Guidelines for co-tutors

As listener

  1. Be relaxed and punctual. Ensure you will be free from interruptions.
  2. Have a pleasant environment to work in – bright, attractive.
  3. Adopt an attitude of full respect for yourself and your colleague. It is best if your attitude is pleasing and accepting, and if this shows on your face it will be even easier for your client.
  4. It is OK to shift around a little and remain comfortable. You may also need to check the time towards the end of the session.
  5. Keep eye contact, even if the speaker does not.
  6. Begin by listening. Assume that your listening, backed by your respect and caring, will be of key significance to your colleague.
  7. Give your full attention. Do not interrupt. Do not judge.
  8. You will gradually learn how to draw your co-tutor out in a permissive way and later to become more active as a tutor.
  9. After a few sessions you can start to ask open questions – questions that leave the speaker free to say exactly how they feel, eg not “I bet that upset you” or “Did you feel angry?” but “What are you feeling?” or “What are you thinking?” Remember all questions must be asked for your colleague not out of your own curiosity. Keep your questions few, to begin with.
  10. Do not offer advice. It is not your job to solve their problems for them. Instead, offer an attitude of trust in your colleague’s ability to think, experiment and problem-solve.
  11. The main thing that gets in the way of listening well is that our feelings get triggered in us as we listen by what is said. Something re-stimulates our own experiences so that, instead of thinking about the person in front of us, we think about ourselves. This may cause us to go blank, panic, get lost in our own feelings. Even when we are very experienced we struggle with this from time to time. Gently remind yourself to put your attention back on your colleague, and, if necessary, stop the session and ask your colleague to give you 5 minutes to think aloud, through what is going on for you until you are ready to do this.
  12. If necessary spend the last few minutes of each session bringing your colleague back to the present by asking them questions or validating them.
  13. Keep the situations and feelings raised by your colleague STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL. Do not refer to what they have said at a later date, nor at the close of the session, as you say goodbye, not even to wish them well with it.


  1. This time is yours to do what you want, eg rest, think aloud, review a particular situation/your work etc.
  2. Start with a focus of “What is going well in my work life?” and “What prevents it going even better?”, rather than “What is wrong?”, “What are the problems?” – and your niggles will come up.
  3. When you start your session, focus on your listener, look at their face, notice they are there. Sometimes it is hard to believe that someone is really there for us – laugh if it feels uncomfortable.
  4. Try to accept that your listener will not interrupt.
  5. If feelings come up and you need to cry, laugh, yawn or shake, this is fine; do it. It is also fine just to talk or to sit in silence for a time.
  6. As you learn what helps you to work through issues for yourself and what does not, note them down and tell your listener. Encourage your listener to note it as well.
  7. Remember listening gets inhibited by our desperation to get listened to.
  8. It may not seem very natural at first – but it works if you spend time and work at it.
  9. Enjoy it!

Please NB – Do not have alcohol in your system whilst working and do not smoke, drink or eat during sessions.

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