Be Your Own Counsellor

Express yourself. Anyhow.

…with your body, voice, words, just as you like.

Handle difficult emotions

Co-counselling can help you come to terms with your past and your present, so that difficult feelings have less of a grip on you.

Speak any thought. Uncensored.

Use your co-counselling session to voice anything in your mind, without fear of judgement.

Improve your relationships

This is different!

Even though peer-based co-counselling uses established therapy techniques, it’s totally unique in important ways. Find out how…

Using your co-counselling skills can seriously affect your happiness!

The aim is to help you live autonomously and in touch with your emotions, uncovering hidden parts of yourself. CCI Co-counselling allows the fact that we have all sorts of feelings, some of which are very difficult. These feelings, emotions, thoughts and behaviours can be worked on in a safe supportive environment using the method we have developed.

  • It can help you develop self-awareness and self-control when feeling emotions. It’s therefore a powerful opportunity to develop emotional literacy. Claude Steiner* wrote that emotional literacy is made up of ‘the ability to understand your emotions, the ability to listen to others and empathise with their emotions, and the ability to express emotions productively. All this helps you deal with stress.
  • It can help you in your relationships: it can help you become more authentic, real and honest with yourself and others.
  • It can give you a sense of freedom to be yourself, and permission to explore inside yourself without being disapproved of if you find something unpleasant. This in turn can help you reach out to the world and grasp life and be creative – ‘seize the day!’
  • It can help you release parts of yourself that you had been encouraged to hide or censor.
  • It can help you come to terms with your past and your present, so that your feelings have less of a grip on you.
  • All the above can help you increase self-esteem.
  • Co-counselling helps you develop self-help skills for life, that mean you become your own counsellor.

*Steiner, C. with Perry, P. (1997) Achieving Emotional Literacy. London: Bloomsbury

Whilst CCI co-counselling uses long-established tools from mainstream therapies, it has important differences from these:

Two co-counsellors divide up their session time equally, taking turns to be either the person doing the listening/helping (‘counsellor’, for want of a better word) or the person working on himself or herself (‘client’, for want of a better word).

  • Both people have learned the same set of techniques and tools on a 4, 5  or 6-day course.
  • No money changes hands.
  • It can take place in a group too, locally or at the many events that we hold.

Example session

  • John and Andy 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 Andy is the ‘counsellor’. During this period John is using the session exactly as he chooses – he is working on issues that he decides on. Meanwhile, Andy 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: Andy is ‘client’ and John is ‘counsellor’.
  • When they’re both finished they go their separate ways


There is no perfect term for ‘client’ and ‘counsellor’: both words have drawbacks:

  • ‘Client’ is shorthand for ‘person whose time it is to received attention from the ‘counsellor’ (or ‘counsellors’, if it’s in a group)’. The client does not pay anything, so is not a ‘customer’. But, ‘talker’ is not a good term, because it implies the client has to talk. In co-counselling we use body and voice to express ourselves, not just words. Also, the client may not wish to talk all the time.
  • ‘Counsellor’ is shorthand for ‘the person who is attending to the client’. NB the ‘counsellor’ is not a trained professional counsellor. ‘Listener’ is not a useful term because the counsellors’ attention involves more than listening.

The therapeutic methods and approaches that we use in co-counselling have been established for decades. The main ones are:

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

These techniques are used to work on ourselves, with regard to three areas: Patterns: Patterns of behaviour that get in the way of creative living e.g. withdrawing from contact. Discharge: Physical discharge ( e.g. crying, shouting, jumping, or laughter) of bottled up or hitherto hidden emotions. Re-evaluation: Re-evaluation or review of the truth about who I really am and where I come from: making sense of my present behaviour and relating it to both my current life and to my past. This includes an appreciation of (i.e.insight into) how transference plays a part in our emotions and behaviours. Ground rules

Ground rules

As a framework for safe working there are specific ground rules that always apply:

  • Strict confidentiality
  • Equal time as client and as counsellor
  • No drugs before or 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

Counsellor ‘prompts’

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 or prompts that you both learned on the course. As ‘client’, do not underestimate the power of the aware and caring attention of your ‘counsellor’.


When we were young we had a natural tendency to be playful: this is tempered and reduced as we grow older, often to our cost. CCI helps us rediscover our playful capacities, so there is an important fun element in the co-counselling culture. We play games and enjoy ourselves in a celebratory way as well as looking at our serious sides. At the residentials there is often a DIY cabaret: if you decide to take a turn it can feel like you are in front of the most sympathetic audience in the world.

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.

Celebration and validation

CCI (Co-counselling International) aims to encourages a culture of validation. Being direct with people about our positive feelings is something that can feel very difficult: it can be difficult both to give and receive compliments and appreciations. This is something that is worked on in co-counselling: we actively celebrate ourselves and others. This can feel like a big challenge, and the co-counselling course helps work on this. It’s possible to draw immensely from this culture: it can help people rise above inner shame and self-doubt, move away from embarrassment about telling someone what you like about them, and move towards enjoying success and being proud of who you are. One forum where this can be so influential is the co-counselling residential events. At these events and on co-counselling courses there is an option to write celebrations to others on ‘celebration posters’.


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!

Richard Mills writes:

‘When I first participated in a co-counselling course in 1992 it had a big impact on how I viewed myself, and how I held back from relating authentically with the world. What I got most from that course was a sense of freedom to be myself – I felt I had permission to explore inside myself without being disapproved of if I found something unpleasant.

I eventually learned to give expression to the joy inside me, as well as explore the more difficult and sometimes hidden sides: anger, shame, grief. I learned that it’s OK to cry, to sing, to dance, to yawn, to celebrate, to be quiet, to NOT know.

This in turn helped me reach out to the world and grasp life, instead of waiting in my comfort zone.’

Co-Counselling International (CCI) is the umbrella organisation for the co-counselling featured on this website. CCI holds lists of co-counsellors whom you may contact for 1-2-1 and/or group sessions, and it organises residential events where you can further your personal development.

If you want to access CCI you have to do a short course first, called CCI Core Training. The course called ‘Know Yourself!’ featured on this website will give you that Core Training. You may wish to attend a taster event first, so see if it’s for you.

Why do I have to do the basic course to have full access to CCI?

When co-counsellors meet for groups or one-to-one sessions they share the same knowledge of method, techniques and tools, all learned on the course. They may each have their own way of working, but they know what to expect and what not to expect from the other people. This is vital for safety, because we are dealing with our vulnerabilities and want to feel safe with and trusting of our colleagues.

Once you have done the Core Training course, you are a member of CCI and can call yourself a co-counsellor. You then have access to the full international network of residential and non-residential events and groups in CCI, and you may meet up with other co-counsellors whenever you like and have sessions in pairs or small groups.