Academic journal article TCA Journal

Seventy Years of Co-Leadership: Where Do We Go from Here?

Academic journal article TCA Journal

Seventy Years of Co-Leadership: Where Do We Go from Here?

Article excerpt

For over seventy years, mental health professionals have employed a modality of therapy that uses more than one counselor with an individual or a group of clients. Although widely discussed in the professional literature and extensively practiced among group leaders, what does the research community of group practitioners know about co-leadership? This paper reviews the literature on coleadership and summarizes the information by advantages and disadvantages of the approach. The paper concludes with recommendations for the future exploration of the effectiveness of co-leadership.

For over seventy years, counselors have used a modality of therapy that employs more than one counselor with an individual or a group of clients. Adler is credited to have first utilized the co-therapy technique in his individual work with children in the Vienna Child Guidance Clinics in the mid-1920's (Seidler & Zilahi, 1930). Originally developed as a teaching and training tool, and later as a method for addressing unique issues in individual sessions (Dick, Lessler, & Whiteside, 1980), the technique was quickly adapted for use with families. Hadden, in 1947, is often cited as the first to publish an article on the application of more than one leader in a group setting. The model of co-therapy has been referred to by many names: co-facilitation, co-leadership, three-cornered interview, multiple therapy, dual leadership, cooperative psychotherapy, and joint interview. While the use of co-therapy in individual therapy has not enjoyed much attention, co-leadership in group work has held an important role in both clinical and training arenas.

Both Roller and Nelson (1991) and Rosenbaum (1983) assert that co-leadership is more widely practiced than most would expect. Yalom (1995) noted that, when given the choice, approximately 90% of group leaders would choose to lead with a co-leader. Friedman (1973), in a survey of 20 third-year psychiatric residents, found that the majority preferred working with a co-therapist. Roller and Nelson (1991) reported the results of a survey of co-leadership practices and found, that of those sampled, about 90% had utilized co-leadership in a group setting, many for over 15 years. Although the actual prevalence of the use of the co-leadership modality may be questioned, its availability to leaders in the field of group work as a leadership option remains a reality. The use and acceptance of co-leadership in groups is intuitive when one considers commonly used training techniques. Many textbooks on the subject of group work actively encourage the use of the co-leadership model and provide various guidelines for harnessing the power of the co-leadership relationship (Berg, Landreth, & Fall, 1998; Corey & Corey, 2002; Kottler, 2001). Through clinical practice and training programs, group workers experience the benefits of co-leadership, as well as the inherent difficulties of collaborating with another individual to enhance the efficacy of the group process.

After over sixty years of implementing the co-leadership modality in groups, what do we really know about co-leadership? For such a widely regarded modality, one would expect a wealth of research and commentary on the pros and cons of the practice. This article provides a review of seventy years of information on the coleadership model with an emphasis on advantages and disadvantages culled from the literature along with recommendations for future inquiry.


The advantages found in the literature comprise three general themes: structural benefits, member benefits, and co-leader benefits.

Structural Benefits

The most obvious advantages of a co-led group are those that are gained by the physical presence of another counselor with whom to collaborate on the logistics of creating and maintaining the group. Greater coverage for intakes, returning telephone inquiries, marketing, and completing paperwork are all benefits of shared leadership. …

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