Co-Counsellors' experiences of settling into Co-Counselling' - Findings of a world-wide survey.

J. P. Hoogma and Tinklin, T., Co-Counsellors' experiences of settling into Co-Counselling' - Findings of a world-wide survey., CornuCopia Publications, Edinburgh, Scotland, 1999.

In 1999, while organising CCI Europe in Scotland, we decided to set up an international pre-meeting to focus on the theme ‘How can new Co-Counsellors be supported to settle into Co-Counselling?’

As any teacher of Co-Counselling will know, not everyone who does Fundamentals carries on with Co-Counselling afterwards. We know that different communities have different practices.

We wanted to talk about this with Co-Counsellors from around the world to share their different viewpoints and experiences and hopefully to learn from each other and expand our ideas on this theme.To support the discussion at the meeting we wanted to gathe rinformation about as many people’s actual experiences of settling in as possible: to give us some real facts about what people had found difficult and what they had found supportive. So we sent out a questionnaire – ton ewsletters, communities, and over the internet.Almost 100 Co-Counsellors responded. This report provides a summary of what they said.

JanPieter Hoogma & Teresa Tinklin


How can new Co-Counsellors be supported to settle into Co-Counselling? 5 Case studies

J. P. Hoogma, How can new Co-Counsellors be supported to settle into Co-Counselling? 5 Case studies. Edinburgh, Scotland: CornuCopia Publications, 1999.

5 Case Studies

Contributed & Produced by

Anne Denniss, Baden Smith, Carol Driscoll, Dency Sargent, Gretchen Pyves, JanPieter Hoogma, Johannes Risse, Maria Therling-Hülsberger, Pete Fantes, Sheila Lochrie,
Siglind Willems and Teresa Tinklin.


While preparing for the 1999 international gathering on the theme ‘How can we support new Co-Counsellors to settle into Co-Counselling’, I realised that our survey of Co-Counsellors’ individual experiences was not, by itself, going to be enough to inform and encourage the discussion and sharing at the meeting. I recognised that we also needed to find out about the experiences of people who had set up and tried to develop Co-Counselling projects in their own areas. There were two reasons for this: they could share a lot of valuable experiences with us and they would have more of an overview of what worked and what didn’t. The result is this collection of five case studies which I hope will provide stimulating and informative food for thought for anyone that reads them.

I wanted to gather together a range of different experiences and approaches, some successful, some less so, which together provide a rich source of information and ideas about the development of Co-Counselling. The USA has had a flourishing Co-Counselling community for 25 years, with many well-developed practices. Co-Counselling in Münster, Germany is based around a Co-Counselling therapy centre. The Birmingham group were initially very successful at getting people to take up Co-Counselling but encountered problems later. Gretchen Pyves in Manchester, England has developed her own unique approach to building up an active Co-Counselling community in her area. Finally I included my own experiences in Scotland, where I always considered it very important to look for ways to support people to stay in Co-Counselling after Fundamentals. I hope you will find these case studies stimulating and valuable.

JanPieter Hoogma

Questions we asked

1. What was your vision when you first set up your Co-Counselling project in your area?

2. What factors did you consider to be important in turning your vision into reality?

3. Which aspects of the Fundamentals course in your area support new Co-Counsellors to settle in to Co-Counselling, in your opinion? How well do they work?

4. What is available to new Co-Counsellors in your area that might support them to settle in to Co-Counselling?How well does this work?

5. What other things have been tried to help new Co-Counsellors settle in?
How well did they work?

6 Is there anything else that you think is relevant?

CCI Communities asked

CCI - USA (1974)

‘Haus Kloppenburg’ Münster, Germany (1976)

Manchester, UK (1984)

Birmingham, UK (1986)

Scotland (1992)


Having an Open Co-Counselling Day

J. P. Hoogma, Having an Open Co-Counselling Day. Edinburgh: CornuCopia Publications, 1996.


What does a Co-Counselling Open Day look like?

