When I think back to how supervision was introduced to me, I felt that it was like getting my homework marked, I was being checked to see if I was doing it right – being monitored. Both the counselling and hypnotherapy ethical codes dictate the need for supervision so I have always had it – sometimes it has been good and sometimes it has been not so good, I could probably even go as far as to say, some of it has been awful.
Thinking about the times when I have found it less rewarding, I have to take my share of responsibility during those times I have generally resented the cost, the demands on my time and working with someone I didn’t have a real connection with.
When it has been good, it changed my mind, all of a sudden I had a connection, I looked forward to discussing my client base, increasing my awareness, gaining insight on the work, my practice, myself as a therapist.
That is why for me, as a supervisor, I took a step back and thought, what have I wanted from supervision, what have I liked, not liked. What was it that helped me move away from the feeling that it was a waste of time/money to something very valuable. I have also asked many other therapists, why do you/do you not have supervision? What do you want from supervision and a supervisor?
For those that do have supervision, apart from the obvious, because they have to, there seemed to be a general agreement that it was beneficial. The supervisee reported feeling supported in what can be an isolating environment, it increased confidence, they had the ability to reflect on their work for both professional development and personal development and for some, it fulfilled their desire for continued learning.
For those not engaging in supervision, the reason was often because they hadn’t seen any benefit from it and previously only did it just to get a tick in the box (because they had to). In a lot of cases it was because they didn’t feel they had a connection or any respect for their supervisor. So with this in mind, when training to become a supervisor my aim was to be someone who is genuine, respectful, supportive and knowledgeable, to be able to build the connection so the supervision is really effective. There needs to be a strong working partnership, otherwise the demands on resources, time and cost outweigh the well documented benefits.
And it is a partnership, as I referred to at the start, I have learnt that supervision is not about getting your work “marked”. my role as a supervisor is not to judge or give you a score, that just hinders development and will impact on what you “bring” to supervision. It is not about the “successes” or the “mistakes” or “wrong choices” but a safe place built out of respect to explore choices, think about new ideas, focus on what encourages therapeutic change for particular clients and ensure you get “something” out of your work.
It makes perfect sense for newly qualified therapists to have supervision, so my thoughts have often been, how can I also provide a benefit to those experienced therapists, the therapists that have built up a solid practice and simply, just get on with it. Well, I believe that two heads are better than one, that all clients have a right to the best possible level of care, and supervision means that together, the therapist and supervisor can think carefully about the work they are doing. By its very nature, therapy makes considerable demands on therapists and it can be a lonely business, it can be easy to become over-involved or the opposite, to get into patterns of working the same way and actually overlook the specific needs of the client. It is also important to be stretched and challenged.
In other words, whatever the level of experience, there is a need for supervision. Good therapy requires the therapist to be able to understand the choices behind their interventions and how they address the needs of the client. I work in exactly the same way as a supervisor. I adopt a solution focused approach whereby I ask what you want from the session. What will make the session worthwhile for you, time is precious and I want you to leave feeling you have used your time productively – it might be to reflect on client issues, feeling stuck on where to go next, to talk through ideas, ethical issues, monitoring of self-care, debriefing, managing your business – the list goes on but ultimately it is your time and your session to understand, grow, develop, learn, offload, reduce burnout, reflect, increase confidence, motivation, sense of purpose etc.