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Guest articles > Demystifying Co-Counseling
by: Bharati Rao Pothukuchi, MA. PG Dip(Couns)
Studies have indicated that there are not as many counselors in India as are the people with problems Suitable individuals can therefore be given short training to work as group counselors, peer counselors, or co-counselors, to answer the emotional and psychological needs of society in a period of transition from the joint family to a nuclear family pattern.
Co-counseling is particularly relevant in the Indian context in the areas like Tsunami affected regions, in earthquake affected regions like Gujarat wherein trauma has been great, and lot of death and rehabilitation has occurred. Many people still remember the pain and suffering that happened because of Tsunami. Such people have to be taken care of, and volunteers who are helping these trauma affected people can be trained in co-counseling techniques. What was the psychological support given to the relatives of Bhopal gas victims is not known. At least those people who have witnessed disasters more recently can be provided some psychological support by training them in co-counseling. Volunteers equipped with this skill can be prepared to face unforeseen disasters.
Counseling is a relatively recent addition to the range of human service professions in India. It is still an evolving field Counseling came as an answer to the human relations problems that occurred when there was a change in the structure of society. I.e. there was breakdown of joint families, and there was a gradual transition to a more individual centric society. Agencies other than family started having a hold on the individual because of breakdown of joint families. Counseling is one such field that came into existence as an answer to the emotional needs that surfaced as society gradually changed to a more individual centric pattern.
Counseling can be defined as a professional relationship between a trained counselor and a client, wherein the counselor helps the client to be well adjusted, efficient, and well-balanced to tackle problems that come up in daily life They will then be able to contribute their maximum to society Counseling is a subject in itself, and counselors are given intense training to do counseling.
Types of counseling
A number of variations of traditional counseling have come up. They are very different from traditional counseling; Examples are group counseling, peer counselling, co-counseling and so on. . All these are in response to the need for help in the area of counseling, because of the fast life and changing social scenario. People have started needing more and more help to sort out their life issues. Studies have indicated that there are not as many counselors as are the people with emotional problems. Hence the need for people who can attend to these specific problems. Suitable individuals can therefore be given short training to work as group counselors, peer counselors, or co-counselors.
Group counseling takes place in groups. Means attending to specific nonpathological problems that client are aware of and which do not involve major personality changes. For example group counseling may involve helping clients achieve goals such as relating better to families, becoming organized, or relaxing in the presence of superiors at work. The groups are normally 10 to 12 people in number, and formed in educational institutions or agencies. The group leader is the one who co-ordinates the group counseling session. For example, if a group of new employees are facing a tough time with their boss they may form a group to discuss the differences they have with their boss. After coming to a consensus, the group leader can sort out the differences with the boss.
Life can be stressful at college. Sometimes students need someone with whom they can discuss roommate problems, academic distress, long distance relationships, or other personal issues like child abuse, suicide and so on. . The Peer Counseling Program helps the students to settle down and do well in college, or university .Peer counseling is done on a one to one basis by a student volunteer in consultation with a professional counselor.
Another variant of the counseling process is Co-counseling. Co-counseling is very different from traditional Counseling. Co-counseling was originally formulated in 1957by American Harvey Jackins through a combination of his personal experiences gained in counseling sessions.
Salient features of co-counseling Co-counseling is used in case of occurrence of natural calamities like earthquakes, floods, etc.or in case of riots, huge fire, etc. Here the calamity is great and the need for mental health workers is more because people have gone through a traumatic experience. In such cases the clients sometimes need to work out their stress by way of crying, shouting weeping etc. In co-counseling, the clients work out by crying, shouting, etc.when the counselor is available. In turn the client becomes a counselor and listens to such outpouring from the person who was the counselor before. Since the number of mental health workers available is lot less than those needed, the people available (and interested in counseling) are given short training to handle such emotions. They work under the guidance of a professional counselor.
Methodology for co-counseling In this there are two people alternately acting out the role of counselor and the counselee for a mutually agreed fixed period of time. There is a basic agreement between two people, that each person takes turn being the counselor (the person listening) and the client (the person being listened to.) This is usually done in pairs. This exchange is called ‘having a session’
However in co-counseling a person who is counseling will maintain total silence when he is in the role of the counselor, but when the same person is in the role of client, he will speak to the heart’s content. In other words in co-counseling the fundamental meaning of the process is, “I scratch your back and you scratch my back.