Open Co-Counselling days run in different formats: sometimes they are on an afternoon or evening, but more often they take a whole day. Also there are Open Double Days: Co-Counsellors visit either on the Saturday or the Sunday with the option of staying overnight.

This is the structure of an Open Day. All these things will be explained on the following pages.

  • people come in and have a drink,
  • opening circle with or without mini-sessions, bodywork or culture setting
  • a round of 'needs, wants & offers' where people decide what they want to do
  • sessions,one-to-one, in a group or workshops
  • closing circle, sometimes with positive feedback to the host or facilitator(s).
  • Quite often there is a shared meal.


Superficially an Open Day may appear to consist merely of Co-Counselling with or without a shared lunch. However, an Open Day serves many more purposes.

For new Co-Counsellors it provides an opportunity to meet a variety of Co-Counsellors. This is important for:

  1. having sessions with more experienced Co-Counsellors
  2. learning from other Co-Counsellors who use their sessions differently and who display different styles of counselling
  3. finding potential partners for future one-to-one sessions
  4. gaining the experience of working in different sized groups
  5. getting to know more Co-Counsellors

For 'older' Co-Counsellors it serves purposes other than just having one-to-one sessions:

  1. meeting new faces other than the regular partner or support group
  2. picking-up Co-Counselling again and meeting potential partners after having had a spell without Co-Counselling
  3. working in a group and setting up groups for particular purposes. Open Co-Counselling Days are especially good for this
  4. trying out workshops by Co-Counsellors who want to develop their facilitating skills
  5. socialising, meeting old friends and having fun

From the Network point of view Open Co-Counselling Days support the development of Co-Counselling skills and maintain and extend the Co-Counselling network fabric.

Why have a manual for Open Co-Counselling Days

The aim of this manual is to enable Co-Counsellors to feel happy about hosting an Open Day while making use of other people's experience.

Why Open Co-Counselling Days need to be 'well' organised
Open Days are important because they provide a space where new Co-Counsellors can meet potential partners for sessions. Open Co-Counselling Days encourage people to develop their skills and can inspire people into new areas of life and Co-Counselling. They also support the social fabric of the Co-Counselling Network.

If Open Co-Counselling Days are well organised, Co-Counsellors will experience them as worthwhile spending their time on. In the longer run they will feel it is a valuable contribution to organise one themselves. It doesn't make sense to expect Co-Counsellors to host an Open Day, if they themselves and other people have not had good experiences of them.

Copyright 1996-1998 © JanPieter Hoogma


'Principles and Values of Co-Counselling' What purposes could it serve? -v1-

J. P. Hoogma, 'Principles and Values of Co-Counselling' What purposes could it serve? -v1-, CoCo Journal, 2002. .

Abstract: Trying to define what practical purposes a document about principles and values of Co-Counselling could serve.


In Scotland there is an ongoing process of revising the old 'Co-Counselling in Scotland' (CCiS) constitution as through the years this has been developed into a huge, quite unreadable and elaborated package. It has been decided to split it into three parts and to rewrite it where needed.

  1. The new CCiS constitution is meant to be a more or less legal interface of the Scottish Co-Counselling network with the outside world. After many discussions and consultations this new constitution has been accepted at the SGM 2002 and AGM 2002. Interested? Then click here.
  2. A 'Guidelines statement', containing the guidelines for the Good&Newsletter, Membership Administration, Trust persons, CCiS workshop organisers, etc. Its aim is to clarify what the different network jobs are about, what the CCiS members can expect from the job holders and vice versa. This document is in continuous development.
  3. The 'Statement of Principles and Values of Co-Counselling' is meant to be more static. Originally thought of as a part of the new Constitution, as it expresses an identity of the network. It is hoped that eventually this statement is seen as the fundamentals upon which Co-Counseling practise and the more practical and fluctuating organisational guidelines can be based.

