How it works

A co-counselling session is based on two people getting together and each taking turns to be counsellor and then client (or client and then counsellor). They choose how long the session is to last, and they both have equal time in the two roles. No money is exchanged. They have both learned the same set of techniques on the foundation course, and know what to expect from their counsellor.

Example session

  • John and Dave decide to have a session together.
  • They meet up at a time and place decided by themselves.
  • They decide to spend an hour together, and split this time equally between them.
  • For half an hour, John is the ‘client’ and Dave is the ‘counsellor’. During this period John is working on issues that he decides on. He is using the session exactly as he chooses in ways that he learned on the course. Meanwhile, Dave supports John by listening, generally giving John his attention, and sometimes coming in with prompts or suggestions (called ‘interventions’) that he learned on the course that they both did.
  • After John’s session they swap roles: Dave is ‘client’ and John is ‘counsellor’.
  • When they’re both finished they go their separate ways.

Group co-counselling (optional)

Co-counselling can often take place in a group, where everyone is client for an equal length of time. Doing co-counselling in a group can be a particularly powerful way of getting to ‘below the surface’ to the feelings and senses that need working on. If you have never done this kind of emotional work in a group this may sound daunting at first. The co-counselling culture and framework helps you with this: there is no obligation to do anything you don’t feel inclined or ready to do – ‘the client is in charge’…

Note that you don’t have to do any work in a group if you don’t want to, and that co-counselling is originally conceived as a pair-work activity.

List of techniques (‘interventions’)

The list of interventions taught on the course is not be self-explanatory, but it may give you a gist of things, or whet your appetite. The interventions are a combination of verbal work (talking – using words etc) and non-verbal work – sound, posture, body movements and feelings etc. The individual chooses what interventions are useful for them i.e. each person is completely free to develop their own way of using co-counselling techniques.

These techniques are used to work on the self, with regard to three areas:

  • patterns
  • discharge
  • re-evaluation

This is in regard to thoughts, feelings and behaviours that operate in us, whether consciously or subconsciously (aka unconsciously).

These areas are addressed on the course, and in summary are:

  • Patterns of behaviour that get in the way of creative living (eg withdrawing from contact),
  • Physical discharge or expression of bottled up or hitherto hidden emotions (eg crying or laughter), and
  • Re-evaluation or review of the truth about who I am and where I come from: making sense of my present behaviour and relating it to both my current life and to my past.
  • Celebration
  • Free attention
  • What’s the thought?
  • Cues; verbal and non-verbal mirroring
  • Psychodrama: role-play and reverse role play
  • Attention switching (coming back to present time)
  • Scanning and Literal description
  • Repetition, contradiction and exaggeration
  • Unfinished business
  • Work with cushions
  • Non-verbal work
  • Sentence completion
  • Identity check
  • Direction holding and Celebration into discharge
  • Patterns: Victim / persecutor / rescuer / distant position
  • Client patterns and Counsellor patterns
  • Balance of attention
  • Client patterns
  • Counsellor patterns
  • Re-evaluation
  • Target practice and goal setting
  • Appreciations, constructive feedback
  • Acting into emotions (mad, sad, glad and bad)
  • What’s left unsaid?
  • This is a space where you may talk, be silent, laugh, cry, shout, whisper, sit, stand, lie down, walk, be still or be busy. It’s a space where you have the freedom to be illogical, messy, not understand…. just BE YOURSELF!!! without the fear of being corrected, advised or approved of. 
  • Co-Counselling is a powerful and accessible form of therapy with roots in the 1960’s and 1970’s. It draws on a range of approaches – Gestalt, Catharsis, Psychodynamic, Person-Centred, Process Oriented Psychology (POP), Cognitive, and Reichian. It focuses on both body and mind to produce insight.
  • A nework: whilst the foundation course is aimed to be a therapeutic experience in its own right, it gives participants the skills to continue to use co-counselling for their own personal development afterwards.
  • Peer-to-peer
  • Self-directed – you decide how to use it.
  • Over 40 years old
  • Fun
  • Free (once you’ve done the course)
  • CCI challenges the view that some feelings are taboo or ‘wrong’ and that you should not have them.
  • It can help you come to terms with your past and your present, so that difficult feelings have less of a grip on you

celebration of yourself and self esteem

In 1991 I had a friend in the flat above me who I used to spend time with. I once noticed on his wall a poster that looked a bit like the ones in this picture: it had his name in the middle, and several people had written various comments on it, that included:

  • Compliments
  • Appreciations of him
  • Words of encouragement
  • Comments about enjoyable moments spent together

I was both intrigued and excited. ‘What’s that?’ I asked. He told me it was his celebration poster from his co-counselling course. I think that the reason this touched me was because it made me connect with all my desires for recognition, acknowledgement and love, and it touched on any issues I have about self-esteem and whether I really love myself.

I think it’s so important to be able to love myself and feel proud in order to move forward in the world and make my projects become reality. Letting compliments and appreciations into ourselves rather than keeping them out (e.g. by making a joke) is just one thing that can be worked on in co-counselling.

A culture of validation

CCI fosters a culture of validating and celebrating the individual, even when we do things that are not great for us or others.  It fosters:

  • Gratitude
  • Forgiveness
  • Acceptance
  • Celebration

…although, we try not to look at the world with rose-tinted spectacles, and we acknowledge that we all have patterns that may need to change.


The capacity to celebrate oneself and the capacity to be playful interact with each other. Incidentally, playfulness can take the form not only of physical movement but also thought and word. Freud said that health involves the capacity to be able to work, love and play.


