Getting the Most Out of Supervison

There is much written about the role of the supervisor and the qualities a good supervisor should have, but there is very little written on the role of the supervisee, what is required of them and how they should prepare.

An important starting point is to think about your attitude towards supervision. Is it simply a tick in a box, a hoop to jump through and an inconvenient waste of time and money?

Or do you see it as a valuable part of your business, an opportunity to gain a different perspective, to grow and develop both as a practitioner and as a business?

If you are like most practitioners, your view of supervision is most likely based on your previous experiences. Think about the supervision you have already had, formal or informal, face to face or in a group. What memories, thoughts, or feelings come to mind?

Think about a time during supervision (or during training) where you felt really supported, where it felt valuable. How did this come about? What part did the supervisor play and what part did you play?

What about a time in supervision where things did not go as planned. How did it affect your confidence, your practice? How did it come about, what part did your supervisor play and what part did you play?

In hindsight, what would you have done differently. What could you have done differently?

And if you’ve never had supervision, what are you basing your beliefs on? Have you been put of by stories from others, or is it simply the baggage that the word, “Supervision” conjures up?

If your view of supervision is anything other than “a valuable part of your business”, then chances are that either your attitude (or your current supervisor’s attitude) towards supervision is off the mark.

My personal view is that the title, “Supervisor”, is a big part of the problem. It implies a relationship with an unequal balance of power, skills or knowledge. Something that you would “grow out of” as you gain experience.

Of course, part of the supervisory relationship is about helping you to be the best therapist you can be. After all, in the therapy room we are dealing with real people and their problems. People are paying for our help, our expertise, our knowledge, and it’s not only our ethical duty to give them our best service, but it’s also good for word of mouth business.

But far from being an exercise in having your “homework marked”, having formal supervision can very often be an invaluable way to reflect on your work and business away from the demands of your working environment.

Not only does develop your skills, knowledge and enhance your understanding of your own practice, it can also be a useful way to step back and focus on developing and growing your business and ensuring that you aren’t succumbing to burnout.

So, to get the very best value from supervision, you need to think of it more like a meeting with a business angel or mentor and do three things:

1) Prepare for the session in advance

Supervision can help you shape the your client relationships, your practice, your career, your financial success. It is therefore deserves the same (or greater) level of consideration and thought as planning for a client session.

It’s also important to realise that whilst a supervisor might feel responsible for maintaining a healthy relationship, keeping the session on track and maintaining time boundaries they are not responsible for deciding the content of the session or directing it.

So just as we expect clients to give us an outline of their problem, needs and desired outcome, a good supervisor will expect you to state what the want from the session.

Each session can be different. Sometimes you’ll want support with a client or advice on an ethical dilemma. Sometimes you’ll want to come away with a strategy or clear plan of action for marketing your practice. Sometime’s you’ll want to look at internal doubts or reactions when faced with difficulties or lack of progress with a client.

So it is not as simple as turning up and saying, “I want to discuss this client” – you also need to think about why you want to discuss the client, and what you hope to get from it.

Only by taking the time to decide and prioritise what is going to be discussed in advance will you know if your supervision session has been successful and valuable.

2) Be active and engaged during the session

When you approach supervision like a meeting of equals, you can allow yourself to be active and engaged in the session rather than passive or remote. After all, you are responsible for your practice, and it is your time to work out how you can work to your highest potential.

Using a professional supervisor one-to-one can give you the added security of knowing you are not going to be judged or left feeling inferior. This means you have the power to decide what is important to discuss in the session, what practice issues are to be explored.

So be open, communicate, give honest feedback, don’t hide problems, embrace strengths, be positive, and remember that neither party is ‘better’ or more ‘important’ than any other.

When the relationship is balanced like that, great work can happen.

3) Reflect on the session afterwards.

Finally it is important to review or reflect on the supervision session afterwards: what you learnt, your reactions, and how well were your outcomes met.

Did you plan well enough? Were you active and engaged? Did you take too little or too much to the session? Take some time to think about what could be done to make the next session even more effective.

Thinking back over the last few sessions, what patterns are emerging that you consider strengths in your practice? What patterns are emerging that you consider development needs in your practice? What can you do or bring to your next session to create that development?

You see, supervision is more than just thinking about the clients or sessions, it takes time and effort, but on the plus side, can lead to improvements in practice, client care and risk management, not to mention the success of your practice.

Remember that reflecting, planning, being assertive, trusting your knowledge and ability and using empowering language are skills you already use in clinical practice. And when you transfer and use them in your supervision sessions, you’ll not only get the most from your sessions, but you’ll find you enjoy supervision, and you’ll come away feeling motivated and empowered.

That’s when supervision stops being a box ticking exercise and transforms into a valuable part of your practice as a hypnotherapist.