How to Teach Beginning Co-Counseling in Jerusalem (or Anywhere Else)

This is an article I wrote for my class for fundamentals teachers, which meets once a month in Jerusalem.

The hardest class to teach in RC is fundamentals. In any other class you are teaching Co-Counselors, which means that everyone is familiar with the theory, accepts the basics, and usually acts accordingly. When teaching new people you must start from the beginning, which usually requires people to make a 180-degree change in their world outlook. In our society people confuse the pattern with the human, and distress with discharge, and discharge is hardly acceptable at all. We Co-Counselors say that every human is good and that irrational behaviour is the result of patterns. We encourage people to feel and discharge their feelings. We bring a message of hope, of possibility for change and of reclaiming our power. This both attracts people and brings up their distresses and feelings of powerlessness.

It is true that counseling comes naturally to people, and most people actually understand it. You can gather the basics of the theory from any group of people—e.g., they may say how good it is to get to know people without masks. People are happy to be listened to well. They appreciate and value it. After this experience they become aware of how little good listening they get in their daily lives. When we create a safe place, people begin to open up, show themselves, and share their pain. Then they just naturally get close to and love, support, and appreciate one another.

The fundamentals teacher is working on several levels simultaneously. RC is both theory and practice, and the two are closely connected. You cannot re-emerge just from knowing the theory; the work has to be done. On the other hand you must understand the theory in order to be a good counselor. Therefore, when teaching RC, both must be included simultaneously. Teaching theory is really the smaller part because people learn from our actions. They learn much less from what is said, just as young people learn values from the behaviour of the adults around them rather than from verbal instructions and explanations. As teachers we must be models for our students—show ourselves, be real. When we have feelings we should acknowledge them, show them, and discharge. This is the most important lesson we can teach.

A lesson should reflect the link between theory and practice. For example, in a certain class of mine we had to make a decision about the class which caused a lot of restimulation, so that day the class focused on the topic of restimulation. Another time a class member, a playwright, was having a play performed. The class discussed being allies and then went to see the play. As fundamentals teachers, we discuss being a counselor, teach the necessary tools, and give people an opportunity to experience and use them.

In addition to teaching counseling, we also think about each individual in the class. A teacher has to get to know and love the people in the class and get close to them in order to reach them. We try to see the distresses of each student and think of the best contradictions for them. The theory might make sense to me, but people are attracted to counseling through experience with it. This is why each student should experience at least one good session. A good session in a fundamentals class does not always look like it does with experienced counselors; in the beginning there are many inhibitions, and discharge may be slow to come, if at all. We should remember that ninety percent of good counseling is paying attention and that to most people this attention is a significant gift.

While we are thinking about each individual, we are also thinking about the entire class. We are making sure that people get to know one another and have fun together as a group (it is good to play a lot, sing together, etc.). We are building a safe place where people feel that they can trust each other and open their hearts. It is good to notice which identity or oppression groups people belong to and which issues preoccupy or are of interest to them. It is important to think of the specific people in the class when planning the lessons.

Teaching fundamentals poses a big challenge to the teacher, the challenge to be her real self. This meeting with ourselves cuts through all our chronic patterns. There is no better road to re-emergence!

Naomi Raz
Jerusalem, Israel

Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07