Clients attending their first therapy session commonly hope to obtain relief from some chronic negative feeling state, and/or to deal with pressing life problems. Co-counsellors using a reciprocal relationship may have the same motives or they may be awarely seeking new goals: wanting further education rather than therapy. Regardless of the client's initial motivation, Pattern breaking belongs with therapeutic rather than educational techniques. With regard to their abilities to function in their lives co-counsellors may be starting at different points to therapy clients, but both groups will need to break Patterns to achieve major changes.
The possible changes experienced by clients during therapy can be viewed in terms of a spectrum:
(I) Emotional first aid
(II) Problem solving
(III) Personality change
(IV) Social liberation/Spiritual openness.
Movement from (I) to (IV) corresponds to gaining increasing amounts of free attention and ability to think and act outside Patterns. Each stage represents a growth area, though in practice the areas overlap. Moreover, as further areas of distress are opened up, there can be recycling from later stages back to earlier ones.
Clients with distresses and problems dominating their lives clearly start work at stages I and II. However, even when motivation to co-counsel arises from a stage III or IV issue, the clients will need experience of stages I and II in order to learn the techniques, and to start identifying their chronic Patterns, a necessity for work in stages III and IV.
A client's progress will depend upon their starting point and on their motivation to continue; many clients will be satisfied with having dealt with the immediate crisis situations, and stop there. Such clients are likely to have leaned some new attitudes and skills, though perhaps few in number. The longer the counselling process is continued the more likely it is that skills used in co-counselling sessions will be internalised, and used in everyday life.
Emotional first aid
The major work at this stage involves recovering the natural ability to discharge. When a client arrives at a session distressed, the provision of the safety contract and the counsellor's attention may be all that is needed for the client to discharge. After discharge the client experiences relief from the negative feelings, often involving dramatic shifts to relaxed positive feelings and appearance.
These shifts in feelings are often accompanied by re-evaluation phenomena--recovery of memories previously buried in distress, re-interpretation of problems, new ideas for actions. Such re-evaluations facilitate interruption of Patterns in everyday life. If work continues the interruption of Patterns becomes more frequent and sure.
Where immediate distress is deep and takes over the client's whole life, then there is encouragement to spend many hours/days discharging. Otherwise the client is encouraged to spend session time unloading distress from everyday upsets--feeling better about life in general, and stopping any further build-up of distresses and Patterns.
Thus the first important learning is that discharge is a route out of distress, with the post-discharge state being enjoyable and conducive to clear thinking. The client learns to discharge in all modes with facility, both in counselling sessions and, when appropriate, in the rest of life.
Most clients have Patterns which inhibit discharge and such control Patterns have to be tackled first. Thus many women find anger discharge difficult, many men find crying impossible--whilst for both men and women shaking and shivering are often inhibited. As facility in discharge is gained there will also be a substantial increase in laughter and yawning, both in and out of sessions.
Learning to use discharge to escape from your own distresses goes along with an enhanced judgement of when self or others are in distress; the acceptance of a wide range of emotional expression as being desirable, not indicative of craziness or lack of control; the experience of warm supportive human relationships as being normal; and the experience of hope and empowerment.
This stage evolves naturally from emotional relief as spontaneous re-evaluation occurs. However, problem solving can also be deliberately engaged in when the client has some facility in discharge. The client is likely to focus on decisions to be made, and on being competent in particular situations, e.g. whether or not to get a new job, how to handle an important interview, or the process of obtaining a divorce.
At this stage, after discharge work in their sessions, clients will start to use Target Practice techniques to enhance Pattern disruption in their lives. A useful technique is role-playing a difficult future situation, including restimulating Patterns and then practising interrupting them. Progress will be shown by clients being able to describe changes in their feelings and behaviour in particular situations, corresponding to the breaking of the Patterns. Also the foundations are laid for more far reaching changes.
Skills learned in the counsellor role become available for use in client role. Practice in deliberate switching between positive and negative feelings states, along with the client making suggestions to him/herself, results in a part of the person's consciousness becoming organised as a "director" of other parts.
Figure 10: The change process in therapy
This director will monitor feelings and behaviour and initiate Attention Switching or Discharge as appropriate. This is like having an Inner Counsellor, who remains detached from the turmoil of the person's feelings and can intervene to change what is happening.
This Inner Counsellor transfers to life outside sessions, with individuals increasingly able to retain some free attention when highly distressed, and able to choose not to go along with Patterns.
Progress with an immediate problem in sessions will lead to the underlying Patterns becoming clearer and sometimes this will be accompanied by a change in type of discharge; fear or grief may underlie anger. Furthermore outside sessions people typically experience their feelings as more sharply focused, more intense, but lasting for shorter periods. For example tendencies to depressive feelings may be replaced by anger focused on particular events or people; anxiety may by replaced by sharply focused fears.
Scheff  has demonstrated this effect on emotional arousal by analysing video recordings of therapy sessions with many short-lived anger episodes. He found that without discharge the emotional arousal produced by an anger episode declined slowly, leading to a build up when the next episode occurred before complete fading. In contrast, after the client had discharged, the emotional arousal had a sharper decline and lasted a much shorter period in total.
Clients move from tackling particular problems to attempting to interrupt the Patterns in particular areas of their life such as sexuality, or relationships, or becoming more effective at work. As skills develop and change occurs in relation to particular distresses, underlying Patterns become clearer and accessible for work, including eventually chronic Patterns.
