Supervision: My Practice Philosophy

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What makes good supervision? Here are some of my ideas about what I value in supervision as a supervisee, and about what I try to offer in turn as a supervisor.

The Environment, Aims and Focus of Supervision

I believe the primary value of supervision comes from having a safe and supportive environment in which the supervisee can build on their own skills and insights as a practitioner, and in which the supervisee can reflect on any aspect of their profession and their client relationships. In my view, the ultimate aim of supervision is to enable supervisees to enhance the service they offer to clients, and to safeguard and enhance their own well-being while doing it. In terms of subject matter, the primary focus of the supervision process is the supervisee and the therapeutic process unfolding between them and their clients.

In some cases, potential supervisees have written to express their interest in receiving mentoring that could help them build their online practices. This seems to me like a legitimate component of supervision, and I have no objection to sharing my experience. However, for practitioners primarily interested in mentoring to help develop a particular area of practice, I prefer to structure this as a consulting or mentoring arrangement rather than regarding it as clinical supervision per se.

Finally, I appreciate that for some practitioners, supervision is seen as a sort of joint consultation on the state of the client: the practitioner describes a client, and the supervisor delivers their assessment of the situation, much as two doctors might confer on the state of a patient’s liver. This view is fairly alien to my own approach to supervision. This is not to say I never offer third-party feedback about a client, but it is a fairly rare occurrence which is incidental to the process, rather than central to it.

Theoretical Underpinnings and Views on Empirical Research

As a primarily person-centred practitioner, I aim to offer supervisees the same empathy, genuineness, and unconditional positive regard which characterize my online counselling and psychotherapy practice. My hope is not to sculpt and shape the clinical practice of a supervisee according to my own preferences, but rather to foster an environment in which the supervisee can build, develop, and shape their practice for themselves. I make my own preferences, beliefs, and experience available as a resource, not as a driving force.

Try Online Counseling: Get Personally Matched

This approach is very much in keeping with my respect for empirical research in counselling and psychotherapy and the principal finding that the overwhelming majority of therapeutic change is attributable to client factors, not therapist factors. Of course, supervision is not therapy, but nonetheless the clear message of volumes of research on therapeutic change seems to me worth paying attention to when it comes to conceptualizing how to provide effective supervision: supervisees know what they’re doing every bit as much as counselling clients do.

(See our review of Hubble, Duncan and Miller for one look at a book which offers a great summary of empirical research on effectiveness; see our article on the flawed case for psychotherapy registration for some views on how major professional bodies appear to be ignoring science in their rush to promote their own proprietary licensing and accreditation schemes as hallmarks of quality of service or therapeutic effectiveness.)

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