Co-Counselling Training

Course title: Co-counselling Fundamentals

Co-counselling is a grassroots method of personal change based on reciprocal peer counselling using simple methods. Time is shared equally and the essential requirement of the person taking their turn in the role of counsellor 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.

Co-counselling is thus ‘reciprocal peer counselling’. It is reciprocal because participants take turns to be a ‘client’ and a ‘counsellor’. It is peer because all co-counsellors have the same status. It is counselling because you talk through or work on things you want to change in your life with the attention and help of a counsellor.

It operates within a network of people who have satisfactorily completed the basic core training course. Each person chooses for themselves how much they want to do as an equal partner either in pairs or in groups. An important feature of co-counselling is that it is free – you exchange your time and skills.

The basic training is a 40-hour core training course in the fundamentals of co-counselling. No two courses will be exactly the same, but they are similar enough to allow you to work with any other trained co-counsellor anywhere in the world and not just the Mindful Support Network.

The course is online creating a safe, supportive and inclusive interactive environment. The course is practical with plenty of activities and exercises in sessions which are then practised with trainees in your own time before the next session.

The training group is required to adopt a set of ground rules including strict confidentiality, supportively listening to other people, not expressing opinions about them, speaking for ourselves, commitment to the course and taking responsibility for your own learning.

Learning to be the Client: learning co-counselling is mainly about learning how to be the client. In the process, you learn counselling skills and techniques that you use to work on your own material. In Co-Counselling International the client is always in charge. Our counselling skill is rooted in our experience as client. As a client, you learn to work mindfully with your feelings rather than discussing or suppressing them. You learn how to re-evaluate patterns of  unhelpful behaviour patterns, often starting by dealing with current issues rather than digging for deep material.

Learning to be the Counsellor: As a counsellor the basic skill is the ability to give clear, caring and non-judgemental ‘free attention’. The training also introduces you to a tool kit of observational skills, suggestions and interventions that can be used by your client. Interventions are used mainly as reminders or encouragement to help the client to work in the ways that they know. Co-counselling does not use techniques such as feedback, interpretation or questioning.

Co-counselling provides scope for working on all 8 mindfulness-based practices of the Network but is probably most relevant to the first two in situations where people are experiencing difficult feelings and emotions affecting their everyday wellbeing and resilience. In this case, Training Attention (4) is brought into play with Redirecting Motivation (1) and Transforming Emotions (2) where discharging emotion and catharsis may be needed first.

  • After successfully completing the basic training course you are eligible to continue using co-counselling with other members of the Mindful Support Network, arranging sessions with anyone available for ongoing peer support
  • You will also be eligible to take part in the wider CCI network and receive a list of co-counselling contacts in your own area and throughout the UK. You will also have access to CCI’s  international network of co-counsellors and to co-counselling workshops throughout this and other countries
  • You may also opt to join or help form a local or workplace group; you have the skills to share as and when you choose.

Training is delivered by Mindful Support Network co-counselling trainers online in the evenings

CCI training is delivered by other providers here and you can sill join the Mindful Support Network as a CCI trained co-counsellor

The Mindful Support Network training in Co-counselling is free though donations are invited to help maintain the network online infrastructure.

Training Enquiry


Co-counselling International

Embedding co-counselling skills in a self-generating culture of peer support

A Definition of Co-counselling International

CCI is a planet-wide association of individuals and local networks committed to affirm a core discipline of co-counselling while encouraging, on an international and co-operative basis, the advancement of sound theory, effective practice, network development and planetary transformation.

Local networks of co-counsellors within CCI are independent, self-governing peer organizations, exploring ways of being effective social structures while avoiding all forms of authoritarian control.

Any person and network is a member of CCI if :

• they understand and apply the principles of co-counselling given below

• they have had at least 40 hours training from a member of CCI

• they grasp, in theory and practice, the ideas of pattern, discharge and re-evaluation

The principles of co-counselling

1. Co-counselling is usually practised in pairs with one person working, the client, one person facilitating, the counsellor, then they reverse these roles. In every session each person spends the same time in the role of both client and counsellor. A session is usually on the same occasion, although sometimes people may take turns as client and counsellor on different occasions.

