What is supervision?
Supervision is a requirement of professional counselling and psychotherapy bodies. It is a clearly agreed (“contracted”) arrangement for counsellors to explore their work regularly with the supervisor, a professional who is also an experienced counsellor or psychotherapist.
At each session, the counsellor will will explore with the supervisor work with clients, professional development, and often personal development. This includes — but is not limited to — considering what is taking place in the counselling sessions, examining concerns, challenges and changes in the counselling-client relationship. The counsellor may share specific issues or unclear feelings and thoughts.
Supervision, like counselling, is a relationship. It is important to feel respected and safe so that you, the counsellor, are able to explore all aspects of your work and to continue to improve your practice, be you a trainee or well experienced practitioner. Supervision is a process focused on safe and healthy client-counsellor relationships, ensuring professional standards of counselling and an opportunity for the counsellor to wide their horizons.
Supervision is a professional service, rather than a managerial role, and for counsellors who work in institutions or organisations, supervision and management will normally be entirely separate. The supervisor acts not as a ‘boss’ or advisor but as a consultant.
Why supervision is essential for the trainee, practising counsellor or therapist?
By its very nature, counselling makes considerable demands upon counsellors, emotionally, mentally and even at times physically. Without realising, the counsellor may become over-involved, miss an important point, become confused as to what is taking place within a particular client or have undermining doubts about their own abilities or usefulness. It is difficult, if not sometimes impossible, to be objective about the counselling one provides and the opportunity to discuss it in confidence with a suitable trained profession is invaluable.
Good, professional, effective counselling also requires the counsellor to relate practice to theory and vice versa. Supervision can help the counsellor explore how the counselling they provide relates to theory they’ve learned, and not to loose sight of the importance of interrelating theory and practice. Supervision contributes to a counsellor’s continued training. The supervisor can ensure that the counsellor is addressing the needs of the client, can monitor the relationship between the counsellor and their client to maximise the therapeutic effectiveness of the relationship and ensure that ethical standards are adhered to throughout the counselling process. Though not concerned primarily with training, personal therapy or line management, supervisors will encourage and facilitate the ongoing self-development, continued learning and self-monitoring of the counsellor. Ongoing supervision helps practitioners to monitor and review the quality of their work as well as their client's progress.
Choosing a supervisor
In choosing a supervisor, a counsellor needs to consider their own personality and way of working as a counsellor and if the supervisor’s style and skill would support, challenge and stretch them in their continuing professional development, be the counsellor a trainee, well experienced professional or somewhere in between.