Counselling: :Training: :Supervision
The Seven-Eyed Supervision model was developed by Peter Hawkins and Robin Shohet in 1985, who integrated the relational and systemic aspects of supervision in a single theoretical model. The model is relational because it focuses on the relationships between client, therapist and supervisor and systemic because it focuses on the interplay between each relationship and their context within the wider system. The model is called “seven eyed” because it focuses on seven distinct aspects of the therapeutic process, as explained in the sections that follow. It’s important for supervisees simply to be aware of each of the “eyes” of the model, rather than learning each by rote. As a supervisor, I do know each “eye” by rote and I will guide you in your use of them.
It is all too easy for us as therapists to see our clients in terms of their problems and how they might solve them. In so doing, we block ourselves from being able to empathise with the client, even though we have their best interests at heart – we subtly objectify our clients. In focussing on the client, you will improve your empathy towards them. Your focus on your client will help you become more attuned to their motivation, needs and desires in the here-and-now of the therapeutic relationship.
The following questions are examples of how you can develop a focus on your client:
Each of us only can only ever experience ourselves from the inside. That means there will always be aspects of ourselves that we are unaware of, things that perhaps others see, or which we hide from others, or which are completely hidden from ourselves and others. By focussing on the interventions you use with clients, you can discover hitherto covert aspects of your therapeutic relationships. You might begin by asking yourself the following questions to discover the hidden aspects of your therapeutic relationships:
When you and your client sit together in a session, you create something greater than the sum of its parts: a relationship. The therapeutic relationship is created in the here-and-now by both therapist and client and in my experience it is the vehicle of therapeutic change. Paradoxically, although the quality of the relationship is often the deciding factor in the therapeutic outcome, it is nonetheless an intangible, ever-changing experience which can be difficult to describe. To help you get perspective on a therapeutic relationship, it can be useful to consider of the relationship creatively using metaphor, or by taking a detached view of it. For example you might start by asking yourself questions such as:
You have the luxury of experiencing yourself from the inside. You know yourself better than anyone else, you are the expert on you. Your “process” is the sum of your moment-by-moment thoughts, emotions, sensations and behaviour (e.g. your body language) in response to your client. If you can gain awareness of your process, you will discover an invaluable stream of “data” that will allow you to learn much about the client, yourself and the relationship between you that was previously unknown to you. For example, you can use awareness of your process to discover what within you may be hampering the therapy.
It is important to note that focussing on your own process does NOT mean interpreting what you know about the client, it is about attending to your own experiencing of yourself in the here-and-now. If you would like to explore the subject further, I recommend you to read Chapter 7 in the book, Experiencing And The Creation of Meaning, by Eugene Gendlin.
Questions to consider for Eye 4 include the following:
What happens in the counselling room may be subsequently played out between therapist and supervisor. This is often called parallel process. For example, perhaps the therapist becomes angry, or tearful , or petulant, etc, when talking about his client and discovers that in fact his client is experiencing those same emotions. Parallel process may be more subtle, for example, recognising when you feel bored, defensive, or other less obvious emotions can help you understand the client-therapist system better. Parallel process may also operate in reverse – the relationship between you and your client may mirror what happens between you and your supervisor! The following questions exemplify the kind of enquiry that helps you recognise parallel process:
One of my tasks as a supervisor is to turn my attention to my own process similarly to how you as a supervisee turn your attention to your process, as described in Eye 4. By focussing on my process, I gain insight into parallel process, the quality of supervisory relationship and my “relationship-by-proxy” with your client, which is how I imagine your client to be and how I imagine I might interact with them, were I in your place. My focus on my process can be help you identify aspects of your relationship with your client that would otherwise be unknown to you. For example, I sometimes find myself attributing feelings to the client that resonate well with my supervisee: “As you talk about your client, I notice I’m feeling very sad, I wonder how he might feeling?” “Yes, that’s it, he does seem sad. He seems very sad”. In this example, you can subsequently explore sadness with your client and allow him to let you know how he is feeling. Remember: When using Eye 4 and Eye 6, you and I are not interpreting for the client, we are focussing on our own processes.
The wider context is the current and historical background of the client-therapist-supervisor relationship and is comprised of two important types of influence, which I call Stakeholders and Ghosts.
Stakeholders are those elements of the wider context which currently influence the relationship. For example:
Ghosts are those elements of the wider context which are no longer present, but who’s effects remain in the lives of you, me and the client. For example:
It could be said that the seventh eye is the most important, if you take the view that we are the sum of our experiences, past and present. An understanding the external influences in the client-therapist-supervisor relationship can help you: