Suggestions for Exercises
for Fundamentals Training and Other Co-Counselling Workshops
1978, revised edition 1998
The best activities are those you devise on the spot to meet the
emergent needs of the situation. The following list is just to stimulate the
See also my:
- Co-counsel with your assistant teacher before the class and split the
class time between the teacher and the assistant teacher allocating different
functions to each. Co-counsel after each class.
- When the teacher is restimulated get a class member to counsel the
- Discharge in class on "Being a good teacher". Generally it helps
greatly when the teacher discharges in class.
- Keep Fundamentals Classes moving: lots of circles, mini-sessions,
moving about. Have light, humorous, cheerful sessions.
- Having a few experienced co-counsellors in a Fundamentals Class,
helps beginners move along faster
- The way co-teachers relate to each other has an important impact as a
model in a Fundamentals Class.
- Write up what happened in the class, how the design developed, after
the class, plus ideas for next week.
- Each one reach one: when a class member brings a beginner, get the
member to introduce the beginner (name, where do you live, what is your
occupation, how did you hear of co-counselling, what are your expectations for
the class, what do you like about yourself, what good things have happened to
you recently, etc); then get members to say in turn what co-counselling means
to them, the gains and benefits they have derived from it - theory will come
tumbling out. Have a mini-session of validation of each other.
- As a form of the good and new opening circle, have each member bring
into class an artifact of their own making and display before the group.
- Ask "How is your co-counselling going?" in Fundamentals Classes
always. Probe for snags, difficulties, problems, doubts about theory and
technique. Counsel with class members on these. Ask also for gains and benefits
from regular co-counselling. Enquire about new, sensitive areas that have been
opened up, directions that have been offered or discovered and found helpful.
- For embarrassment: have a mini-session in which members take turns to
whisper "dark secrets" about themselves to each other.
- Rational action project: get each member of the class to set himself
a realistic practical goal for himself for the coming week. Have a mini-session
on the material blocking the realisation of that project. Disclose to the whole
group the direction that emerges from the mini-session. At next week's class
review what happened to the project.
- Triad: one counsellor supports the client, another counsellor menaces
the client and the client discharges.
- Triad: each takes 10 minutes as client with one counsellor and one
observer. Then a 5 minute feedback discussion by client, counsellor and
observer. Each takes each role, so 45 minutes for the whole exercise.
- Mini-session on self-validation: the counsellor reports back to the
group what seems special about the client from the latter's self-validation.
- Use random selection sometimes for co-counselling pairs in a
- Concentrate a lot on validation in the beginning of a Fundamentals
Class series. Have four embraces for each person from other class members at
the start of each class. Love your students to facilitate their learning.
- Have class members discharge on their reluctance to ring up people
for extra between-class co-counselling sessions. Exercise: go round the group
"dialing up" members who reply either "yes or "no" and the client discharges
- Mini-session on the topic "Where, oh where has my free attention
- If you as teacher are shut down, teach the class light techniques and
have them use them on you.
- Mini-session: have client and counsellor alternate a direction back
and forth between each other, to elicit mutual restimulation material. For
example such a direction as "I can trust you".
- The teacher demonstrates with a client before the class how not to
- Project: teach class members light techniques, then ask them to go
out into the world and use the light techniques on someone. Report back the
following week on what happened.
- For counselling the client on experiences of surgery: get emotional
discharge off first; have client repeatedly recount everything before and after
operation, gradually closing in on the occluded period; then have client
recount a fantasy however bizarre about the occluded material, and go over and
over the fantasy until the yawns come off.
- For counselling the client reluctant to discharge fear: let the fear
come off after laughter; have the client say in a foolish baby voice "Dooh I'm
scared" with a shiver (show him how); have client say over and over again "I'm
frightened" until boredom drives him to face discharge.
- Be aware of the distinction between real anger - which comes off as
quick, energetic righteous indignation - and pseudo-anger which is a fear-based
rehearsal of violence episodes (loud and raucous banging about, playing the
other end of the recording, i.e. the aggressor's explicit or tacit behaviour).
Anger is not easy to get at; covered by real fear and real grief; a lot of
laughter, shaking, tears have to come off first.
- For counselling the client on false guilt: have the client say
proudly "I'm responsible for causing distress to those I love" then into
discharge. False guilt is holding oneself responsible for blame imposed by
others. It comes away in laughter, trembling, tears, etc.
- Simulated tickling: leads to discharge. But only approach the client
as if to tickle; don't impose a further intrusion. A lot of tickling of the
child is intrusive.
- Light level work: is important to get attention out for the heavily
distressed. But you've got to be flip to hit the light techniques well. (The
heavily chronically distressed person needs a 24 hour programme as well as
counselling; he needs to be kept occupied between sessions).