Personality change requires the breaking of chronic Patterns, i.e. those in continuous restimulation. Jackins uses the image of Patterns as parasitic on the person, but chronic Patterns appear to the client as "My personality," or "How the world is." Working on chronic Patterns can feel like trying to cut off an arm or leg, and many people stop co-counselling at this point. Such chronic Patterns are tackled by a combination of intensive contracts and major use of Direction-holding in sessions, and aware use of Directions when restimulated in life at large.
Specific personality changes will depend upon the Patterns worked on. General changes are that people experience an enhanced sense of self-worth, and an increased ability to take charge of their own lives. Assertive behaviour increases and apologetic or aggressive responses to others decrease. Inner Counsellors gain in strengths and expertise. Sometimes clients experience leaps and bounds in their life changes, at other times making changes will be slow and hard work, inside and outside sessions.
The need for an intensive contract puts a premium on counsellor skills, and RC has devoted much attention to improving counsellor skills, including developing methods of coaching counsellors.
It is usual for there to be a complex of Patterns which are interwoven. The 'expecting to be judged and found inadequate' is a chronic Pattern that often goes along with compulsive negative judgements of others. Such Patterns may be supported by an inability to ask for what is wanted from others, by difficulty in making choices, by feeling something disasterous has been said or done. Progress with such a complex will go along with one Direction losing its power and another being needed to continue progress.
One type of Pattern complex has been described as the 'two ends of the Pattern' or 'the two sides of the record.' These phrases describe the experiences of Patterns--like a seesaw only one end can be on top, but the ends can swop positions.
Someone may wish to live a more healthy life but find it impossible to stick to what they decide to do to achieve this. What is happening is that the person's rational choice is taken over by top-dog Patterns saying "I should/must/ought to do these things to look after myself." These Patterns, however, activate the alternate under-dog Patterns saying "I shan't/won't/can't do these things." In life and in sessions the person bounces between the two, not succeeding in discharging either.
Successful contradiction of such paired Patterns is achieved by using self-appreciative Directions like, "I'm worth looking after." Unless Discharge can be established, clients can think they are changing, but in reality they are only pushing the seesaw up and down.
Such paired complexes underlie oppressive Patterns. They are the reason that most political revolutions only succeed in changing the group in power. To change the nature of society requires parallel personality changes through breaking of chronic Patterns. Breaking key chronic Patterns enables people to move into the transpersonal area.
This area covers Social Liberation and Spiritual openness: they are both ways in which a client interacts with issues transcending individuality. For instance, having gained a measure of freedom from his/her own chronic Patterns, the client can grasp the interactions of individual patterns and social oppressions. Although Patterns are owned by individuals they also express an unaware collective consciousness. Work on collective Patterns is done in groups who share the same experiences in society. Such work needs members of other groups to act as allies, able to stand outside and provide a collective Balance of Attention.
Breaking chronic Patterns becomes focused on acting in the world as in the use of Commitment techniques. Within sessions, Directions which express a commitment to act outside sessions are used. Outside sessions the person acts in ways that simultaneously go against their own Patterns, and against the oppressive Patterns of others.
Thus action in the world becomes a crucial therapeutic technique without which complete re-emergence of the person from their Patterns cannot occur. Many co-counsellors are active in this type of action in local government and commercial organisations and the political sphere; there are case histories in RC literature, [e.g. Present Time, January 1986, p. 5].
Alternatively Stage IV can involve clients in spiritual growth. Experiences of altered states of consciousness encourage clients to work in transpersonal areas [e.g. Present Time, January 1986, p. 54]. John Heron includes a transpersonal self as part of his model of being human, and his 1974 co-counselling manual included transpersonal direction-holding as a further-on technique. He continues to be active in developing exercises on transpersonal themes suitable for co-counselling work (1984).
This however raises the question, "Is the pattern-breaking framework of co-counselling really appropriate for transpersonal work?"
John Rowan  in his book on the transpersonal in therapy, argues for a Wilbur-style develpmental picture. In this view an individual needs to become integrated as a person before they can move into transpersonal experience. At this integrated stage of development, the person's boundaries are sharply defined. Transpersonal experience means transcending the boundaries between the individual and the universe--loosening both awareness of, and attachment to, the self.
Putting this into co-counselling language, such a model might suggest that the rational person equates to the integrated person stage. If Pattern-breaking produces the rational person, then the implication is that other techniques will be needed to transcend this.
Certainly Rowan, outside co-counselling, and Heron and others inside co-counselling, consider that co-counselling transpersonal work is limited, and needs supplementing with such practices as meditation.
From our personal experience we would question the implication of the limits of co-counselling. We do not equate the rational person model with a stage of personal growth. The rational person is what we are capable of becoming outside our Patterns, and thus it continues to grow as we break more and more Patterns.
The integrated stage seems to us to correspond to the beginning of Personality change, when the individual is able to accept the different aspects of their personality. This means accepting their chronic Patterns are part of themselves, not constituting isolated subpersonalities, accepting not denying what Jung called The Shadow.
In terms of experience, breaking chronic Patterns corresponds to the reduction of patterned needs, to acting smartly without having to worry or 'think' about it. Also to acting with others' needs as part of the information used to make decisions, but without compulsively putting them first.
Overall this seems to involve increases in the experience of flow--of external demands being matched by accurate actions, without extended internal conversations. Paralleling this is an extended viewpoint, less focussed on 'just me' and more on 'just here and now.'
Go to Case example.
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