Once the purpose of the "Statement of Principles and Values" had been agreed on, it becomes easier to develop them.

1. Purpose of a 'Statement of Principles and Values' document

The Principles and Values of Co-Counselling need to be very down-to-earth and are meant to enable co-counsellors:

1.1 to be in charge of their own lives and leave other people in charge of their own lives

1.2 to have safe and effective co-counselling sessions with each other

1.3 to attend, organise and facilitate workshops where safety and potential risks for participants, facilitators and organisers are made as transparent as possible

1.4 to socialise with each other in a safe, empowering and transparent way,
especially where there are conflicts, disagreements, attractions or intimacy.

1.5 to enjoy the diversity of different approaches and ethical stances within a Co-Counselling network.

2. How can you contribute?

Take part in the discussion: share your agreements, disagreements, celebrations and suggestions through this CoCo Journal discussion platform.

3. What next?

1. After a while I will get a gathering organised of the opinions and suggestions aired in the discussion about this document.

2. I or other people will rewrite the proposal.

I am looking forward to reading your responses. JP


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    Literature tag: 

    Good Practices "Supporting a sense of safety at CCI workshops"

    J. P. Hoogma, Good Practices "Supporting a sense of safety at CCI workshops", CornuCopia, 2000.

    Feeling safe at Co-Counselling workshops is considered to be essential for people to get the most out of the workshop.
    However, feeling safe is a subjective feeling. That raises the question who is responsible for feeling safe at CCI workshops. In this context workshop organisers asked themselves what their contribution to a sense of safety at a CCI workshop could be and what they could expect reasonably from the workshop's participants.
    While preparing for McCoCo 1998 and the European CCI 1999 in Scotland we thought about how we, as workshop organisers, could help to create a safe workshop environment. We think that feeling safe at Co-Counselling workshops is an essential precondition for people to get most out of the workshop.

    Based on our own experiences at Co-Counselling workshops as participants, organisers and Trust Persons, we decided to look for good practises and to apply them at the workshops we were organising. Our approach seemed to work out well, hence we have decided to adopt this approach at all McCoCo and CornuCopia workshops.Our approach seemed to work out well, hence in the CornuCopia co-operative we have decided to adopt this approach at all workshops we have been involved in organising such as International CCIs, McCoCo and CornuCopia workshops.

    How can we support the creation of a safe environment at CCI workshops?

    1. By providing clear information to the participants about the safety philosophy of the workshop.

    In a Welcome pack we have a section 'Workshop safety', containing the following documents:

    2. By encouraging workshop facilitators to be clear about the safety and risk factors of the workshop they are offering.
    For this we developed a 'Workshop Announcement' form.

    3. By organising a Safety Support Team

    In some countries the members of this team are called 'Trust Persons' or 'Ghostbusters'. To make this Safety Support team successful we suggest that

    • potential team members are asked to agree with the above outlined safety approach. This provides a good basis for co-operation and mutual understanding
    • safety team members meet daily to check in with each other
    • the existence of the Safety Support team and its members are well publicised.

    Handling Complaints and Conflicts

    J. Talbut, Handling Complaints and Conflicts, 2003.

    Abstract CCI Co-Counselling does not have set procedures for handling complaints and conflicts. I want to demonstrate here that by taking open minded and self responsible approaches to solving difficulties that there is much potential for finding successful solutions to problems. In this article I look at this from three perspectives: (1) I have a problem: either with somebody else or they with me. (2) Somebody tells me about a problem they have. (3) I hear about problems other people have.

    It is often suggested that because we do not have formal structures and procedures within CCI for handling complaints and conflicts we should be somehow unable to handle them effectively. This is quite an oppressive message because it suggests that people do not have options for action that in fact they do have.

