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

Client responsibilities

Don’t blame your counsellor for a disappointing session.
You may ignore or refuse to follow your counsellor’s intervention.

Counsellor responsibilities

You may refuse a request from your client, other than the request for 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.
Balance of attention: keep one foot consciously in your difficult feelings and one foot in your adult / thinking self that knows you are in a co-counselling session.

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.
  • I’m OK
  • You don’t have to get everything right.

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.
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.


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!