I provide a safe, supportive environment where you can explore your client work through the lenses of Gestalt, Person-Centred and Somatic therapy, build insight into your practice and maintain ways of working that benefit you and your clients, as described in the sections that follow.
Location and Practical Considerations
I work from my home, which is located in the SO15 area of Southampton and there is ample parking on nearby roads.
I offer supervision for individuals, or groups of up to four supervisees.
The BACP requires accredited counsellors to have a minimum of 1.5 hours one-to-one supervision per month, and this requirement is often stipulated by counselling course providers too. I therefore offer both 60 and 90 minute supervision sessions.
What Is Supervision?
Supervision is a collaboration between supervisee and supervisor to help the supervisee monitor their practice. I like the following description by Hawkins and Shohet of the qualities of the supervisory relationship, because it covers a broad range of factors that affect supervision:
Supervision is a joint endeavour in which a practitioner with the help of a supervisor, attends to their clients, themselves as part of their client practitioner relationships and the wider systemic context, and by so doing improves the quality of their work, transforms their client relationships, continuously develops themselves, their practice and the wider profession.
p60, Hawkins, P. & Shohet, R. (2012) Supervision in the Helping Professions [4th Ed.], Open University Press.
As a humanistic practitioner, I offer a collaborative relationship based upon the six Rogerian Core Conditions, which I hold are necessary and sufficient for maintenance of a good-quality supervisory relationship which facilitates change and growth for the supervisee and the supervisor. Here, I use the term good-quality to describe a relationship that makes possible the kind of connection between supervisor and supervisee which, in Gestalt Counselling in Action [4th Ed] (2013), Petruska Clarkson describes as “full and vibrant contact” (p43). Depth and vibrancy of connection is difficult to describe in words, because transcends the verbal and involves the whole being and it is the essence of Gestalt philosophy. Clarkson describes it as follows:
This is Gestalt – not changing what is or wishing it different, but re-establishing the natural expressiveness, mobility and vividness of moment-by-moment experiences.
It is during such contactful episodes of the supervisory relationship that sudden or slowly unfolding realisations can be made which prove to be personally or practically transformative to the supervisee.
Why Do We Need Supervision?
Counselling is a demanding profession: we must juggle ethical awareness, self-awareness, the needs of our clients, the requirements of our associating or governing body/ies (BACP, UKCP, etc) and the demands of the law. In addition, if you are a student counsellor or working for an organisation, you will need to meet the demands of the course and/or your employer. Then, there are the demands of your life outside counselling: most of us will have financial, family and personal responsibilities to attend to. Each of these factors can contribute to the phenomenon of burnout, which is a state of mind and body characterised by feelings such as low self-worth, overwhelm and hopelessness. Burnout typically happens when a combination of compassion fatigue, vicarious trauma and tiredness compromises the counsellor’s resilience – i.e. their ability to cope with the demands of client work is greatly reduced, and their ability to recoup their energy is diminished. There is an excellent article on burnout in the November 2017 issue of Therapy Today (Vol. 28, Issue 9). BACP members can log in to the BACP website and see the article here: ?https=www.bacp.co.uk/bacp-journals/therapy-today/2017/november-2017/burnout.
You can’t give away what you haven’t got
The common connection between all areas of your practice is you. First and foremost, you are the person you need to look after, otherwise you risk burnout. I know from personal experience how quickly the symptoms of burnout can creep up and become overwhelming. Self care, self development and self-awareness are crucial factors in the practice of any counsellor.
What Is The Role Of The Supervisor?
My supervision practice is founded on Gestalt and Person-Centred principles and encompasses the seven-eyed model and Michael Carroll’s ‘Tasks of Supervision’ model, with the aim of fostering good contact, as described previously. Carroll’s tasks are presented in his 1994 paper, “The Generic Tasks of Supervision” (available here: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/103166.pdf). My adaptation of Carroll’s tasks is given under the six headings that follow.
Task 1: The Supervisory Relationship
I consider the relationship between supervisor and supervisee to be a lens through which the supervisee-client relationship may be viewed: what happens between client and supervisee is often played out between supervisee and supervisor (parallel-process*). In particular, impasse in the client-counsellor relationship may be played out in the relationship between client and supervisor, and I see the relational task of the supervisor in collaboration with the supervisee as being to recognise the impasse and bring it into awareness. Impasse, when recognised and acknowledged, can offer a rich opportunity for relational depth between supervisor and supervisee, which is often the touchstone for personal growth and the deeper insight into the supervisor-supervisee and client-counsellor relationships and is ultimately of benefit to the client.
*Note: Carroll tentatively suggests that parallel-process be split out into a separate task of consultancy, however I see it as central to the relational task of supervision.
Task 2: Teaching
I view teaching in supervision as a two-way process, in which my task is twofold. Firstly, I help the supervisee develop their knowledge, skill and self-awareness via a range of methods, such as coaching, role-playing, recommended reading as well as more traditional teaching methods. Secondly I am open to learning from my supervisees. I honour the life experience and knowledge that my supervisees have and I value the opportunity to learn about the knowledge and skills that supervisees bring. In my experience, the whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts – when two or more knowledgeable and experienced people come together in discourse, new knowledge inevitably arises from the discussion.
Task 3: Counselling
While the relational task of supervision helps the supervisee focus on the relationship between self and other, there is a need in supervision to focus on the relationship of self to self. This is provided by the counselling task of supervision, in which I seek to notice and themes in client work that may be outside the supervisee’s awareness and invite the supervisee to explore those themes. I thereby temporarily steer the supervisee’s attention away from the client and onto themselves. The change of focus can help the supervisee make connections between their own unfinished business and the way they respond to the client and/or me. The result may be that the supervisee makes realisations about themselves that can improve the quality of client relationships, particularly where a supervisee perceives an impasse between themselves and the client.