    By not having set procedures, CCI is potentially better placed to handle problems. Organisations that have set procedures may be able to demonstrate that they can and do "do something" but there is little evidence that what they do is particularly useful. Formal complaints procedures, in particular, tend to leave both sides feeling dissatisfied and bruised. There is little evidence to suggest that the public or clients are protected by these procedures in those organisations that claim this to be their purpose. (Refs. 1)

    Many problems arise from the hierarchical and adversarial nature of these procedures. They encourage people to play out their patterns around authority, they become family arguments writ large.

    Another major problem area for these procedures, which is also a problem for many more enlightened approaches to conflict resolution, is rigidity. Procedures are often developed from the experience of solving a particular problem. There has often been a move in CCI to develop a procedure out of a problem that we have just solved. The difficulty is that the next problem is always different. Other procedures may be based on wider experience, but then tend to focus on how problems are similar rather than how they are different. Often their authors' experiences and patterns will influence them.

    I want to demonstrate here that by taking open minded and self responsible approaches to solving difficulties that there is much potential for finding successful solutions to problems. In doing this, I will explore some of the many ways there are of approaching difficulties with other people.

    Underlying principles

    Two principles underlie the ideas that I outline here.

    1. Personal empowerment.
    In particular keeping ownership of problems with the person or people who are experiencing them.

    This contrasts with common practice in complaint procedures where others take the whole process out of the hands of the person with the original complaint. The complainant is given no say in how the matter is handled or what sort of outcomes they would prefer. This is a form of rescuing, with people exercising control over others.

    Ownership means that the person with the problem is supported to act as far as possible in their own right. Where this person seeks the help of others they retain their say in how matters are handled and what sorts of outcomes they want.

    2. Creative problem solving.
    This involves the three phases of problem analysis, solution generation and action planning. Problem analysis enables this approach to come up with ways forward that are more likely to suit the features of a particular problem. Solution generation aims to find several ways of approaching a problem. This supports an empowering approach by helping someone to have more options for action from which to choose.

    This article approaches the issue from three perspectives.

    1. I have a problem with what someone is doing or how they are, or someone has a problem with what I am doing. In other words, I am one of the parties directly involved.
    2. You have a problem (i.e. you tell me about a problem that you are having with someone else).
    3. They have a problem (i.e. I am told about a problem that is between other people).

    I have a problem

    Problem exploration

    It is probably useful to start by considering what it is exactly about this person or what they are doing that is a problem for me (or about me that is a problem for them) and how it is a problem. It may be useful to ask other people about this - and to be prepared to hear some uncomfortable answers.

    What thoughts, feelings and patterns may be underlying what is going on. This is paying attention to process. Of course, the only thing that we can know about process is that we do not know. Nevertheless, it is helpful to try to understand it as best we can.

    It seems reasonable to assume that in any interaction part of what I am feeling is a normal response to what is happening and part of it is restimulation, and I can never be sure how much is which. I think that neither the position of none of it is my stuff (patterns etc.) nor all of it is my stuff is helpful.

    What evidence is there for a natural response? If I am feeling angry, is the other person being in some way aggressive, transgressing my boundaries or trying to control me? If I am feeling sad are they being unloving towards me, and is there any reason why this person should be loving towards me? If I am afraid, what danger is there? What could happen, what is the worst that could happen and how likely is it to happen?

    It may be worth checking out the opposite as well. For instance, sometimes when someone is clearly being aggressive towards me I do not feel angry. Am I suppressing my anger? Am I afraid of it? How might this be affecting me or my behaviour? This seems often to be a factor in oppression, people are taught to be afraid of their anger so that is not then available to give them strength to resist aggression.

    Returning to my part in what is happening, I often find it useful when I feel emotional in response to what someone is doing, or when I tend to react in a particular way, to consider what that is telling me about me.

    Another dimension of the problem is willingness to change. If I am unwilling to change then that is a problem for me and it is potentially something I can do something about. As to the other person, I may be able to assess their willingness to change or to influence it but I cannot control it. If they are unwilling to change then that is something I can do nothing about.

