Two images of the UK, left reversed, as if co-counselling Co-Counselling International (UK)
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Co-Counselling and Mental Health

Using co-counselling is an excellent way for most people to improve and maintain their mental health.

You don’t have to be ill to get better.

Co-counselling is open to nearly everyone, unlike many of the services provided in the field of mental health for which you have to have some sort of identified need. To access CCI co-counselling all you have to do is to enrol on one of the core training courses.

Everyone is equal

There is no distinction in co-counselling between users, providers, carers, support workers and so on. Co-counselling is something people do for themselves and co-counsellors take equal turns to be client and counsellor.

Most people are normal

After people have been co-counselling for a while, and witnessing other people working on the things in themselves that they want to change, they realise that the range of what is normal for people is very wide. You might say that "crazy mixed up" is the normal state of being human, in fact it is a great quality because it gives us the flexibility and creativity to come up with good solutions to anything that life can throw at us.

Many of the things that lead to people being labelled as having mental health difficulties like being emotional, being depressed, seeing things differently or behaving in various ways will often be experienced by co-counsellors as being well with in the range of normal human beings. Co-counsellors can change the things about themselves that get in the way of them having the lives they want. Sometimes they realise that there is nothing much wrong with them and it is other people who have the difficulties.

In other words co-counselling has a tendency towards normalising experiences.

Co-counselling is for most people most of the time, but ...

To use co-counselling you have to be able to give really good attention to someone else without being too stirred up or upset by the things they are working on.

You also have to take responsibility for your own work and be in charge as a client. This includes maintaining a “balance of attention” between being deeply engaged with whatever you are working on and being aware of the present safety of the co-counselling session.

In other words you need to be able to rely on nothing more than good attention from your counsellor.

There are a few things that can get in the way of this. Anyone (including experienced co-counsellors) can go through times in their lives, sometimes a long time, when they need a lot of support, particularly emotional support, and are not able to give much support in return. If they are able to work through enough of this they may well be able to use or return to co-counselling.

Similarly people have mood swings that mean that sometimes they cannot use co-counselling. At other times they can, and during these times they may be able to use co-counselling to help them lessen the mood swings.

Things like hearing voices, seeing visions or personality changes would not in general be seen as abnormal by co-counsellors. Whether people with these experiences could use co-counselling would depend on how severely they were affected. The need is the same as for anyone, the ability to give and use good attention.

Helpers and carers

Co-counselling is particularly valuable for people who look after others or try to help them to change. This includes volunteers and professionals, carers, befrienders, counsellors, health workers etc.

Co-counselling provides opportunities for people to feel supported and to offload about their experiences.

Co-counsellors work on their own issues. This helps them to be more accepting of others. They are less likely to fall into the traps of the wounded healer, for example “knowing” what is right for other people. People who work as counsellors or psychotherapists are generally expected to be in therapy themselves, co-counselling is probably the most effective way of doing this.

CCI co-counselling helps people to develop the three qualities that are needed to provide good support to others (as well as being good at many other things):

  • Self confidence
  • Self awareness (being aware of our own qualities, strengths and limitations)
  • Emotional competence (being comfortable with our own emotions and hence emotions in others)

These are the qualities that we need in order to be able to provide what are called the core conditions for person centred work: Genuineness, Empathy and Respect (i.e. unconditional positive regard).


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Updated: 10th December 2014

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