The ‘hygge’ of co-counselling

Bundle of heartsWith an academic background in Linguistics I have always been fascinated by untranslatable words.   For example, English has ‘nice’: nice day, nice food, nice time, nice person, nice face, nice weather, nice house, nice clothes, nice place… Every ‘native’ English speaker understands the quality of ‘niceness’ but it is very difficult to explain and cannot be translated by one single word.  Something that is ‘nice’ is pleasant and attractive but not exceptionally so.  However ‘nice’ also expresses warmth; a nice person has a warm personality and a nice house is welcoming.  A nice meal has not only good food but, if eaten in company, is convivial.

Conviviality is a key component of the Danish word ‘hygge’.  Hygge expresses environmental cosiness, comfort, welcome and warmth but more than that is “people’s behavior towards each other. It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality, and contentment rolled into one.” ( As I have come to understand hygge (largely through conversations with my colleague Pia Christensen) I have also realised that this is a key component of the CCI co-counselling community.

Co-counselling (co-co) is a system of peer counselling in which “one person listens while the other talks (or “works” in other ways)… the person being client … is in charge of the session and the person being counsellor mainly just gives very good attention.”  (  The co-counselling partners share the time equally between them and take it in turns to be ‘counsellor’ and ‘client’.  However,  this is only the session.  Although the co-counselling session and its skills are the basis of all co-counselling, the true richness of CCI co-counselling lies in the community and the hygge.  The community is dispersed and anarchic with no formal organisation, hierarchy or leadership.   Even without these structures, we manage to organise several residential events each year, of varying lengths for group sizes between 14 and 140 people.

The main purpose of a co-co residential is participate in sessions and workshops to address issues and to learn new techniques.  However, I’ve been attending co-co residentials for at least 25 years and that means that I have come to know a lot of co-counsellors and made many friends along the way.  At a residential we spend a lot of time together: cooking, eating, washing up, hanging out, chatting, playing games, making music… in addition to the ‘official’ activities such as opening circles, workshops or support groups.  Each event is like sinking into a pool of warmth and welcome.  It’s a community in which the question “How are you?” is a request for information rather than a formulaic greeting.  Sometimes the going is tough and there are difficult group or interpersonal issues to work out,  Nevertheless, at the end of the weekend or week I always leave feeling loving and loved as a result of having experienced deep social intimacy.  Coco workshops are often nice but most importantly, they are hyggelig.  When I leave thinking “I need more of this in my life” I know that what I actually need is more hygge.

For more information about CCI co-counselling see

“Bundle of Hearts” image from