Task 4: Monitoring Ethical Issues
Part of my role in supervision is to collaboratively monitor the ethical good practice of my supervisees, for the sake of their own welfare as well as that of their clients. I emphasise the word ‘collaboratively’ because the monitoring task of supervision is not an exercise in dictating to supervisees, or trying to somehow catch them out. I believe the most constructive and respectful approach towards ethical considerations is one which I help the supervisee explore and expand upon their understanding of ethical good practice, with particular attention to the six ethical principles laid out in the BACP’s ethical framework, which are:
- Being trustworthy: honouring the trust placed in the practitioner.
- Autonomy: respect for the client’s right to be self-governing.
- Beneficence: a commitment to promoting the client’s wellbeing.
- Non-maleficence: a commitment to avoiding harm to the client.
- Justice: the fair and impartial treatment of all clients and the provision of adequate services.
- Self-respect: fostering the practitioner’s self-knowledge, integrity and care for self.
There are circumstances in which I would need to express concerns about the supervisee’s practice to relevant external organisations, however I hold this line of action very much as a last resort, and one in which I would keep the supervisee involved and informed as much as possible. It is a last resort which I have not yet felt compelled to take.
Task 5: Evaluation
In my view, the task of evaluation is a regular collaboration between supervisee and supervisor to take stock of what is working well in the supervisory relationship vs. what could be improved. I work more formatively than summatively, which means that I offer what I see as my supervisees strengths and areas for improvement with regard to client work, and I invite my supervisees to comment on what they appreciate about the work that we do together, and what remains to be developed.
In addition, I am happy to complete assessment forms and sign off client hours for supervisees who are counsellors in training.
Task 7: Administration
The contexts of the supervisory relationship and the counselling relationships between supervisee and clients can have a large influence on the processes and outcomes of supervision and therapy. My administrative task is to help my supervisees consider practicalities, such as meeting the demands of the counselling provider (where applicable), where and how to see clients in private practice, how to take and hold client notes, GDPR compliance, how to apply boundaries of relationship, time, money, attendance, etc, and other management tasks that are essential to the smooth running of a counselling practice.
What Is The Role Of The Supervisee?
In my opinion, the supervisee has a responsibility to use supervision to develop an internal supervisor – that is, to use self-awareness and self-regulation to as far as possible develop the ability to take a ‘helicopter’ position in a counselling session, so as to gain in-vivo perspective on the moment-by-moment developments in the counselling relationship.
It is crucially important that the counsellor is able to gain a degree of separateness from and perspective on their working relationships with their clients because it allows the counsellor to objectively evaluate their work against the tasks set out in the previous section.
What Defines The Relationship Between Supervisor & Supervisee?
I find it useful to loosely break the supervisory relationship into 7 parts, as defined by the seven-eyed supervision model of Hawkins and Shohet (ibid). The diagram below shows these seven aspects of relationship, and the connections between them. Each aspect is briefly described in the seven sections that follow.
Mode 1: The Client’s Perspective
The focus here is on the client’s experience of therapy – how they present themselves, what might be their process, how they might be feeling in sessions, what they chose to share, what they may be withholding and why. These considerations can help the supervisee put themselves mentally in client’s position and gain more empathy for the client.
Mode 2: The Therapist’s Interventions
The supervisee’s strategies and interventions are examined here, with a view to exploring alternative interventions where appropriate, and increasing the supervisee’s self-awareness and range of choices. For example, working in mode 2 can reveal what is working well, what the supervisee might be avoiding and any areas of unconscious collusion on the part of the supervisee.
Mode 3: The Therapeutic Relationship
This mode invites the supervisee to take an objective view of the therapeutic relationship between themselves and the client. It can help the supervisee enumerate the qualities of the relationship and take a phenomenological view of ruptures in the relationship.
Mode 4: The Therapist’s Perspective
Here, I encourage the supervisee to reflect on their own process in the counselling relationship, in order to help the supervisee reflect on how they are affected by client work so as to bring material which is at the threshold of the supervisee’s realisation into their full awareness. In particular, mode 4 may help the supervisee identify areas of projective identification with their clients.
Mode 5: The Supervisory Relationship
This mode puts the focus on the relationship between supervisor and supervisee and is important because it helps both parties monitor the quality of their relationship, identify and repair ruptures, and it highlights any parallel process that may have developed in supervision.
Modes 6 & 6a: The Supervisor’s Perspective & The Supervisor-Client Fantasy Relationship
Here, I attend to my own process and feelings I have in relation to the client. I use the phenomenological skill of bracketing to determine what make be coming from (a) my perception of the client via the supervisee, (b) my relationship with the supervisee and (c) my own history. It highlights thoughts and feeling that I can tentatively reflect to the supervisee with a view to helping them increase insight into their own process, and others connected to my own history which I need to take to my own supervision.
Mode 7: The Wider Context
This mode reminds both supervisor and supervisee to consider that therapy and supervision is embedded within a wider system of professional codes of ethics, organisational and legal requirements, other agencies, and the influences on supervision and counselling of the external personal relationships (both past and present) of supervisor, supervisee and clients.
Supervision and counselling are rich, complex pursuits which are as satisfying as they are demanding. As counsellors, we seek to make a difference in people’s lives, to have an influence for good which may stay with our clients for a lifetime. I hope you have found this essay informative and thought-provoking in equal measure. My philosophy is that supervision and counselling are more than just a vocations, they inform a way of life in which continual self-development and insight are essential to personal and professional fulfillment.