Alexander Duffield Counselling & Coaching Bromley & Pimlico, London and Sevenoaks, Kent

What is a Support Circle for Counsellors?

Many therapists work independently or for a number of different organisations, often in different roles. Due to the requirement for supervision most are well supported clinically. However, I have found that it is more difficult to get high quality and structured support for the self-management which is equally essential in setting up and running a private practice or managing 'portfolio' work.

Support Circles are a structured form of peer support for therapists. They consist of between 4 and 8 people and meet regularly every 4 to 8 weeks depending on the size of the group.

I am currently setting up a Support Circle in Pimlico, London meeting regularly on Mondays 9am to 11.30am at a cost of £40 per session.



Action learning

Support Cirlces use a peer group coaching process called 'Action Learning', originally developed by Reg Revans. This is a very effective way to ‘attack real problems, preferably ill-defined, or fertile opportunities, howsoever remote’.*

Revans felt strongly that teaching theory was not enough, it was how it was put into practice that mattered. He emphasised the importance of the ‘questioning insight’ of others to do this successfully:

Action Learning = (Ideas + Actions) x (Questions + Insight)

Individual 🔄 Group


Each member has opportunities to present what they are working on and benefit from the insight of the other members. In addition, it is not just the 'presenter' who benefits, the other 'participants' learn as much about the action learning process and often take away valuable insights which help them with their own projects.

Support Circles for Counsellors. AL4standing


What happens in a Support Circle?

Members of the circle take it in turns to present a problem. The other group members then help the ‘presenter’ to further their thinking through a process of selfless and insightful questioning. Through this process the group members:

‘Explore what they cannot see around them as well as what they imagine they can, and in this vital mapping of their own ignorance they are encouraged by their colleagues in the set.

The essence of action learning is to pose increasingly insightful questions from an origin of ignorance, risk and confusion.'*


Each presenter then sets their own goals to work on before the next meeting usually in about 2 months time. Therefore, the individual retains ownership and responsibility for the problem and their actions to address it. The facilitator makes sure that the presenter is getting what (s)he wants from the group, keeps the ‘set’ on task, on time and to agreed rules such as confidentiality. Sets meet for an agreed period, often 9 to 12 months. At the end the group might decide to continue meeting without a facilitator.

If you are interested in joining an Action Learning Set please send me an email giving your contact details, a bit about the problem you would like to tackle and your availability.

Support Circles for Counsellors. ALsmiling2


* Revans, Reg: ‘ABC of Action Learning’ (2011)

Counsellor & Coach in Pimlico & Bromley, London & Sevenoaks, Kent
Alexander Duffield Counselling & Coaching

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