Co-Counseling was started on the principle that each person has his or her own answers inside of themselves. The peer counselor merely serves as a facilitator for the client to locate the answers and use them to bring about positive change.
In particular, time is shared equally and the essential requirement of the person taking their turn in the role of counselor is to do their best to listen and give their full attention to the other person. It is not a discussion; the aim is to support the person in the client role to work through their own issues in a mainly self-directed way. 'Counselors' have no training or expertise by which to evaluate serious problems.
The peer serving as counselor helps the client to come to his or her own conclusions.
The nature of the co-counseling session opens up the possibility for people to get in touch with emotions that they would avoid in any other circumstance. A belief in the value of working with emotions has become a core focus of the approach. Co-counseling training emphasizes methods for accessing and working with emotions, and co-counselors aim to develop and improve emotional competence through the practice.
Co-counseling works to clear negative thought patterns and behaviors from the clients mind.
Co-counseling can be used to treat people with the following conditions:
- Low self-esteem
- Feelings of loneliness
- Anxiety and fears
- Lack of motivation
The main activity in co-counseling involves participants arranging to meet regularly in pairs to give each other peer-to-peer counseling, in turn taking the role of counselor and client, with equal amounts of time allocated to each. Co-counseling functions by giving people who are unable to form real friendships an opportunity to work on whatever issues they choose with the accepting support of another person, with whom they have no actual relationship. The person in the role of counselor acts a facilitator to the client, sometimes as third-party observer and sometimes as second-party confidant. While co-counseling is sometimes practiced outside a formal organization, formal co-counseling organizations have developed leadership and support structures, including trainings and retreats.
Pros for this therapy
Safety (in the sense of being very low risk) and the sense that a co-counseling session is a safe space is important to the methods. There are strict rules of confidentiality. In most circumstances, the counselor may not talk about a client's session without explicit and specific permission by the client. This is stricter than in other practices where practitioners discuss clients with supervisors, colleagues and sometimes with all sorts of other people. The peer relationship makes a considerable contribution to a sense of trust.
Cons for this therapy
May not be sufficient to treat organic mental illnesses such as MDD, GAD, or psychoses.
Co-counseling was originally formulated in the early 1950s by the American Harvey Jackins through a combination of his personal experiences gained through a wide range of counseling experience. Jackins founded the Re-evaluation Counseling (RC) Communities, with headquarters in Seattle, Washington, United States.
Co-Counseling International (CCI), a federation of co-counseling communities and individuals, formed in 1973. CCI currently works to "maintain, promote and develop the practice, culture and theory of co-counseling regionally and nationally through an energetic and focused peer community of individuals committed to the practice and vision of co-counseling." (http://cci-usa.org/)
Co-counseling has progressed significantly since its founding. Today, workshops are held in the U.S. and internationally in order to teach the basic foundations of Co-counseling.
Co-counseling is a grassroots, low-cost method of personal change based on reciprocal peer counseling. It uses simple methods that can be seen as a refinement of "you tell me your problems and I'll tell you mine".
In most cases there will be 2 peers who meet to share with one another. The goal of the sessions will vary but is generally to gradually heal past and present pains, focus on positive growth, and work to bring about future change. The two peers will serve as alternating counselors and clients. One will serve as the counselor while the other acts a client. The roles will then switch and the process will be repeated.
The peer serving as client will determine the type of counseling he or she wants. It is crucial to have both parties agree to confidentiality in these sessions so that trust can be upheld.