Therefore within the CCI culture there is an important fun element, so we play games and enjoy ourselves in a celebratory way too – it’s not only about looking at our serious sides. At the residentials there is often a DIY caberet: if you decide to take a turn it can feel like you are in front of the most sympathetic audience in the world.

This is not a counselling course!

No one will counsel you, in the way a professional therapist will. Co-counselling is a 40-year-old method of self-help therapy for ordinary people to help each other after they have learned the well-defined skills on this course.  But it goes beyond ‘just listening’…

Co-counselling is a peer-based therapeutic system based on mutual exchange and using a variety of techniques you will learn on the course.

Theory and practice

Remember the ground rules

  • Strict confidentiality
  • Equal time as client and as counsellor
  • No drugs in sessions
  • Everything is optional (apart from the ground rules)
  • ‘Client-in-charge’: you choose what you do and don’t do, both in a session and on the course.

Aware and caring attention

When it’s your turn to be client, your counsellor will listen to you! They won’t come in with advice or sympathy, or tell you about their opinion or experience.
From time to time they will come in with helpful interventions that you both learned on the course.
As ‘client’, do not underestimate the power of the aware and caring attention of your ‘counsellor’.


Co-Counselling is a powerful and accessible form of therapy with a 40 year history. It draws on a range of approaches:

  • Gestalt
  • Psychodrama
  • Psychoanalytic
  • Person-Centred
  • Process Oriented Psychology (POP)
  • Cognitive
  • Reichian

Client responsibilities

You, as client, are responsible for:

  • the process and outcome of your session
  • choosing whether to respond to or else ignore/refuse to follow your counsellor’s intervention.
  • your balance of attention, i.e. keeping one foot consciously in your difficult and potentially regressed feelings and one foot in your adult / thinking self.

Counsellor responsibilities

  • You may refuse any request (e.g. hug, hand-holding) from your client, other than the request for (silent) aware and caring attention.
  • Stick to the co-counselling menu of interventions.
  • If all you can do is aware and caring attention, that’s enough to do co-counselling i.e. it’s OK if you are feeling rusty about the techniques.

An organic process

Even though the co-counselling process is an organised method, you should find that it happens organically for you rather than in a kind of mechanistic way: you don’t have to think: ‘stage 1, stage 2’ etc. It is thus an experiential rather than an intellectual process.


One of the important roots of co-counselling is in humanistic therapies such as Carl Rogers’ Person–Centered Therapy. These hold that people all have lots of untapped potential that we need to free up so as to live fruitful lives. Reaching our potential has been partially blocked by an upbringing and/or society that encourages suppression rather than expression of emotions. We may have been told
‘Big boys don’t cry’
‘Sit quietly!’
‘Cheer up!’ i.e. ‘Don’t be sad.’

Your uncomfortable feeling about a current matter (or matter in the recent past) may have its origin at least partly in your past relationships. You may be acting in a way that is not productive or useful for you (or others) i.e. you may be acting in pattern. The pattern is your familiar protection or defence against difficult feelings.

Your task in the session or over a series of sessions is to explore your pattern and your feelings and relate these to your personal history, (i.e. re-evaluate) and then check if there is anything you wish to change or do (i.e. set goals).


  • Interventions come either from the counsellor or from the client.
  • Use the interventions that you learned on your course to:
  • Explore your patterns of behaviour
  • Express feelings in any way you wish – verbally, or with sound, or with your body actions
  • Relate them to your personal history (re-evaluate)
  • Set goals
  • You don’t have to do this all in one session: take your time – you can do it over several sessions, months, years etc.
  • You don’t have to get everything right.
  • Expression: people all have lots of untapped potential that we need to free up so as to live fruitful lives. One way to help this is to express feelings that we have been sitting on, and try to understand them.

I am OK! … Pride as the opposite of shame

Co-counselling is not just about difficult stuff! We celebrate our wonderful selves. Our sometimes less-than-useful actions do not take away from the fact that we are OK. I am OK! If I do something stupid I am still lovable. I aim to feel that my some of my shame is a leftover from childhood, and that it belongs in the past and no longer serves me.


Co-counselling provides a space where you are allowed to express emotions without fear of punishment, and where you may go on to understand them.

Life action

The co-counselling session helps us see things from a new perspective. We then explore whether we need to change anything i.e whether we need to take a life action or set goals. This is the type of thing happens also in coaching, NLP or CBT. All of this does not necessarily take place during one session (or decade!). Take your time!

Course methods and syllabus

Course learning methods

I think it’s important that we use a number of different methods facilitate your learning, so on the course there will be:

  • Demonstrations
  • Feedback sessions
  • Pairwork
  • Non-verbal group exercises
  • Explanations
  • Group sessions
  • Group discussion
  • Some reading outside the course days
  • I will ask participants to each have a review partner: you’ll be asked to have a couple of phone calls with each other during the course, to discuss how you are getting on with the course.
  • Also, between the taught weekends, you will be asked to do two co-counselling sessions. You will get assistance from me in arranging this.

Course Syllabus

  • The complete co-counselling method, including: psychodrama, contradition, amplification, celebration, repetition, re-evaluation, and goal-setting
  • The listening stance
  • The power of expression
  • How to use the co-counselling interventions
  • Using your words, your movements, your voice
  • Balance of Attention (not getting sucked in)
  • How to be your own counsellor
  • Two roles: The Explorer/The Ally
  • Equal time/equal roles – the peer concept
  • Life Action
  • The Time Machine
  • Insight, transference, defences, projection