A gentle introduction to cocounselling

“Cocounselling” is a process in which two people exchange time and attention thus help each other think more clearly and act more powerfully.

The theory and practice has evolved over the last fifty years. It started by observing what helped people grow and without any preconceptions. It is now the simplest and most profound approach to improving human functioning that I know.

We start with the assumption that people are fundamentally good, creative and effective. We sometimes have difficulties when either we are hurting, or something happens that reminds us of a time when we were hurting. It is very hard to think when you are in the grip of painful emotion.

The natural mechanisms for releasing painful emotion (talking, laughing, sweating, shaking, storming, crying and yawning) were all available to us as young people. When this emotional release is finished the person re-evaluates his or her experience and is then able to think more clearly and act more powerfully.

Unfortunately people around us often inhibit the natural process because they mistake the release of emotion (the healing of the hurt) for the hurt itself. (Big boys don’t cry etc.).

Cocounselling offers a systematic way for people to use and recover the natural processes of emotional release. Then we are freer of our internalised conditioning, and are able to be more flexible and be more in charge of our own lives.

Cocounselling practice

The core of cocounselling practice is the session. In a session one person, the counsellor, listens, pays attention, facilitates and encourages the release of feelings. The client talks and expresses their feelings and re-evaluates. The subject matter can be anything that the client chooses. At the end of the client’s time the roles are reversed. With increased experience and confidence in each other the process works better and better.

How do you learn it?

The best way is by experience in safe environment. The experience of being listened to profoundly without interruption is so rare and useful that one good session often leaves a person permanently interested in repeating the experience.

In practice

The best way to learn about cocounselling is to have a session as a client and give a session as a counsellor. We will use some simple cocounselling methods to help create a supportive and trusting atmosphere. We will have mini- sessions (five minutes each way) to give you some experience quickly in both roles. Then I would like to do a demonstration with a brave volunteer! (No, I won’t twist anyone’s arm. Cocounselling is a caring process that always respects the client’s right to choose what to do.)

We might then discuss the process (how the session went, what worked etc) but not the content  (what the client raised). This belongs to the client. Some more theory might help here (and a Q and A session).

Then you could have a longer go with each other, perhaps in threes, so one of you could observe and learn about what works by experience. We could talk about what worked and why and deal with any difficulties.

There is a nice exercise sharing appreciations that might be a good way to end the session.


The purpose of this event is to introduce gently a powerful and life enhancing tool. You will get more out of it if you come along to give help and attention and to learn about some skills and theory. Don’t come expecting to get instant help with something you have been struggling with for twenty years. Cocounselling is not magic, and I am not a magician.

Comment from a participant

Nick’s gentle style belies a depth of knowledge and experience. When I first met Nick, he took a group of strangers in chilly room, and soon had us feeling safe enough to take significant positive risks. Since then, I have found Nick to be generous with both insight and materials – he’s an excellent resource.

Resli Costabell

If you would like help using this idea, or have any comments or questions please contact me. Thanks, Nick