cocounselling at hprp


In 1968 John Heron came across Re-evaluation Counselling and was attracted to its principles and practice. It appeared to completely de-professionalize the business of experiential learning by passing on subtle and potent skills to any person able to grasp and practise them. It offered a clear basis which was complementary and to a degree, inclusive of much that is agreed as to the nature of the human condition and the causation of patterning in our perception and corresponding response to our life situations. These patterns or complexes appear to be dysfunctional to a significant extent whereas there also appears to be huge potential within the human being which is unrealized. The theory offered an account of how to undo limitations developed in surviving critical events and uncover the potential masked by defences associated with these events.

John considered the theoretical model to be sufficiently comprehensive as to be workable and the associated skills to be readily assimilated given the right conditions. The core condition of parity (by exchanging the roles of client reflecting on their lives and counsellor assisting the process of reflection) took away any pretensions to superiority on the part of the counsellor as counsellors also had equal time to reflect on their own lives. Client autonomy is preserved by the nature of the contracting, so long as each partner keeps within the carefully structured limits placed on the approaches they can draw on to make the process work.


He therefore promoted the approach as a radical educational method throughout Europe, setting up networks of Co-counsellors in Britain, Ireland, Holland, Germany and later in other countries. By 1973, however, he had identified some serious limitations in the governance of RC and after dialogue with the founder, parted company. The key grounds are related to contradictions between governance and the principles of co-counselling as embodied in its theory and the reservation of the right to develop theory and practice to the founder. If intelligence is liberated by the application of co-counselling, then that intelligence should be brought to bear on the theory and practice of co-counselling. If the ability to co-operate is liberated, then groups of co-counsellors should be able to govern themselves, rather than relate heirarchically through a pyramid organisation, with the founder at the apex/top. In particular, there is an imperative that members of a University research their own field of expertise, and offering their conclusions to the world for further scrutiny. Further, the training can be offered as an experiential enquiry into the validity of the theory and practice as a vital aspect of the educational philosophy of this University setting. It became an embryonic co-operative enquiry.


As a result, he parted company with the founder, along with several others who had come to a similar conclusion in 1973 and founded the Co-Counselling International network, currently expanding in Britain, Ireland, Europe, North America and the Antipodes. John Heron adapted, revised and extended the theory, methods of organisational structure Co-Counselling to initiate a more client-directed process and a network of peer groups acting more like a federation of independent communities rather than a heirarchical organisation. For further details see publications. James has added his own reflections and developments.

HPRP programme

Co-counselling became one of our core programmes. It provided the example of a developed approach, using all the reflections of staff members together with exemplary facilitation. Our criteria of excellence were expressed in the Teacher Training programme, which offered what we intended to be the finest programme available, enabling students to meet the highest standards of practice. We provided a lead and support to others offering Fundamentals classes in the Adult Education sector, who were often our own trainees.

We built up to 5 Fundamentals courses of 5 days or two long weekends and one 5-day teacher training course annually. Usually we had also supported or offered an ongoing Fundamentals class with Guildford Co-counsellors. In our programme we said the following about co-counselling.

fundamentals of co-counselling

the model

Co-counselling is a method of reciprocal peer counselling. It is a tool for personal development for those who are already managing their lives acceptably by conventional standards but who want to significantly enhance their sense of identity and personal effectiveness.

It is based on a theory of the human condition which suggests that the development of the immense potential possessed by an individual can be blocked by the effects of repressed emotional pain. The theory suggests that every human being experiences emotional pain at some level, because one of the limitations of being human is that our fundamental emotional needs cannot always be fulfilled. In our non-cathartic society, few people have the chance to release and learn from this emotional pain safely. Co-counselling offers one structured setting in which so to do.

principles of method

These are

* reciprocity: co-counsellors take turns to be “client” (or “worker”) and “counsellor” (or “assistant”) for equal lengths of time.

* the “client” is in charge of the co-counselling session. She chooses the contract, the content and depth of her work on herself and her methods of working.

* contracting: specific contracts are available to the “client” as regards the type/level of interventions/support which the “counsellor” provides.

