1. People do not
enter Co-Counselling to do voluntary jobs; they join for sessions, access
to workshops and mutual support
I think that especially after
the Fundamentals Co-Counsellors prefer to attend workshops and Co-Counselling
events organised by other people rather than to organise them themselves.
One cannot assume that after Fundamentals everybody is immediately an
autonomous, in charge, responsible Co-Counsellor. It takes
time to build confidence as client and counsellor and even more time to
appreciate Co-Counselling to the full. It is this appreciation that seems
to motivate Co-Counsellors to do voluntary jobs for Co-Counselling.
1: Supplying Co-Counselling events.
Several aspects are important here:
- Initially most Co-Counsellors behave as consumers: they pick what
they like and leave what they dont and look for what they still
need elsewhere, if necessary outside Co-Counselling. They vote with
their feet. So what Co-Counselling events do they need or want?
- General Co-Counselling workshops provide a good start for new Co-Counsellors:
opportunities for sessions and meeting other Co-Counsellors. I believe,
however, that the huge variety and needs of Co-Counsellors can only
be met by topical workshops related to their different needs, awarenesses
and backgrounds. This explains the great success of the International
CCI workshops where an enormous variety of workshops is on offer.
So, how can workshops be supplied in Scotland to meet the needs and
interests of Co-Counsellors?
- Being supplying with workshops may be nice, but it still leaves us
with the question: How can Co-Counsellors be encouraged to develop the
skills, the confidence and motivation to organise and facilitate workshops
Where do you find volunteers?
Apart from running workshops people are needed for other jobs, essential
for keeping the network going and growing, for example the production
of the newsletter, financial management, membership administration, facilitation
of the network decision making process, etc.
Quite a lot of Co-Counsellors are prepared to take on small, short term
jobs with a clear beginning and end. Only a few are willing and able to
offer a long-term commitment that involves a lot of effort and not giving
in when things become difficult.
vote mostly with their feet
Most Co-Counsellors attend workshops, have sessions and organise the
support they need. Many Co-Counsellors dont like business meetings.
They leave Co-Counselling if they dont find what they
want or need, rather than making their feet bring them to business meetings
to state what they need. Even, if all goes well, only a 20% attendance
can be expected at an AGM.
lacks a good feedback culture
If there is something that Co-Counsellors dont like, they process
that in sessions (or not) and very often they dont feed this back
to the organisers. Also the Positivity culture inhibits feedback:
Co-Counsellors are encouraged to express the good and news
of a Co-Counselling event, but NOT what they have found lacking.
So there is hardly any direct feedback for the organisers, facilitators
and teachers, unless they actively encourage and promote forms of feedback.
If there is feedback, the challenge for organisers is to stay distress
free and hear the feedback without saying This is your
problem. Work on it by yourself..
So there you have the challenges: Given an unavoidable lack of participation
- how to create decisions so wise and realistic that they effectively
- how to organise a decision making process that checks in with as many
Co-Counsellors as possible and that doesnt rely solely on business
is not only about one-to-one sessions, but also about socialising
CCI Co-Counselling is mostly perceived
as Co-Counsellors having Co-Counselling sessions. In most Co-Counselling
literature 90% of the text is about sessions or session related issues.
Co-Counsellors, however, spend a lot of time with each other outside sessions
and they seem to like it. In the Co-Counselling literature peer relating,
fundamental for CCI Co-Counselling, socialising and organisational issues
seem to be almost an afterthought.
In this socialising contentious issues can surface: breach of safety,
control & manipulation, abuse of power, sexual attractions, conflicts
between people, split up of relationships, gossip, to name but a few.
It is wonderful that so many Co-Counsellors with difficult relationships
in their background (perhaps one of the reasons why they joined Co-Counselling)
are able to relate to each other. Having listened to many safety issues
at the Conflict & Safety in the Network workshop, I think,
however, that many of these remain buried by the rule of Confidentiality.
- How can an awareness of pitfalls, and of healthy / unhealthy socialisation
- How can people be provided with empowering support to deal positively
with safety, conflicts & complaints issues?
4. People bring
into the organisation not only their Person, but also their Patterns
This sounds obvious: why else should
people enter Co-Counselling? Particularly relevant here is that Co-Counsellors
bring in patterns around organisation, conflicts,
peership, leadership and authority. Look at it the other
way around: if they were comfortable with their skills in dealing with
these situations, do you think they would have needed to join Co-Counselling?
patterns for any organisation
The Image Builder pattern
The aim of this pattern is to persuade an audience to confirm a chosen
identity of the Co-Counsellor, like Bridge builder, Defender
of the Co-Counselling spirit, Defender of the peership or
any other Co-Counselling Principle, or simply See how good
(intelligent, skilled, courageous etc.) I am. The key here is the
audience: only those jobs will be carried out that will make a good impression
on the audience.
