group. For certain purposes, the client may request co-operative interventions by two or more counsellors.
  3. The client is in charge of their session in at least seven ways:
    1. trusting and following the living process of liberation emerging within
    2. choosing at the start of the session one of three contracts given in no. 9 below
    3. choosing within the first two contracts what to work on and how
    4. being free to change the contract during their session
    5. having a right to accept or disregard interventions made by the counsellor
    6. being responsible for keeping a balance of attention
    7. being responsible for working in a way that does not harm themselves, the counsellor, other people, or the environment
  4. The client's work is their own deep process. It may include, but is not restricted to:
    1. discharge and re-evaluation on personal distress and cultural oppression
    2. celebration of personal strengths
    3. creative thinking at the frontiers of personal belief
    4. visualising future personal and cultural states for goal-setting and action-planning
    5. extending consciousness into transpersonal states

    CCI takes the view that the first of these is a secure foundation for the other four.

  5. The role of the counsellor is to:
    1. give full, supportive attention to the client at all times
    2. intervene in accordance with the contract chosen by the client
    3. inform the client about time at the end of the session and whenever the client requests
    4. end the session immediately if the client becomes irresponsibly harmful to themselves, the counsellor, other people, or the environment
  6. The counsellor's intervention is a behaviour that facilitates the client's work. It may be verbal, and/or nonverbal through eye contact, facial expression, gesture, posture or touch.
  7. A verbal intervention is a practical suggestion about what the client may say or do as a way of enhancing their working process within the session. It is not a stated interpretation or analysis and does not give advice. It is not driven by counsellor distress and is not harmful or invasive. It liberates client autonomy and self-esteem.
  8. The main use of nonverbal interventions is to give sustained, supportive and distress-free attention: being present for the client in a way that affirms and enables full emergence. This use is the foundation of all three contracts given below. Nonverbal interventions can also be used to elaborate verbal interventions; or to work on their own in conveying a practical suggestion; or, in the case of touch, to release discharge through appropriate kinds of pressure, applied movement or massage.
  9. The contract which the client chooses at the start of the session is an agreement about time, and primarily about the range and type of intervention the counsellor will make. The three kinds of contract are:
    Free attention
    The counsellor makes no verbal interventions and only uses nonverbal interventions to give sustained, supportive attention. The client is entirely self-directing in managing their own working process.
    The counsellor is alert to what the client misses and makes some interventions of either kind to facilitate and enhance what the client is working on. There is a co-operative balance between client self-direction and counsellor suggestions.
    The counsellor makes as many interventions as seem necessary to enable the client to deepen and sustain their process, hold a direction, interrupt a pattern and liberate discharge. This may include leading a client in working areas being omitted or avoided. The counsellor may take a sensitive, finely-tuned and sustained directive role.
  10. Counsellors have a right to interrupt a client's session if they are too heavily restimulated by what the client is working on and so cannot sustain effective attention. If, when they explain this to the client, the client continues to work in the same way, then they have a right to withdraw completely from the session.
  11. Whatever a client works on in a session is confidential. The counsellor, or others giving attention in a group, do not refer to it in any way in any context, unless the client has given them explicit, specific permission to do so. It is, however, to be taken into account, where relevant, by the counsellor in future sessions with the same client.