- Coming off tranquillisers: the client may need a week of continuous
counselling while the fear comes off.
- Think and Listen: in groups of four or five, each person takes turns
(from 5 minutes to 30 minutes each) to think out loud on frontier issues in his
own reflections on any topic under the sun. The others make no comment or
intervention but give complete thoughtful attention. The client has a chance to
push the frontiers of his usual thinking forward.
- Contradict overt patterns such as postural patterns, smoking, etc. A
simple thing for class members do to.
- Creativity night: have members play guitar, read poetry, bring and
share some form of self-expression.
- Approval stool: have client stand on a stool to be validated by all
the other class members.
- For aches and pains: massage in dyads or from whole group, take
pressure up to the threshold of pain and encourage client to let discharge come
- If you see one person getting away from you, getting shut down, try
to reach him with a change of technique, activity or strategy.
- Daily goal setting: what is it I want to accomplish today?
- Name games: sing your name; sing your nickname from childhood; cheer
your nickname "ra ra ra Tiddlum".
- Say "Whoopee" at each other in the middle of a sentence.
- Keep news and goods going round opening circle until everyone has
- Contradict your pattern in movement and gesture in front of the
- Play the counterpartal pattern, the other end of the record, in front
of the group: e.g. authority figure and timid person are
- Mini-session: each says to the other "I see it's been a great day"
- Say "Zest" three times loudly with arms outstretched.
- Two objects: teacher has two objects, starts them off simultaneously,
one going round circle to right, one going round circle to left.
- Teacher hands object to next person A.
- Teacher: "This is a pain".
- A: "A what?" Teacher: "A pain".
- A: "Oh".
- A then takes the object and offers it to the next person using
the same dialogue.
- Teacher starts object in other direction immediately saying "This
is a hurt", etc.
- High discharge when objects cross over at opposite side of
- Each object goes round the whole circle and back to the teacher.
- Demonstration then mini-session: contradict physical controls (e.g.
open mouth wide, slurp and blubber, take shirt off, dance the jitters).
- Mini-session: to break up nodding controls, nod opposite ways at each
other, i.e. one up and down, the other sideways.
- Validating circle: non verbal communication of affection by touching
and looking at the client in the middle in a validating way. Use circles of 5
or 6 with each member in middle for about 4 minutes.
- Threefold milling: have everyone in the class simultaneously singing,
moving and hugging, with each person continuously varying each each of these
- Mini-session on toilet training: client squats on floor as if on
potty. Counsellor uses phrases like "What have you made for mummy?", "Clever
- Mini-session on pram life: client lies on back on floor as if in
pram. Counsellor looks into pram using phrases like "Cooee".
- Client stands before the group and sings the old song:
papa, to me he was so wonderful
Oh my papa, to me he was so good
are the days when he would take me on his knee
And with a smile he'd change
my tears to laughter
Oh my papa, to me he was so wonderful
Oh my papa,
to me he was so good.
- To overcome speech as a control: where client is stuck on the
recording and can't get at the underlying feeling, say to him "Don't say it,
just make a noise that expresses what is really there."
- Male sandwich triad: two men holding a third man, all hold on to each
other and talk about "big boy" material. Female sandwich triads on "nice girl"
- Quasi-validations: in a circle where an apparent validation is given
(which in fact is invalidating). Get other members to imitate the
quasi-validation so that the speaker can see it for what it is. Get speaker to
practise an authentic validation.
- Mini-session: on the complete validation of other people in one's
- Mini-session on choosing: prior to choosing co-counselling partners
for out-of-class co-counselling, or if choosing within class gets heavy. Talk
over material about choosing and being chosen.
- Validation cards: each person writes a validation card for another
person who takes it home and sticks it on to a mirror which is used daily.
- Lift and rock: to validate someone who needs it badly.
- Mini-session on embarrassment: whisper to your counsellor those
things about yourself which if he knew about he would terminate the
relationship. Start with the lighter horrors ("I drool in my sleep") and move
on to heavier material. End up with secrets that are really hard to tell.
- Mini-session on alternating direction: "I'm in charge" back and forth
between partners. Or "I'm in charge. No you're in charge" back and forth.
- Spilling out before the group: review the past week or the past six
months without editing, in front of the whole class. Very rapid and spontaneous
outpouring, stream of consciousness verbalisation. Let it all spill out without
- Heads on stomachs: form a pattern on the floor, everyone lying down
at right angles to someone else, with head on the other's stomach.
- Whisper appreciations of and to the next person, who then says it
about himself aloud to the group.
- Validation of a distressed or shut down person by everyone.