    I am often reminded of the serenity prayer:
    Grant me
    the serenity to accept what I cannot change,
    courage to change the things I can
    and wisdom to know the difference.

    I find that this is a paradoxically empowering message. Once we give up trying to change what we cannot change, we can then focus on what we can do. We can stop trying to push at the mountain in front of us and start trying to work out how else to get to the other side, we can start thinking about the "work arounds".

    Approaches to conflict within CCI often commence, sensibly, with a "counsel on it, counsel on it and counsel on it again" approach. The objective of this is, I think, both to work towards more clarity about the situation and to work towards being able to handle it in ways that are flexible, measured and effective.

    Solution generation

    It is always worth remembering that one possible approach may be to do nothing.

    Related to doing nothing is accepting that other people are how they are, and not attempting to change this. It may be helpful to get better understand of how they are, what they are saying and what they believe. Principally, though, the aim is to find "work arounds". What are the things that I can do when I accept that the way other people are, are just part of the situations we are faced with.

    Other approaches involve being assertive, being facilitative and getting help.

    These involve sets of skills that are not inherently part of co-counselling. I think it is important and valuable that the only things that are inherently part of co-counselling, the only things that we all agree on, are to do with co-counselling sessions. (Ref. 2) What we do as a network or when we get together as groups of co-counsellors are the outcomes of what we have been able to learn, or not, as a result of being co-counsellors.

    Other skills are needed for networking and for functioning together in groups. I do not think that these skills should be "oughts" within co-counselling and I think that the more we can acquire them the better it is for us individually and together. Over the years, I have put a considerable amount of effort into helping people to learn these skills, both directly and by incorporating them into other workshops, fundamentals etc.

    Models for both assertiveness and intervention training have been developed with an underpinning of ideas from co-counselling and I find that co-counsellors can learn these skills in about a quarter of the time that it takes to train others. The assertiveness model is outlined in Ann Dickson's book "A Woman in Your Own Right" (it works for men too) (Ref.3). One to one facilitation skills are covered in John Heron's book "Helping the Client" (Ref.4). I recommend both books to anyone who has not already read them.

    Being Assertive

    Assertiveness is about clear communication to another person. This can range from a simple "No" (or "Yes") to something along the lines of "I found what you just said to me insensitive and totally inappropriate to the sort of relationship we have. In future I want you to keep your opinions about me to yourself." Note that this statement has the three elements of a full assertive statement: what is the situation, what do I want and when. It is an "I" statement and it is no longer than necessary.

    Assertiveness is an inherently empowering approach in that it fundamentally involves choice. There is never just one correct way of handling a situation assertively, there is always a range of assertive possibilities. Part of learning to be more assertive involves learning about these possibilities and choosing between them for ourselves.

    Paradoxically assertiveness merely communicates a piece of information about me to another person, e.g. that I would like something. It does not attempt to force anyone to do anything. Yet, it is very effective. I think the reason for this is that other people mostly do not do what we want because they do not know what we want. When they do, people often want to co-operate.

    So when we have a difficulty with what someone is doing there will be a range of assertive responses that we can make. Often these will be about asserting our own rights and boundaries.

    Being facilitative

    It may be that I think that what the other person is doing may not be in their own interests and that they may be open to some change. In which case I might try a facilitative approach. My aim then is to help the other person to learn something about what they are doing.

    I think it is important not to confuse being assertive with being facilitative. Be clear about doing one or the other and not both together. When I am being facilitative, my aim is to be fully supportive of the other. I am not attached to any outcome other than that the other person learns. It may be that what the other person learns, for instance, is that they have been acting out of feeling sorry for me and that actually they do not want to have much to do with me. Even so, I believe that in the long run it is always in my interests for other people to be more self aware and self directed.

    Facilitation involves using a wide range of interventions to help someone to learn. It can form a part of many interpersonal interactions. John Heron's model can be used to help develop skills that can enhance the whole range of relationships from friendships of all sorts through relationships in business to one way counselling or psychotherapy.

