Chapter 4. Facilitating a Temporary Peer Community

Sometimes CCI events has been organised by contracting a venue, doing the publicity and taking the bookings. On arrival the participants were told 'Here is the venue, get on with it.' Always a colourful event followed.

This chapter may look very daunting. If it puts you off, do not read it! If you are filled with curiosity, read the bits that trigger it.


1. Celebrating Diversity and Communality

Co-Counsellors come in all sizes, ages, experiences and backgrounds. It is unwise to assume that one size fits all. Hence this section explores the issue of diversity in Co-Counselling.

1.1. First-timers and Old hats!

New Co-Counsellors, either who are fresh from the Fundamentals or attending for the first time your type of workshop , are unlikely to know many participants. Big chance that they know no-one. For them taking up Co-Counselling and doing the Fundamentals has probably been a big step. Turning up at a workshop is another big step.

Have you observed what happens when Co-Counsellors arrive at a CCI event? Almost each Co-Counsellor goes straight into hugging and greeting those Co-Counsellors they feel pleased to see again. Quite often the sad fact is, however, that the new people are left on their own, while everybody else seems to be busy with greeting old mates, providing drinks or finishing the last preparations for the workshop. Though this is understandable, it can feel unwelcoming and can create an in-crowd atmosphere.

What can be done to welcome and integrate new Co-Counsellors?

  • Organise a Welcome team or Appoint a specific Co-Counsellor to take the job of ‘Welcomer' to introduce them, including telling them how the workshop will go
  • organise buddies for new Co-Counsellors
  • have a clear ‘culture setting', explaining what the structure of the workshop is
  • organise a Welcome Workshop in which new Co-Counsellors can be informed about this workshop and where they can share their feelings about how it is to be ‘new'
  • organise a small welcoming ceremony for new Co-Counsellors
  • Providing an info sheet
    about the general info about this kind of workshop, so that the new people know a bit what they can expect.
  • Offering a ‘Revision Workshop'
    if needed and possible.
  • Offering a mid-week ‘Check in Workshop'
    if time allows it.

1.2. Different mother tongues

we need text here.

 

 

1.3 Different co-counselling backgrounds, cultures and experiences

we need text here

The communality of all is the client is in charge.

 

 


2. Empowering Participants

 

2.1 Supporting the development of skills, insight and confidence

It would be great if each workshop depending on its nature could grasp the opportunities the program and the situation offers for stimulating the development of skills, insight and confidence of people

  • in their own clienting & counsellor skills
  • in their handling of attractions, irritations, conflicts and disagreements in daily life
    This pays itself very much back in the atmosphere of the workshop!
  • in facilitating circles & meetings
  • in facilitating workshops and even in teaching co-counselling

2.2 How can this empowerment be done?

It is more important that the organisers ask themselves these questions than to come up with solutions. By asking yourself 'How can we empower our participants?' one triggers creativity and the brain searches for opportunities. Having said that...

Some options:

  • A statement like ‘We are looking for volunteers to do the facilitation of circles and meetings' and offering support with the preparation of this, can often break a possible expectation that everything is done by you or your team. Also a list with simple and more complex tasks people can sign on for gives people the opportunities to practice new behaviour.

  • Celebrating the surprise opportunities on offer when actually getting on with Co-Counsellors having different styles, being trained by different teachers, coming from different Co-Counselling networks and having different levels of experience with co-counselling.

  • Offering a workshop on ‘Facilitating Workshops'

  • Explaining that a sense of safety at Co-Counselling workshops is an excellent opportunity to experiment with new, potentially risky behaviours.
  • Encouraging people to ask for what they need.
    If you don't ask for what you want, people certainly don't provide it; but if you ask there is certainly more chance that you will get what you want!
    Some people find it difficult to ask for help!
    If appropriate, organise ‘Needs, Wants & Offers' meetings on a daily base. This type of meeting not only encourages people to express their needs, but also creates a better match between the supply of workshops and what is needed.

2.3 How can this empowerment go wrong?

‘Teach your granny to suck eggs.' In other words: tune and tweak your empowerment support in such a way that it fits your audience and the other way around. For instance a newcomers workshop can focus its content much more on what they need, then when the same content would be presented to the whole group.

 


3. Facilitating the group Gelling Together

A Dutch saying 'The body goes by horse, the spirit by foot.' On arrival of the body, the spirit is always late and then needs time to explore and familiarise itself with the situation at hand.

Important aspects of the gelling together process

  • give people the time to settle into their own rooms
    Welcoming and being brought to their rooms is often very appreciated.
  • facilitating people to find easily their way around the grounds and the timetable enables them to have more free attention for other people
    Easily available maps and timetables will come in handy here.
  • people need time to develop a sense of security and familiarity with faces, accents etc. Also the need to know whether and how their needs are going to be met.
  • people need to discover which meaningful connections they can develop with other people
    In this way they develop meaningful sub-networks with other people. When these sub-networks (start to) overlap they form the basis for a cohesive community.This is so important that the next section is about this.
  • people need to come together as a community as a whole.
    People will gell first in subgroups with people they know or have something in common. The art is to transform this partial gelling into a full community gel.