- Choosing co-counsellors: raise the issue on the second week of an
on-going class. Mini-session as above an choosing and being chosen. Some
teachers assign co-counselling pairs. Others get class members to choose their
own partners. Change counsellors around regularly; encourage people to change
weekly; have some changing and some steady partners.
- Discharge circles: of 4, 5 or 6 persons, each member takes it in turn
to spend some minutes in the middle of the circle, the others linking arms. The
one in the middle turns to each of the circle and uses the same direction to
each. The following directions can be used: "You really love me", "It's only
fear that separates us", "Sex", "Together, you and I", "I like your body",
"Hold me, I need your love", etc.
- Members demonstrate to each other in pairs how they like to be hugged
and how they don't like to be hugged.
- Get people to say how much they like their co-counselling partners.
- Boast before the group about behaviours of which you are ashamed.
- Remember and/or imagine the way that someone who loves you talks
about you, and role play them saying it all in front of the group.
- Write down a goal or secret, mix up cards and share them out among
group members (no one gets their own card). In front of group read out the card
and say how you think the author would reach the goal or feel about holding in
- Each pins on a card saying how he would like to be validated. Members
validate each other in these ways.
- Regression session: plan class round childhood experiences. Use
nicknames, play games, use child-like speech and thought; create a group
- Validation circle: think of a validation you would most like to hear,
first choose someone you would like to have say it to you, then have whole
group say it at once.
- Say "I'm the greatest ever" with knees bent slightly before group and
find where you are holding tension; have the group tell you where they see
tension in your body.
- Crisis exercise in small groups: you've just been told you have
received a crucial telephone call. What could it be about? What should you do
- Funeral exercise in small group: you are at your own funeral, so give
the speech you would like to hear about yourself.
- Do the new and good opening circle in baby talk.
- Walking validation: let members take it in turns to walk around the
room before the group in a totally proud and self-appreciative way.
- Polar milling: have members mill around overtly avoiding and
recoiling from each other. Then switch to making real contact with each other.
- Mini-session on many positions: client holds a direction sitting,
standing, lying, upside down, in a corner, etc.
- Back-lift dyads: interlock elbows, lifter bends knees, liftee places
behind in small of lifter's back. Liftee is raised and lies relaxed and
spreadeagled on horizontal back of lifter. Liftee shouts out "Me!" several
times and discharges.
- Knee-support dyads: client lies on his back over horizontal thigh of
partner who has other knee on the floor. Client shouts out "Me!" several times
- Become one of your best friends appreciating you in front of the
- St Peter's Gate mini-session: recount all your successes and positive
achievements throughout your life.
- Mini-session on your conception: describe in detail your parents
making love when they conceived you. Be realistic and sincere but as validating
of them as possible.
- Mirror validation: validate yourself in front of a full length mirror
before the class.
- Mini-session on childhood glossolalia: the client spends some minutes
in pre-linguistic "speech" - the sounds a child makes who is on the verge of
forming real sentences. "Ecstatic" nonsense. Imagine yourself having a
pre-literate view of the world and expressing your wonderment in sounds.
- Write on a card a negative thing you feel about yourself. Mix all the
cards and have each person give a positive direction for the card he receives.
- Write a letter to your father or mother and then read it aloud in the
- Relate happy experiences in childhood in a childlike voice and in
- Melting-in dyads: counsellor says "Welcome home", holding client in
warm close embrace. Client relaxes, sighs, luxuriates in the human warmth.
- Mini-session on interface directions: directions on the interface
between the personal and the transpersonal. Such as: "I am", "I am that I am",
"I and thou", "Our reality is in our relating", "I am human", "My potential is
unbounded", "Forever", "You and I in present time", "Now", and so on.
- Loosening up: jump and shout; gyrate the hips in full circle; shake a
violent dog off one leg with loud noises, then shake it off the other leg;
tremble and shake all over, flicking and shaking the hands rapidly; take big
gasping breaths and shout "Oh!" on each out-breath; stamp the floor violently,
shake both fists and shout "No!" And so on.
- Name calling in a circle: each person says his name three times,
first time in normal voice, second time louder, third time as loud as possible
combined with a floor stamping tantrum.
- Laughing dyads: client takes a few minutes starting with very hearty
artificial laugh, goes into real laugh, when this dries up straight back into
hearty artificial laugh and so on. Counsellor laughs freely.
- Acting into fear: have everyone stand free in the room with eyes
closed, and act into fear discharge, trembling hands, arms, shoulders, side to
side tremble of head, lips, chattering of jaws, light quaking tremble of knees,
increase breathing rate and make sounds on out-breath. Repeat this cycle about
five times with pauses in between. Watch for those who slip into real discharge
of tears, trembling, etc.
