Exploring Supervision

The following themes were offered for reflection:

Who supervises?

Does supervision require that the Supervisor shares the model in use of the supervisee?

Is there a limit to the length of engagement with a Supervisor or supervisee?

What makes supervision effective and ineffective – what is best practice for us

Two papers/extracts from journals etc. were shared: “Models of Clinical Supervision: Current Approaches within an Historical Context (believed to be from the BACP members’ site concerning supervision) and one of many maps of competences for Supervisors. Such maps makes one wonder who indeed can supervise since the level of maturity laid out might easily be felt to be beyond the competence of many a person reviewing the bandwidth of skills let alone knowledge. However, the consensus of the group was weighted towards the enabling role of the Supervisor of the development of the supervisee. The respect therefore of the current developmental phase of the supervisee has to be known and that knowledge enables approaches that matche that phase. The work of Skovholt and Ronnestadt and that of Bernard and Goodyear was noted as pertinent to this work. Enabling includes therefore encouraging the learning by the supervisee to learn what is not known and guiding that process of learning and encouraging that motivation. Nonetheless the Supervisor’s ethical responsibility is also the care of the client and the necessity of intervention when at risk. Such action and others were discussed when exploring the theme of the authority of the Supervisor. The European Association for Counselling’s definition of Supervision includes monitoring matters relating to containment (arising perhaps from the supervisee’s inner world and matters relating to transference) and awareness of boundaries. The latter can arise particularly when considering a contract for supervision which often will concern a relationship to the agency within which the counselling takes place, and also the professional organisation to whom the supervisee belongs.

On the question of shared or not training in the chosen model of counselling of the supervisee, the view of the group about the complexity of supervision was clearly an understanding that the skilled process did not depend of such shared knowledge but more on how such knowledge was gained and put into practice by the supervisee. Anecdotally, the example was given of an NLP practitioner who gained a Master Practitioner status whose clear belief was in installing in his clients a similar acquisition of knowledge and its application with the reliance on that store of knowledge with little regard to the relationship that might enable growth in the client. Authority based on academic learning in this instance.

The complexity and sophistication of these and many other matters mean good supervision relies on the maturity of the supervisor to know beyond doubt the need for his or her own continuing supervision. Examples were shared of our knowledge of individuals who came to an apparent milestone in their professional development where this was no longer necessary. The group consensus was clearly on the side of a humility that ensured continual self and professional development and the expectation of a similar mindset in the supervisee.

The group was able to spend a few minutes sharing and wondering about group supervision. is it of the same quality and effectiveness as individual supervision and the consensus here seemed to be that group supervision could not replace the essential nature of the one to one supervisory relationship and its work.

Our individual experience about the question of whether there is a rationale that can be defended for limiting the length of time of a contractual supervision relationship was shared although probably without attempting a shared conclusion. The unanswered question was perhaps about our ability to monitor the work and relationship such that awareness of areas that were no longer the focus of supervision. Reference to one of Dave Mearns’ supervision and participants’ self and other review questions. One of those questions was quoted as  ‘are you aware of anything about the supervisor/supervisee that you are not telling them?’. Experience from the group suggested that some painful moments occurred when this was realised which could lead to cessation of the relationship or healing and learning. The essential components of contract and review of contracts and the development of the supervisory relationship were recognised.

A brief sharing of what we believed was good practice took place. One such belief was in the supervisory question of the supervisee ‘what is your supervision question?’. Awareness that it took courage to take this approach and an exercise of authority not always felt appropriate to ask that question six times in a row!

Exploring Supervision