A co-counselling community has some right to have a say in the accreditation of would-be teachers who expect the people they train to become active co-counsellors within the community. If the community is to accept these people, then it needs to have some say in approving the competence of the teacher to train them adequately. Here is one approach.
The would-be teacher, after some appropriate teacher training, meets with a representative group of her community peers - 6 or 8 persons whose experience is relevant to the procedure.
- They all work to reach agreement on criteria of teacher competence. And this discussion of course includes the candidate. A typical set of such criteria is as follows:
- Can discharge freely in all modes including in front of the group.
- Co-counsels regularly and can identify and work on some of her own major chronic distress patterns.
- Is skilled at using an intensive contract as counsellor.
- Has expository competence - rich and clear verbal ability - and can provide clear conceptualization.
- Has a clear conceptual and practical grasp of theory, principles of method, basic techniques.
- Is a celebratory leader, trustable, and can create a safe, positive, up climate.
- Can supportively confront, i.e. decisively interrupt chronic acting out distress patterns in others.
- The candidate assesses herself, using say a simple five point rating scale, in the light of each of the criteria, in the presence of her peers. She leaves the room while her peers assess her using the same scale and the same criteria. She returns to the room and the self-assessment and peer assessment are compared. If there are any major discrepancies between the self and the peer assessments, she may wish to revise her self-assessment - or she may not.
- Her peers then play devil's advocates and surface any slight doubt they may have, however minimal or inadequately warranted it may be, about her competence to teach co-counselling in this or that respect. They also of course surface major doubts, with supporting evidence where possible. The candidate listens without comment. She has previously been encouraged to discriminate carefully among the comments made, winnowing out fair comment from foul. The purpose is to refine her self-assessment. The devil's advocate rule gives everyone permission to surface all doubts without worrying whether they are projections or of doubtful validity and so on,. It also ensures that peer assessment does not become collusive and protective, avoiding major confrontation issues.
- After the devil's advocate procedure, there is significant time for her peers to give her their positive impressions of her potential as a teacher. This is important - for its affirmative, validating power.
This is the self and peer assessment part of the procedure. After a lapse of time, at least overnight, for the assessment to be digested, there follows the self and peer accreditation procedure.
- The candidate states before her peers her accreditation formula. This includes what sort of workshop she accredits herself to teach or facilitate, (whether beginners, follow-up, general workshops for the experienced, advanced, theme, etc.); in what sort of capacity she accredits herself to teach (whether as solo teacher, equal co-teacher, subordinate assistant teacher); and when she accredits herself to begin (next week, in six months, next year, and so on). Each of her peers in turn then say whether they agree with this formula and whether they would recommend any changes in it - all this in her presence. If there is any major discrepancy between her self accreditation formula and the consensus peer accreditation formula, both parties negotiate until an accommodation is reached.
I have introduced and facilitated this whole procedure several times now in co-counselling teacher training courses in several countries and have been deeply impressed with its maturing effect on all of us who took part.