A whole raft of opportunities are offered in a workshop:

  • clear advertisement of workshop
  • information/joining letter
  • welcoming and registering at arrival
  • workshop information booklet
  • workshop opening circle(s)
  • workshop program
  • providing a 'dating' platform

Risky for gelling: Choosing and being chosen

Re-stimulation triggered by issues of choosing and being chosen, can fragment the gelling of the community. This is likely to be aggravated, when a workshop is provoking sexual energies in the group.

In the culture setting around choosing partners for sessions or other Co-Counselling activities, there is the possibility to establish that nobody leaves the room before everybody has a partner and that in case there are people not able to find a partner, all the combinations are opened up to enable new combinations to arise.


4. Facilitating ‘Dating' and Networking among Co-Counsellors

There are several reasons why people connect to each other. The most obvious ones are: reconnecting old friendships, attractions and people know what they can gain from each other's company.

However, often people have gifts, interests, common purposes etc. on offer that other people are not aware of. Bringing these people together is an art. CCI is not good at taht. Supporting those people to meet or 'date' can also provide the Co-Counselling Community with valuable, supportive co-operation in various fields.

First of all is of course supporting people who want sessions during a CCI event to easily find partner... Smile

Encouraging people to ask for and form topical sharing groups is another option. For me the 'Big Boys Body workshop for men above 1.90 m or 100 kg' was a huge eye opener' and support for accepting the advantages and disadvantages of a big body.


5. When things go wrong between people...

There are many reasons why things can go wrong between people. Some sources are unexpected and unforeseen; some sources are more predictable: attractions, clumsy or bad disagreement and conflict skills, attractions and jealousies, higher risks workshops known for some people having left them quite re-stimulated. Apart from this, some workshops can require additional safety aspects, e.g. a sexuality workshop or walking-through-fire workshops.

In Chapter "Program, Safety & Culture Setting " you can read more about how a sesne of safety can be promoted and how people can be supported when things go wrong between the. Beneath a case about a situation running havoc.

Dealing with a Co-Counsellor who breaches safety consistently
a case

A true story that happened during a residential workshop of a week to illustrate which difficulties a workshop organiser can meet.

 

Co-Counsellor A's behaviour started to become a problem for the other members in her support group. With the support and encouragement of a Trust Per­son the support group succeeded more or less to ‘manage' this problem. The behaviour persisted, however, outside the support group. She took less and less NO for answers, especially not from people who had a problem with sticking to their ‘No' (Later we found out that these people have been abused as a child). Other Co-Counsellors who are able to stick to their ‘NO', started to avoid her both as partner for sessions and for social contact. So she moved part of her attention to the children present at the workshop, which they didn't like. Some of the parents became also distressed and by now several Co-Counsellors were talking about Co-Counsellor A, and became more and more angry and upset.

So the whole history looks like a drunken car driver losing control in a small street, more and more cars are hit and more and more people become more and more angry and upset and unable to stop or to deal with the process.

How could this happen?
There were at least 6 Co-Counsellors involved in trying to manage this process: 2 trust persons (both teachers), another teacher, one more and one less experienced Co-Counsel­lor and the workshop organiser?

Several reasons. In the beginning the problem didn't appear to be that great, but only local in a support group. The support and encouragement provided by one Trust Person to the complaining Co-Counsellor seemed to work for the support group.

Secondly. When Co-Counsellors outside the support group started to complain to the dif­ferent people mentioned above, only three of them talked to each other about the behaviour of person A, mainly for reasons of confidentiality. Thus each of the people in­volved had only a part of the picture, so that the sheer impact was not immediately clear and shared.

Thirdly, there was a another complication. The workshop organiser who received also complaints, had herself child abuse in her background and she was very restimulated. It costed her a lot of time and space to work through her restimulation. She found that her anger and suspicions at other powerful people appearing not to do their job properly (i.e. protecting the victims of the perceived abuse) was in fact a restimulation of not being protected herself in her own childhood. Once this was worked through, there could have been a free mental space to discuss a rational approach.

Fourth: there was no agreed Co-Counselling procedure available to deal with this kind of problems. By now there was a big time pressure, because of the big turmoil amongst the Co-Counsellors and the nearing of the end of the workshop. This vacuum created the space for two Co-Counsellors to suggest and get accepted a non Co-Counselling approach to deal with the problems. They wanted to use an already planned ‘Community Building' workshop based on the ideas of Scott Peck. The basic idea was that by creating ‘chaos' i.e. abandoning all Co-Counselling rules, Community will develop and that that was the best way to deal with the problem.....

At least can be concluded that the event was very controversial, and in my opinion absolutely not suitable for repetition.

How can you as organiser be prepared for this?


7. How to organise all this with the least possible effort?

Most of it is in the mind
Remember: sometimes CCI events has been organised by contracting a venue, doing the publicity and taking the bookings. On arrival the participants were told 'Here is the venue, get on with it.' Always a colourful event followed.

Gardening is also a good example. You need to get only things in place. Nature takes care of the growing. Do only the type of gardening you like.

Practical
Doing organisation together is fine, as long as people sing from the same song sheet... In other words, they have a more or less common understanding of what one would like to achieve.

Keeping each other informed without having to discuss everything is one key success factor.

Project distributions
Make sure that only those people need to talk with each other who really need to talk with each other. Make sure that they have to talk together as less as possible. That is the way that the following chapters with all their practical suggestions have been built up:

5a. Child care
5b. Program, safety and culture setting
5c. Venue and logistics
5d. Keeping the action co-ordinated

Success!