    Co-counselling interventions are a sub set of interventions, but once we go beyond these interventions and beyond the client self-directed co-counselling session certain issues need to be taken into consideration. I am acting in a way that at least to some extent assumes some authority and the other person may not be aware of what I am doing. So, in addition to supporting the other person I need to consider whether I have the right to intervene in the way I am proposing and how, if I do, it will help the other person to learn.

    I am referring to holistic learning here, which is not just about facts and understanding. It is also to do with feeling, the idea that if we feel differently about something we have learned something. It can be argued that all knowledge is based in feelings and that I only know anything if I feel as if I know it.

    The question of whether I have the right, or warrant, to use a particular intervention in particular circumstances can be more completely stated as: "Do I have the right to use this intervention in this situation with this person, me being how I am?" This encompasses a range of issues such as what I know, my relationship with the other person and who else is around. In particular it questions my level of skill and awareness, whether I am truly intending to be supportive of the other and am I prepared to stay with them if, for instance, they get upset. The question applies to each intervention, while it may be unwarranted for me to use some interventions it will be appropriate to use others. What may be warranted in one set of circumstances may be unwarranted in another.

    If someone says to me "Stop counselling me" then it probably means that I have been unskillful, I have been using interventions, or using them in a way that is inappropriate to our relationship. On the other hand, why would I want to be any less skilful than I am able to be with people who I care about?

    While this seems complex, that is no reason not to try. It is reason to keep learning from when things did not go as we hoped. In fact, we all use many interventions, mostly without thinking about it. It is a fascinating topic and well worth learning to do better.

    Asking for help

    I can always ask for help. An advantage of CCI not having a complaints procedure is that there is no restriction suggested as to who we can ask. If I am not feeling confident, I can ask someone who seems as if they might be. Or I can ask someone else who may not feel confident and can empathise with me and may support me better. Sometimes new co-counsellors may ask their teacher. One of the advantages of going to gatherings of co-counsellors is the opportunity to meet other people who might be able to help, including ones with particular skills. Peer or support groups can be useful, too. There are always people who we can ask.

    One of the things I can ask for is sessions and these are undoubtedly potentially useful. I need to consider whether to have sessions with people who may be giving me other forms of support. This is the same issue as having other forms of relationship with someone I co-counsel with, we will get to know something of each other's ideas and feelings and that may get in the way of us giving, or being experienced as giving, good free attention.

    It may be useful for a group, or several groups, to get together to support someone in dealing with a problem. This can be useful for sharing thinking and insights.

    It can also be helpful to share resources. It may be, for example, that someone's behaviour patterns are identified as being a problem for a number of people. One way of approaching this problem may be to build skills and awareness amongst these people and this may be easier if a number of people are doing it.

    This is not the same as ganging up on an individual, my aim would always be for loving responses that support everyone's self-development. So the aim of this particular approach is that a person's patterned behaviour might be consistently, lovingly and firmly interrupted potentially benefiting both themselves and those who are gaining confidence in their abilities to stand up for themselves.

    It is likely that people will offer leadership when groups are involved and some hierarchy will develop, as happens with many activities in CCI. I see nothing wrong with this, the hierarchy develops for a particular purpose and is voluntarily acceded to. It dissolves once the task has been accomplished and the people concerned retain no special authority.

    There is a danger, though, when groups get together that they will act collusively, reinforcing each other's patterns and not seeing where they may be going wrong. Groups benefit from having devil's advocates or people with opposing points of view amongst their members.

    How people I ask for help may respond is up to them, I make some suggestions in the next section. One danger, though, is that they try to take over. I need to stay clear that this is my problem and I will decide what I will do about it and what, if anything, I want others to do.

    You have a problem

    What can I do if someone tells me about a problem that they are having with someone else?

    This is the substance of my article on Interpersonal Problem Solving (Ref.5) and so I will summarise here.

