by Susan S.
During the co-counseling workshop with Lundy Bancroft, I had the opportunity to schedule a telephone session with one of the participants. When I left the workshop, it was a great feeling to know that we'd be connecting a few days later, and could follow up and help each other. But it was also nerve-wracking to know that now I'd be on my own applying the counseling techniques that we had learned. Would I be able to do it? Would I say the wrong thing? Would I be able to tell her what was bothering me?
I needn't have worried. She patiently listened to my grief over the death of my father, but it was different than any conversation I've ever had with a friend. I wasn't interrupted. I wasn't given advice. I wasn't told to "get over it" or to "let him go." Instead, I was given validation and complete attention. My opinions and feelings mattered, and I was allowed and even encouraged to cry. It was more than I had even hoped for.
We hung up the phone to take a break between sessions, and I felt like the weight of the world had been lifted from my shoulders. The sadness wasn't gone, but it was now manageable -- and, more importantly, it was now shared. I wasn't alone. And she wasn't alone.
When I called her back, I let her know how much better I felt and how much I appreciated her for listening without judgment. "I feel better, too," she said. "And I really liked knowing that I'd get a call from you later." And we switched roles and I played counselor while she played the role of client. I listened carefully and also tried to show her that I heard her and understood. By the end of the call, we had each other laughing.
I couldn't be happier about the exchange, and I look forward to our next scheduled call. The experience was far more than a therapy session, and far more supportive than a talk with a friend. Co-counseling is therapy and companionship in one. And, as co-counseling teaches, how can true healing occur without both?