- Mini-session on chronological scanning: review a portion of one of
the following: sexual experiences, physical violence (as victim and as
aggressor), food experiences, "God" material, times I was rejected, times I
rejected, times I was befriended, times I helped others, guilt experiences,
shame experiences, separation/loss experiences, being mocked experiences,
illnesses and accidents, intensely loving experiences, frustration experiences,
my successes, and so on and so on. Positive experiences are of course lighter
than negative experiences.
- Mini-session on bodily self-validation: the client validates the
various parts, organs and processes of his physical body, e.g. "I have fine
white bones", "I have rich warm blood", "My heart is strong and vigorous", etc.
- Direction-holding: the basic tool against patterns. Counter-pattern
direction is like a tangent to a curve, it counters rigidity at one point; it
loses its effectiveness after some long time. Then move on to another point
with another direction. Some directions are curves in themselves, tangents at
every point, e.g. "All is well", "I will live from this point on as if I were
completely rational". The best direction is outside both ends of the pattern;
use the other end of the pattern only when that is as far as the client can go.
- Contradiction: complete self-appreciation contradicts negative
material in what is said, tone of voice, facial expression, gesture and
posture. Contradiction can be used in all kinds of subtle in-between and
partial ways to elicit discharge, if the client is too shut-down to take on
complete self-appreciation. Such partial contradictions may be effective in
getting discharge off.
- The client grossly exaggerates the negativity of the recording in
all four ways.
- The client keeps to the negative content of what is said but says
it happily, gaily, boastfully, with a "Whoopee" etc.
- The client uses a positive verbal direction but says it with an
exaggerated negative tone of voice, facial expression, gesture and posture.
- Full self-appreciation.
- Mini-session on thumb: client sucks thumb as if about two years old;
counsellor uses phrases that express invalidating concern e.g. "I wonder if he
really is going to learn to talk properly?", "Do you think his legs will
straighten out?", "You're too big to do babyish things like that", etc.
- Celebrate: appreciate your basic human capacities for loving and
being loved, for understanding and being understood, for being self-determining
and for co-operating with others - not for discharge, but for confident, joyful
- To recover power, work on powerlessness. Deal with a "powerless"
- Describing it and discharging on it.
- Telling it as though you had power to handle it successfully.
- Imagining you are a hero(ine) and telling what you would have
done in the situation.
- Telling it as though there were helpful figures present, whom you
trust, supporting you.
- To recover power, work on powerlessness. Deal with the total
childhood situation that has given rise to present feelings of powerlessness
and inadequacies: by describing what your childhood would have been like if you
had been a happy, confident, distress-free child supported by mature, wise,
loving parents; or by describing how as a strong, confident child you would
have made your parents behave (your counsellor can act the parent whom you are
thus taking charge of).
- Relationship counselling. A counsellor works with two people who are
in mutual restimulation. The counsellor works with each in turn using these
kinds of intervention:
- "What do you really like about him?"
- "What is it here and now about him that restimulates you?" ...
- "What does that remind you of?"
- "How would you like him to be different?" ....
- "What would you like him to say or do?"
- "What does that remind you of?" ....
- "What's the thought?" Counsellor works with any hidden
projections that surface ....
- "Can you describe to me now the real him, what he distinctively
and truly is?"
- To work with confrontation and conflict. Use one or more of the
- Identification check and/or relationship counselling.
- Discharge on positive directions about each other in each other's
- Ritualise the conflict in symbolic aggression such as Yes-No
shouting, back to back pushing with Yes-No shouting, each knifing a box
shouting "I want to kill you", etc.
- Role reversal.
- Sharing and swapping what I think you think of me.
- Rogerian synergy - repeat what the other says to the other's
satisfaction before replying.
- Build rational contracts and confront those who later unawarely
- Raise consciousness about the widespread phenomena of unaware
dumping of distress.
- Work on cultural distress-scripts, on restrictions and oppression
writ large throughout our society. Identify and discharge on pervasive negative
scripts about children, old people, women, men, racial minorities, the
handicapped, socio-economic classes, the third world, other nations and
cultures, religious groups, the transpersonal. Set goals and action-plan to
interrupt these scripts in your own behaviour and in the social world at large,
- Regression by reverie: See Co-Counselling Teachers' Manual:
Explanation of basic working techniques:
Regression by reverie
- Birth work: See Co-Counselling Teachers' Manual: Group Work:
- Body work: See Co-Counselling Teachers' Manual: Group Work:
Body work also
Active Body Work and
Passive Body Work.
- Transpersonal co-counselling. See Co-Counselling Manual:
Copyright John Heron, November 1998
South Pacific Centre for
11 Bald Hill Road, R.D.1 Kaukapakapa, Auckland 1250, New