Validation Sheets – because day 5 was always tight on time, and we wanted to finish by around 4pm as people needed to travel, we began giving out the Validation Sheets on day 4. It meant that people had time to begin to think about their validations of each other. We used the same process as usual, in that we all wrote a celebration of ourselves, to which others added positive comments. We collected our own sheets at lunch on Day 5. Unlike the fundamentals, we did not read them aloud as the sheets were a validation of this course, rather than an essential part of our own process, although the sheets could easily be used for that as well.
Opening Circle & Feedback on Day 3 - same format
Paired Exercise –Working Together - we wanted the participants to begin to think about teaching with another as it would challenge some of their preconceptions, widen their own understanding, and broaden the experience of any groups they went on to teach. We asked them to choose a prospective co-teacher, and then do a short exercise based on the rubric – “If we worked together, you would bring…and that would allow me to …” After that we asked them to discuss what that would mean for their own course.
Planning a Fundamentals Course – we were now into the serious practical issues around planning. We gave them a list of the exercises that we would usually teach on a Fundamentals course (see Appendix). We had a group discussion as to the different models of running a Fundamentals, i.e. structured or random, or both. The key is that you teach the style of course that you are most comfortable with, providing that you get all the essential skills into the time available. I prefer the structure, as I know that I can get all the skills in, and that they build naturally on previous skills. It always worried me when I worked following the energy of the group, that I might not get an opportunity/time to slot in a skill that I thought was necessary.
Stage-Management – with a background in the theatre, I always felt that the management of the group setting was important for the safety and well being of the group, as well as for the process of the work. Issues such as privacy are essential if you expect people to open up to each other. Consider the issues of heating and lighting, spaces to work independently. Do you have good flipcharts and clear posters? If there are two facilitators, where do you sit? There are advantages of sitting next to one another, it’s easy to back each other up, or support each other. There are different advantages in sitting opposite each other. You can watch the whole group while the other is talking, and you can communicate with each other without words – I remember one participant on day 4 very excitedly saying, “You two are signalling to each other all the time!” Up till then they hadn’t noticed! It was true, and an essential part of why we worked well together.
Closing Circle – an extra we needed to do, to fit in the numbers.
Short Straw 8/9 – to work on the Worst Fears. Process as previously.
Marketing – this was an open discussion in which we explored the problems of getting people into courses. Gretchen always made the point that she considered the process to be one of mathematical progression. If you are calling cold, then you will contact 100 people to get 1 participant. If you’re talking to people who have come across Co-Co, then the success ratio is about 1 in 10. If you’re talking to someone who wants to attend, then the ratio is 1in 1. She always made the point that she never discarded the name of anyone who expressed an interest, keeping them on her mailing list for years. Her mailing list was extensive, but it worked. We ran Co-Co fundamentals courses for 30 people, 3 times a year, for about 20 years!
Selection – as the facilitator of a fundamentals course you do take some responsibility for the safety and well being of people on the course. It’s important that you are clear about who you will take, and who you will not. A drunken participator causes problems for themselves, and everyone else on the course, as well as for you! Our rules were that participants were clear that they could not attend having used non-medical drugs or alcohol. We also made it clear that people who were unable to offer good Free Attention, through a psychiatric difficulty would not be appropriate for the course. If necessary we met and assessed people beforehand. We also had problems on one occasion when three nurses had been sent misguidedly by an NHS training department – they didn’t want to be there, and we were all very relieved when they decided not to return on the second weekend.
A word on the idea of selection by the teacher of a fundamentals course of new Co-Counsellors. We never, ever, excluded people from the local Co-Co community on the basis of their inability to co-counsel.
Such an action would directly contradict the essence of Co-co in that we are all able to exercise our own judgement and power as to whom we wish to co-counsel with. Who am I to say that person A is not suitable for person B? I may say that they are not suitable for me, but that is not to say that they are unsuitable for everyone else! If A has attended the course and has learnt the skills, then they are by definition co-counsellors. Whether they remain co-counsellors is up to other individuals in the Co-Co community. My view has always been that people who are not supportive counsellors , or who use the skills inappropriately, will find it increasingly difficult to find a counselling partner, and will inevitably drop out through lack of take-up.
Closing Circle, Resent/Appreciate on the day & Closure – as usual