Co-counseling is a controversial self-help peer-support system also known as re-evaluation counseling. This form of therapy involves people working in pairs, taking equal time the role of counselor and client. The principle behind this form of therapy is that everyone is born with vast intellectual potential but due to painful memories and suppressed feelings, people tend to behave in certain patterns[1]. By taking turns in giving and receiving attention, practitioners can recover from past distress, argues the Re-evaluation Counseling Community[2], a group that promotes this type of therapy.

Goals of Co-Counseling

The goal of reciprocal counseling is to achieve empowerment by exploring the roots of personal distress in a supportive environment. The benefits of this method include the acceleration of personal growth and the reduction of stress by talking to a peer, rather than an “expert”[3]. Co-counseling is believed to increase skills such as being attentive to the needs of others and is said to be compatible with the 12-step recovery program.

When is Co-Counseling Therapy Used?

Co-counseling was first used by Harvey Jackins, in the late 1960s[4]. The labor organizer brought home a suicidal co-worker and after carrying for him and supporting him, Jackins came to the conclusion that the only useful thing he could do for him was to listen sympathetically as the man entrusted him with his inner turmoil. Jackins found this intriguing so he began using the method with other acquaintances. Soon the group practicing re-evaluation counseling grew larger and expanded from Seattle down the coast of California. Today, the community that offers courses and training for such therapy sessions has international ramifications.

This type of therapy is recommended for anyone struggling with emotional problems, particularly those recovering from discrimination, prejudice or oppression[5]. The goal of co-counseling is to address the basic human needs like the need to understand and be understood.

How Co-Counseling Works

Co-counseling works similarly to other forms of therapy. One person listens, while the other one talks. The main difference is that the client is in charge of the session, while the counselor’s main role is to pay very good attention and be supportive. Then they swap roles[6].

The sessions are not limited in time. They can last an hour or five minutes and they can be conducted anywhere: at home, in the park or even over the telephone.

The person assuming the role of the client can decide how much intervention he desires from the counselor. He can choose, for instance, no verbal interventions or as many interventions as necessary to enable and sustain the healing process. Also, the client is free to accept or disregard any intervention made by the counselor.

Testimonies from people who practice co-counseling indicate the method is highly effective[7]. They argue that issues are more quickly dealt with because the client is in charge and he is not pushed to do anything that he is uncomfortable with.

“It has become an essential part of my life, as an outlet for emotions, a forum for discussion, debate and learning and a source of fun, joy, new experiences and hugely rewarding companionship. It keeps me sane and reasonably balanced and I hope I shall never have to live without the powerful outlets it offers me”, says Virginia H., a 70 year old civil servant from Scotland who has been in the program for 15 years[8].

Similar to conventional therapy, the content of the sessions are confidential.

Criticisms of Co-Counseling Therapy

Some researchers have suggested that the community formed around this form of therapy is bearing similarities with a cult form culture. The co-counseling community now numbers over twenty thousand people. They consider themselves a network of friends and admission to counseling sessions is by invitation only. The community keeps to itself and discourages any press coverage of their activities[9].

The rhetoric Jackins used to describe his views on the oppression of the working-class is largely viewed as Marxist[10]. He argues that if his method of co-counseling would be applied properly and persistently, it would lead to a liberation of all types of oppression.

 “Re-evaluation counseling can be confidently viewed as the very leading edge of the tendency toward order and meaning in the universe”, he proclaims in The State of the Cosmos.

Jackins is also believed to have seduced hundreds of his female patients. He has never denied the allegations of sexual abuse. When confronted, he used to divert attention from his sexual behavior to re-counseling’s goals of liberation from all oppressions.

Jackins died in 1999. His theory and methods are being promoted by his son, Tim Jackins.












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