* confidentiality: the content of a “client's” counselling session is kept confidential TO THE SESSION. It should not be rasied again by either party subsequent to the session., except in a future session ONLY by the client.

aims of the course

The “Fundamentals of Co-Counselling” course of approximately 40 hours duration aims to enable participants to:

* understand the theory and principles of the method of co-counselling

* develop a basic level of competence in the skills and techniques of working as co-counselling “client” in a self-directed manner (with the assistance of a fellow co-counsellor).

* develop a basic level of competence as a co-counselling “counsellor”, to accord with C.C.I. expectations.


* Theoretical input and short exercises to test the validity of co-counselling theory

* systematic skills-building in pairs, threes, small group and whole group in the “client” techniques of “attention out” (moving our attention away from and being in control of painful emotions), safe catharsis, evaluation of personal insights, celebration and action planning.

* systematic skills-building (as above) in the very specific “counsellor” techniques of co-counselling, which are primarily “free attention” (empathic listening), suggestions or encouragement in the use of specific “client” techniques and support

* review of learning and discussion of issues arising from the skills-building experiences

* self and peer assessment of counselling skills.

N. B. The main emphasis of the course will be on the skills of working on one's own development as “client”.

A manual will be provided as an aide-memoire (“Co-Counselling” by John Heron) and also a list of contact people and independent communities of co-counsellors (others trained in a similar way and who continue to practise) throughout the U.K., other European countries and other parts of the world.

advanced co-counselling

We sometimes offered weekend workshops for co-counsellors to revise basic skills and practise intensive co-counselling.

co-counselling Teacher Training

We offered an annual teacher training course for experienced co-counsellors who have a good grasp of basic and advanced co-counselling skills and wished to consider teaching. This was a thorough preparation for the key elements and issues in conducting Fundamentals classes. The self and peer accreditation activity enabled members to clarify their initial focus and construct a plan for development. As a result, members might decide not to teach yet, to assist a more experienced teacher, to co-teach or teach solo.

We said “this workshop is for active and experienced co-counsellors of at least six months' standing who wish to prepare to teach cocounselling beginners courses. It is also open to practising co-counselling teachers whose experience will be much valued. The workshop fee includes a comprehensive co-counselling teachers manual. The training will include intensive sessions on all the basic features of co-counselling teaching. These will comprise a variety of exercises, role plays and skills practice session, review discussion, self and peer assessment and a self and peer accreditation activity. In addition we shall consider workshop design, screening and community building. With your application for the course, please include: (1) details of your experience in co-counselling, (2) a self evaluation of your skills as “worker” and “helper” in co-counselling.

People who have previously attended a full “Fundamentals” course at the HPRP and who wish to re-use their skills and begin to consider teaching co-counselling in the future, may be able to negotiate a free place on another “Fundamentals” course as an assistant to the facilitator. Write in the first instance to (staff member) about this.”


William Emerson introduced co-regression as a form of co-counselling which was adapted to pre- and peri-natal experience. Though it was always possible to express pre-verbal experience in a standard co-counselling session, the basic theory and practice limited itself to post verbal experience. Co-regression gave clarity to the nature of the experiences and simple tools to extend co-counselling into this arena.

We offered a small number of workshops on our programme and were able to offer an advanced course once enough people had experienced a basic workshop for people who wanted further experience and guidance from our staff, who had been extensively trained by William Emerson.

introduction to integrative regression

A self-development workshop to explore the process of regression, catharsis and integration. Participants will be given the opportunity to re-experience significant and perhaps traumatic events in their growth - from pre-birth and birth, through infancy and childhood, to adulthood - and to integrate new insights generated by this process into present life. The workshop will be experiential with appropriate theoretical input.


This workshop is for those interested in their own personal development, in developing and extending their skills to continue their own "regression" work and their skills of facilitating others' regression work or of supporting others in "regressed" states. The workshop will explore a variety of regression techniques to enable participants to discover unconscious blockages in their development. Participants can expect to gain new and sometimes profound insights into their own personalities and how they relate to others. Particular emphasis will be laid on the integration of these insights into daily living.

advanced co-regression

This course is for people who have already attended an introductory course on regression, or who have some experience with the process. It is an experiential workshop. There will be particular emphasis on balancing regression and integration. We will explore further the basic definitions and theoretical implications of regression, the use of altered states of consciousness and relaxation, physical structuring and bodywork and basic integration techniques.

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