The Fundamentalist pattern
Although this pattern can take the form of Defender of the Co-Counselling
Spirit, or Defender of the Peership or any other Co-Counselling
principle, as in the Image Builder pattern, it is exclusively
about principles. And the audience is totally unimportant, as the pattern
is based on self-righteousness. The damage lies in the fact that this
pattern is basically not interested in making things work. Even when the
principles are upheld, there will be a search for another principle in
danger of violation. There is a notorious example from Vietnam: We
celebrate the liberation of this village from communism on behalf of democracy.
We regret that in the process there are no people left anymore.....
The Victim pattern
This pattern is recognisable by blaming You are powerful (disempowering,
hierarchical), and your power (actions, approach) stops me from being
powerful myself. The key here is: the blamer is basically not prepared
to become powerful him/herself and to negotiate a good power sharing.
Often the aim is t damage and this manifests itself sometimes in the fact
that the person concerned may be the last one to hear of the complaints.
By which time the gossip patterns can be rife.
The Stirrer, Rebel or Creating Chaos pattern
This pattern enjoys stirring other people and playing games with them,
in order to see confusion and chaos simply for the sake of it. This needs
to be distinguished from honestly issue raising that might happen in a
provocative way, but with a commitment to bring these issues to a good
end. Here the challenge is to recognise properly what the underlying motives
this mean for organisation?
The challenge for individual Co-Counsellors:
When confronted with these and other patterns, there is a big invitation
to get hooked into them. The challenge is to avoid this. By the way, this
is easier said than done.... People can really believe their own patterns
that they are doing absolutely the right thing and acting in good faith.
Not all Co-Counsellors can see through this and link in with their own
patterns. This can lead to a snowball effect and utter confusion and demoralisation.
The challenge for peer organisations:
Just as the door is open for everybody to be involved in the decision-making
processes, the door is also very much open for everybodys patterns,
which may be destructive to Co-Counsellors who work for Co-Counselling
and so to the organisation itself.
- If the organisation doesnt want to lose its active people -
who are scarce in Co-Counselling anyway- it needs to provide protection
against these harmful patterns.
- On the other hand the active volunteers need to be kept accountable
to the other members of the network. So methods of challenging them
in an open, safe and responsible way need to be devised.
Apart from these four unproductive patterns Co-Counsellors can have other
difficulties around making commitments. People like to show their willingness
and make a good impression by taking on jobs. The line that Everybody
is in charge of their own lives seems to encourage Co-Counsellors
to break their commitments almost as easily as they take them on. Sometimes
they dont even respect the need of others to be informed of their
change of mind!
- to operate with commitments which are not fulfilled
- to create a culture that values & encourages realistic commitments
that can be honoured.
5. Most Co-Counsellors
have a limited and fragmented awareness of Co-Counselling
New people come into Co-Counselling
continuously. During Fundamentals, understandably they explore the basic
skills for sessions and gain some insight into the Co-Counselling culture.
There is little time to highlight the vast richness and historical variety
of Co-Counselling or to acquire insights into how the peership organisation
has been developing. There is almost no literature about the CCiS, its
history and its organisation. So it is not amazing that most (new) Scottish
Co-Counsellors dont know why we decided in 1992 on "Scottish" instead
of "Small & Local", on the objective of "the highest possible Quality",
and on "Network instead of Community".
Some of the
- Clarifying to Co-Counsellors how many opportunities Co-Counselling
has to offer.
- Making the previous experiences and insights available, so that people
can make their own informed choices and decisions, and that re-inventing
the organising wheel again and again is minimised as much as possible.
restrictions of peership
Experience shows that only groups of 6 (8 under the most optimum conditions)
are able to run themselves purely as a peer group i.e. without any appointed
facilitator. The condition for success is that each group member is equally
distress free, knowledgeable and able to manage a group process. The reason
for this is that the bigger the group, the more information needs to be
processed and negotiated by each member.
Thus in Co-Counselling even small peer groups often work with an appointed
facilitator and because of the peership principle rotate the facilitation.
Although peership logically dispenses with the cult of the personal leader,
it cant dispense certain activities and functions of leadership,
for example focusing meetings, creating directions, co-ordinating activities
and encouraging the available volunteering manpower. These are all vital
and necessary processes in any organisation.
The bigger and more heterogeneous the groups are, the more complicated
these processes become. That means that somebody who is able to facilitate
a support-group evening may not necessarily be able to facilitate workshops,
or to see a business meeting through from start to finish, including the
preparation, the meeting itself and its aftermath.
- As the quality of the facilitation is crucial for the results, how
can Co-Counsellors be encouraged to become good facilitators?
- How can facilitation in the network be organised in such a way that
everybody can feel in control of the decision making process?