Differences between Traditional counseling and Co-counseling
In contrast to traditional counseling, in co-counseling you can have a session with any co-counselor at any time that suits you. You can have it anywhere- in your room, home, over phone. The rules in co-counseling appear less rigorous than traditional counseling. . There is no time fixed for the session as such, the only thing is the agreement between the two co-counselors to share the time equally. If co-counselor A is going to spend 1 hour with co-counselor B, the co-counselor B has the right to have 1 hr with co-counselor A. Since the person who is going to be counseled, is trained in being a co-counselor too, the co-counselor need not explain what the process that is going to be followed is. Gifts are not accepted and friendship not made between the co-counselor in order to maintain objectivity in counseling
One important difference between a co-counseling session and just talking about your problems to your friend is that you can put your full attention on the other person with the knowledge that you’ll get your own turn to talk too, wherein the other person will listen to what you are saying. Co-counseling sessions are timed, so that both the persons get equal time to be heard.
Co-counseling is not traditional therapy. The co-counselor offers care and attention to the client. Thereafter, the person who has first been a co-counselor switches role and becomes a client .The client of the first part should be prepared to switch roles and be supportive and appropriate as a counselor in the second round. In order for this to happen, both the parties go through a short course to learn the approach.
The emphasis is on lightness and encouragement, because the approach is specifically designed for people with no other training. It is very important that the two do not do anything that is harmful. Unlike in traditional counseling, wherein the counselor is in charge, here it is the “client” who is in charge. It is the client who decides everything. What are the tools to be used, what are the techniques to be used, the timing for the session and all? There is a mutual contract between the two people.
Co-counselors are not given the kind of rigorous training that traditional counselors get. Traditional counselors are taught techniques like empathy, self disclosure, immediacy, confrontation etc. These techniques are not taught to co-counselors as part of their training. One very important rule that co-counselors have to follow is that they should not be meeting at a social level. They should also not discuss their sessions once they are over. This is to minimize the problems of transference and counter transference. In this aspect the traditional counselors and co-counselors are similar. Traditional counselors also do not socialize with the clients for better counseling sessions.
One can become neither a Counselor nor a co-counselor, if one is not able to give undivided attention to others, if one is under the influence of alcohol, or if one is only prepared to observe other people but not willing to open up to the other person.
What is the chief characteristic that makes co-counseling so special?. In co-counseling the client can discharge emotionally by way of crying, screaming, sweating, yawning, and relaxed non-repetitive talking. The whole experience is cathartic and the person who is in the counselor role has to patiently listen to all of it, nonjudgementally. The counselor will in turn have his/her share of talking it out. The concept of co-counseling has been very popular with oppressed groups (like women, colored races, refugees etc.)
The co-counseling session first starts with a workout of a sad event (if any) and ends with a description of a happy event, so that by the time the co-counseling session is over, the participants disperse happily. In this respect a traditional counseling session and the co-counseling session are both different. In a traditional counseling session there is no work out of a sad event at the beginning of the session. Also there is nothing like a ventilation session wherein emotions like screaming, crying etc are done. The emphasis is more on helping the client solve his problem (if any)
Also there is a strict theoretical approach that is followed when traditional counseling is going on. Such leaning on a theoretical approach is not there in co-counseling. The skills learnt in co-counseling are more short-term, and temporary, and the counseling help given is also chiefly for emotional distressing.
Now the question that arises is whether by being a co-counselor, one can become a counselor or a better counselor. The answer is ‘NO’. The skills needed for both are very different. While co-counseling operates on very simple tools basically hinging on active listening, traditional counseling process needs a counselor to be a skilled helper. Also in traditional counseling process, the emphasis is not on emotional distressing alone.
Co-counseling is particularly relevant in the Indian context in the areas like Tsunami affected regions, in earthquake affected regions like Gujarat wherein trauma has been great, and lot of death and rehabilitation has occurred. Many people still remember the pain and suffering that happened because of Tsunami. They suffer the memories. Such people have to be taken care of, and volunteers who are helping these people affected by Tsunami can be trained in co-counseling techniques. In a country where counseling itself is in its infant stages, co-counseling is still more new. However this form of counseling can be used for the improvement of disaster ridden areas. Also volunteers equipped with this skill can be prepared to face unforeseen disasters;
2. http://ahpweb.org/rowan bibliography/chapter9.html
Contributor: Bharati Rao Pothukuchi, MA. PG Dip(Couns)
Published here on: 09-Sep-07
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