    The most important thing I can do is, I believe, to support this person in the approaches I have written about above. In other words to support them to deal with the matter themselves. I am going to be using intervention skills to do this, helping them to explore the problem and then work out ways of dealing with it.

    If I am asked to give a more direct input, then the first question of me is whether I want to. What would I be achieving for myself by getting involved? On the other hand, if I do want to be involved, why? Do I have an axe of my own to grind? If so, is there an issue that I should be taking up in my own right? If there is not should I be keeping out of it, at least until I have dealt with some of my own issues and can approach the matter reasonably objectively?

    If I do agree to take a more active role then I could give support to one person in an interaction or I could facilitate or assist in the facilitation of a meeting. I could act as an intermediary, possibly facilitating or taking part in a problem solving process involving both people. Or I could be part of a solution, e.g. conveying a message that someone does not have the confidence to convey themselves.

    An important point before I get involved is that I may only have one person's perspective on a situation. Many times I have found that when I hear other people's perspectives the situation looks quite different. So, it is probably best if I am tentative until I get more information. In particular if I am or can be in some way an intermediary I would want to get the perspective of the other person involved.

    I emphasis again, though, that the most important thing is that a person retains ownership of their problem. That does not mean that I will do anything that they ask me to - I am responsible for what I do and I will only do what I consider appropriate. It does mean that I will consult them and, in general, not do anything that they do not want me to do. One aspect about which I will need to use some judgement is around not doing something for someone that I think they can do for themselves.

    They have a problem

    The first thing about this is that the information is at least second hand and each person who has passed it on will have modified it in some way. Originally, the information is likely to have been from just one person's perspective, then it is another person's perspective on that information and so on.

    At this stage is the information anything more than a rumour? Should I do anything with it at all? In particular, should I tell anyone else about it? If I do, I am responsible for passing on information which may be wholly inaccurate. It may be better to do nothing with the information.

    If I do think that this is something that in some way concerns me and I want to do something about it then it behoves me to check the validity of what I have been told. As a former magistrate I have many times heard the prosecution present what seems to be an open and shut case then, when we are given further information from a different perspective, the whole case looks entirely different. It is not uncommon to find that, on closer examination, the prosecution's evidence itself does not stand up and cases are dismissed for insufficient evidence before the defence has started.

    We can, though, never know the complete truth, we can only hope for a good enough approximation to it. It is up to me with my integrity to judge whether what I know is good enough.

    We may think that rules of evidence are arcane and complicated rules that serve mainly to keep lawyers in business. But we ignore them at our peril. They have been built up over years of, often bitter, experience. They form the basis for uncovering sufficiently good approximations to some form of truth.

    In particular, it is usually important to find out about the source of the information, how it was obtained and what were the circumstances. Something that may sound serious at first can turn out to be of minor significance when the context is known.

    Another thing is to consider the wider picture and particularly to consider information that may contradict what is being alleged. Appeals in court are frequently upheld on the basis that the prosecution has not revealed evidence that they have that does not support their case. If an allegation is being made about how someone behaves, there may also be information available that suggests that this is not how they usually behave.

    The principle of innocent until proved guilty is about not expecting someone to prove a negative. It is easy to allege that someone is a thief. They could go on for ever demonstrating that they have not stolen things and never satisfy their accusers. It must be up to the accusers to prove that this person has stolen something. Indeed to demonstrate that someone is a habitual thief they would need to prove that they had stolen many things.

    A problem in CCI, as it is in other organisations connected with personal development or therapy, is that allegations are often made about process, about what someone's intentions or motivations are. Someone may be said to be aggressive, abuses power, is manipulative or is trying to satisfy their own sexual urges. Since we can never actually know what someone's process really is, these accusations can be neither proved nor disproved. Here I think I have to side with the behaviourists: what has to matter is what someone actually does, not why they might do it.

