THEORY AND PRACTICE
I see co-counselling as using psychodynamic thinking and Gestalt Therapy-based awareness coupled with a cathartic method, in order to achieve insight about ourselves. Here’s what I mean by that…
When we were young we had lots of potential to express ourselves and develop our creative selves. Inevitably we were subject to influences around us – at first our mother, father and/or other caregivers, then teachers and other adults. We of course needed input from others to help us develop: we would not have survived without it. Some of these influences were, however, limiting, and had a negative effect. For example, if our mother was over-protective we may have grown up fearful of taking risks.
These negative influences and inputs from adults around us include: injuctions, put-downs, impingements, and even violence. These cause us to have bad feelings or distress.
As we try to get on in life as adults we encounter in ourselves behaviours that limit us, such as:
- shyness and/or withdrawal (e.g. depression)
- projection (blaming the world for my unhappiness: ‘it’s nothing to do with me!’)
- arrogance (e.g. ‘I’m top-dog’)
- self-denigration (=self-put-downs)
- denial (e.g. rose-tinted spectacles)
These are patterns that can get us into trouble in our relationships. (In psychotherapy these are called defences.) We often build up these patterns in order to deal with our hidden distresses – in order to hide them, not feel them, or to abolish them.
An important premise is that our life is relational: we seek relationships in order to feel fulfilled, and we have a relationship with ourselves and with parts of ourselves. We will inevitably have some difficulties in our relationships with others and ourselves, when things will not turn out as we had liked. This poses a challenge: do we put the blame for (project) our problems or failures onto the outside world, or do we investigate the possibility that we have played a part? Has the current distress reminded us subconsciously (i.e. re-stimulated us) about an earlier distress? Is our current behaviour a pattern that we originally designed to protect us from our mother or father? This pattern was useful then, but is this pattern useful now?
Co-counselling offers a way of carrying out this investigation in a way that is not limited to thinking, or to only intellectual processing. Here’s what we do in a session or in a series of sessions or workshops…
COGNITIVE AND PHYSICAL PROCESSING
We try to get in contact, in an emotional or feeling way, with the bad feeling or distress that is going on in our current life (this week, this year, during this job etc). In other words, within thesafety of the co-counselling frame or set-up, we try deliberately to make available (feel again) the bad feelings from another moment.
We do this as physically as possible, discharging the feelings. This physical discharge (orcatharsis) may be the expression of anger, grief, fear etc. We then see if that relates to the distresses that we experienced in our past, so we are open to the idea that it is a re-stimulation(of our past). We look at our patterns – our behaviours – now and in the past, and we see where there are any links. This last point is called re-evaluation. We then explore whether we need to change anything i.e whether we need to take a life action or set goals. All of this does not necessarily take place during one session (or decade!). Take your time!
It’s not just about bad 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.