This post is to mark Creativity and Wellness Week, written by Emma Steadman.
Creativity in supervision is a key factor in enabling us to see what we cannot see or what we only partially see. For me, creativity in supervision enables insight for the benefit of our clients. It is not the be all and end all. On the other hand, it is a powerful and effective process that helps us out of stuck narratives, and to work with the “visible and voiced; visible and unvoiced; invisible and voiced; …invisible and unvoiced and all movements in between” (Burnham et al 2008). We can only talk about what we are conscious of and then often our conscious narratives are fraught with unconscious assumptions and biases. Our souls hold awareness and wisdom that lies beneath conscious narrative. Creativity and metaphor are the bridges to this insight.
“The rainbow broke and then all the different colours make it whole”. Child aged 7 years.
I have become increasingly aware in my own supervision practice and in completing research, that one area that is often superficially looked at and that is difficult to bring into open discussion in depth, is social difference. There are many facets of social difference.
Burnham et al (2008) identifyvarious areas of socialGGRRAACCEEESSS:
Gender, Geography, Race, Religion, Age, Ability, Appearance, Class, Culture, Ethnicity, Education, Employment, Sexuality, Sexual orientation, Spirituality.
I’m aware from research participants and supervisees that individuals find some of these areas easier to see and discuss than others. They also vary in the depth of their noticing and ability to work with processes relating to difference in supervision. It can be difficult to see for example that because both client and supervisee are both white, there are significant differences in terms of age, geography, education, and employment between an English middle-class therapist with a Masters degree and a child client from a Welsh ex-mining village. It can be difficult to notice that a black child in an all-white school might need the white therapist to at least see that there could be some issues around Social GGRRAACCEEESSS that are at least worth giving some space to in supervision.These areas might not be blocking a therapeutic process, but they could, and will only be worked with if we feel safe to do so. Fear, shame and guilt are often key factors that block noticing and open processing. I would like to suggest that these core emotions are often behind the following narratives and assumptions and that thy block awareness and depth of processing:
“What if I say the wrong thing?”
“What if I’m seen as being racist, sexist, or ageist … or just plain ignorant?”
“I must treat everyone as having equal experience because we are all morally equal. If I suggest our experience is different, I’ll be saying we’re not equal.”
“I’d rather not say anything than say the wrong thing.”
Conversations about social difference are not always easy. If we don’t have them though, structural inequality and prejudice continue, and we can miss key aspects of clients’ and supervisees’ experiencing that would enable further healing and soul connection.
We need a safe place to begin to identify and explore these experiences and processes. We need to work within the Window of Tolerance. The best way I know of to do this is through creativitywithin the context of a strong working alliance. I always say; “let’s have a play with this and see what happens. It doesn’t commit us to anything, but we might see something we hadn’t noticed before.” We are just playing, and it isn’t a fixed narrative. It’s safe then to see what our unconscious might like to show us. Asking supervisees for example to use colour, line and shape to show similarities and differences between them and their client or them and their supervisee, can allow for all sorts of noticing. When I say what I can literally see on the paper and ask where that takes them in their thinking, supervisees become aware of their assumptions, underlying biases and fears. It is important to note that the answers always come from the person themselves. It is not my set interpretation. I’m holding the creative space, offering activities and observations and they do the joining up. For example, merging all the colours together can lead to an awareness of the need to see everyone as having equal experience because they were embarrassed about the social history of the predominant culture that they were part of. Struggling to put anything on the paper to identify differences can lead to awareness about embarrassment and fear about naming differences. Conversations can then be had about what this could mean for work with clients and supervisees and practice decisions.
It is amazing to see the insights that people can make and how their practice can develop for their clients, through using a few simple creative processes that are held within a strong working alliance.
Burnham, J. et al. (2008) Learning as a context for differences and differences as a context for learning.The Association for Family Therapy: Journal of Family Therapy, 30: 529–542.
Our next Course on Certificate in Creativity in Supervision course starts in September – find out more here https://jillcartertraining.co.uk/creative-counselling-supervision/