2. When co-counsellors work in groups of three or more, members take an equal time as client, each client either choosing one other person as counsellor, or working in a self-directing way with the silent, supportive attention of the group. For certain purposes, the client may request co-operative interventions by two or more counsellors.

3. The client is in charge of their session in at least seven ways:

  • trusting and following the living process of liberation emerging within
  • choosing at the start of the session one of three contracts given below
  • choosing within a free attention or normal contract what to work on and how
  • being free to change the contract during their session
  • having a right to accept or disregard interventions made by the counsellor
  • being responsible for keeping a balance of attention
  • being responsible for working in a way that does not harm themselves, the counsellor, other people, or the environment.

4. The client’s work is their own deep process. It may include, but is not restricted to:

  • discharge and re-evaluation on personal distress and cultural oppression
  • creative thinking at the frontiers of personal belief
  • visualizing future personal and cultural states for goal-setting and action-planning
  • extending consciousness into transpersonal states

CCI takes the view that the first of these is a secure foundation for the other three.

5. The role of the counsellor is to:

  • give full, supportive attention to the client at all times
  • intervene in accordance with the contract chosen by the client
  • inform the client about time at the end of the session and whenever the client requests
  • end the session immediately if the client becomes irresponsibly harmful to themselves, the counsellor, other people, or the environment

6. The counsellor’s intervention is a behaviour that facilitates the client’s work. It may be verbal, and/or nonverbal through eye contact, facial expression, gesture, posture or touch.

7. A verbal intervention is a practical suggestion about what the client may say or do as a way of enhancing their working process within the session. It is not a stated interpretation or analysis and does not give advice. It is not driven by counsellor distress and is not harmful or invasive. It liberates client autonomy and self-esteem.

8. The main use of nonverbal interventions is to give sustained, supportive and distress-free attention: being present for the client in a way that affirms and enables full emergence. This use is the foundation of all three contracts given below. Nonverbal interventions can also be used to elaborate verbal interventions; or to work on their own in conveying a practical suggestion; or, in the case of touch, to release discharge through appropriate kinds of pressure, applied movement or massage.

9. The contract which the client chooses at the start of the session is an agreement about time, and primarily about the range and type of intervention the counsellor will make. The three kinds of contract are:

  • Free attention. The counsellor makes no verbal interventions and only uses nonverbal interventions to give sustained, supportive attention. The client is entirely self-directing in managing their own working process.
  • Normal. The counsellor is alert to what the client misses and makes some interventions of either kind to facilitate and enhance what the client is working on. There is a co-operative balance between client self-direction and counsellor suggestions.
  • Intensive. The counsellor makes as many interventions as seem necessary to enable the client to deepen and sustain their process, hold a direction, interrupt a pattern and liberate discharge. This may include leading a client in working areas being omitted or avoided. The counsellor may take a sensitive, finely-tuned and sustained directive role.

10. Counsellors have a right to interrupt a client’s session if they are too heavily restimulated by what the client is working on and so cannot sustain effective attention. If, when they explain this to the client, the client continues to work in the same way, then they have a right to withdraw completely from the session.

11. Whatever a client works on in a session is confidential. The counsellor, or others giving attention in a group, do not refer to it in any way in any context, unless the client has given them explicit, specific permission to do so. It is, however, to be taken into account, where relevant, by the counsellor in future sessions with the same client.


© John Heron 1996. This Definition may be copied, but only in full and unedited.

Co-Counselling International (UK)

Facebook Group

Once you have completed the training you can join our Facebook Peer Support Group here to self-organise ongoing co-counselling and co-coaching with peers

For more information about the work of John Heron who pioneered Co-counselling in the UK

© 2024 Mindful Support Network

Community education in Mindfulness, Wellbeing, Resilience and Sustainability in partnership with the

Centre for Mindful Educational Leadership



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