    On first receiving a piece of information I may think that this is something I choose to be involved in. After making proper enquiry, considering the issues just outlined and probably including talking to the original people involved, if I still choose to be involved then something has become my problem. This takes us back to the first part of this article about what to do when I have a problem. I need to be clear about how it is a problem for me and act in my own right. Unless and until I am asked to do so by those concerned, I am not acting on anyone else's behalf and I have no business claiming to do so.

    Of course, what I may discover is that I believe that accusations that are being made are unfounded. In which case my problem is about what to do with respect to those people who are making the allegations.

    A reason why I may choose to become involved is that we all share responsibility for the well being of CCI. This, for instance, is why I have written this article and why I run many of the workshops that I do.

    In summary

    Many things can be done to deal with problems in CCI. We can develop these things by considering the nature of each problem, looking at the range of possible approaches and working with those that seem likely to be effective in each case.

    What we do not need to do is to tie ourselves up in procedures and the power struggles that inevitably accompany them.

    What is more effective, more appropriate to the nature of CCI and more useful for all of us in our everyday lives is to be continually building our skill and awareness, in particular our interpersonal and problem solving skills. Co-counselling does not inherently lead us towards these skills, they are separate but ones that are compatible with co-counselling and supportive of the CCI network. Co-counselling can help us to overcome barriers to learning or applying these skills.


    1. Department of Health (2001) "NHS complaints procedure - national evaluation." Department of Health, London

      Sands A (2000) "Shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted " Self & Society Vol. 28 No 3, August-September 2000

      Clarkson P (2000) "Open Letter" [online] London: Physis. Available from: [accessed 4 July 2003]

    2. Heron J (1996) "A Definition of CCI"
    3. Dickson A (1982) "A Woman in Your Own Right" London: Quartet books
    4. Heron J (1990) "Helping the Client" London: Sage
    5. Talbut JW (1999) "Interpersonal Problem Solving" One to One Summer 1999 p7

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      The Rescue Triangle

      J. P. Hoogma and Tinklin, T., The Rescue Triangle. Edinburgh: CornuCopia Publications, 2000.

      or the art of being in charge of yourself
      and not controlling other people.

      As we grow up, we naturally learn ways of controlling our environment. This includes developing patterns of behaviour that we use to control the behaviour of other people. This is not a negative process - all our patterns were developed for a positive reason, perhaps to protect us from something or to allow us to survive a particular situation. Often, however, people keep on behaving in these patterned ways when it is no longer constructive or appropriate to do so, without being aware that they are doing it. Co-Counselling helps us to become aware of our patterns so that we have more choice about how we act.

      The Rescue Triangle describes common patterns that we may have learned that help us control other people's behaviour. This booklet describes those patterns and how they inter-relate with each other. Knowing about the Rescue Triangle will help you become more aware of when you or other people are acting in controlling ways. Awareness of your patterns is the first step in being able to change them.

      Knowing about the Rescue Triangle will help you become more aware of when you or other people are acting in controlling ways.

      Everyone being in charge of themselves is very nice in theory but sometimes people's Rescue Triangle patterns can get in the way of this happening. Knowing about the Rescue Triangle will help you to move towards being in charge of yourself. And, as you become more in charge of yourself it is more likely that you will leave other people in charge of themselves.
      Knowing about the Rescue Triangle will help you to move towards being in charge of yourself and will help you to leave others in charge of themselves.

      Why is the Rescue Triangle so important for Co-Counselling?

      One of the basic principles of Co-Counselling is that people are responsible for themselves. If you need something, it is your responsibility to ask for it. If you don't want to do something you can say 'no'. As client you are in charge of your session: it is up to you to use your time however you want. This might mean refusing or ignoring a suggestion from your counsellor.

      Everybody being responsible for themselves is very freeing: in sessions, in socialising and in relationships. If each person is in charge of themselves and you feel you can rely on them to ask for what they need and to say 'no' if they want to, you don't need to worry about how your behaviour is affecting them and you can just get on with being yourself.


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