It goes without saying, yet is worth saying, that therapists and supervisors hold a lot of responsibility and emotional processes. Often, we do this in isolation as we may be the only therapist working in a school or organisation or practising on our own in private practice. Supervisors tend to work independently. I think we therefore need supervision that helps us to feel met, to stay open and creative, to learn and to be a person that children and young people like being with and feel safe with. We learn lots of the frameworks and skills to do the latter. Yet in our professionalism, it is easy to get pulled away into adult- centric ways of being and forget the healing potential for ourselves and for our clients, of play and creativity. Play and creativity are not tools to use but a way of being that enables healing and growth. It’s relational. It means we connect playfully, release potentials and come to terms with difficult things. In other words, it puts us back in touch with our actualising tendency, to use a professional counselling phrase. I had a great compliment from a client the other day who on leaving the session said; “great playing by the way”. I think he felt met and understood and had fun. We can sometimes forget the power of fun in the healing process. Being playful and creative enables the whole child or young person to heal from trauma. People consist of mind and body. People need experiences that use all processes. Therapists and clients need people who can be with them and who can play literally and metaphorically with ideas and processes.
Over the last 17 years of practice, I have valued supervision that has given me space to be, a relationship where I can be honest and learn and opportunities to be playful and creative. The latter in the context of a safe, honest relationship, has enabled me to remain hopeful when accompanying children and young people recovering from trauma. It means I haven’t felt alone with the trauma and healing processes that I am being with. I can be understood, encouraged, supported to learn and reminded that there are steps towards healing when I’m stuck and can’t see them. I can then go back into sessions and be present.
Such supportive supervision has helped me to think outside the box to develop practice for individual children. It means that I can take some risks. Not in the sense of unsafe or unethical practice, but in the sense of being able to adapt, develop and integrate practice. To develop from someone who is performing a model of practice to someone who with this support, can think about other ways that this child might need me to be with them and how this child might need me to respond. To see what kinds of play and resources could help this child. As well as the usual skill development of presence and reflecting, supervision has enabled me to have the confidence to try things out playfully. A few examples include using jelly babies for communication of experiences that otherwise could not be put into words, to have a dog in a session, to talk with a child while they were in a box on the school stage, and be free to run around in role play wearing a paper cape and glasses knowing that this is a significant shift in this child’s play development and process.
Research participants tell me that they want supervisors who can be empathic, challenging and creative. They want supervisors who will help them develop their practice. Play and creative therapists say that they want to practise creative ways of working in supervision. They state that doing this helps them to get into the child’s world and see things they hadn’t noticed before. And it means they are more creative and playful in sessions. I think this helps children and young people to be met in their world and to be held emotionally whilst they access the hurt and fractured parts of themselves and integrate them with other parts.
These experiences and thoughts are the driving force for developing and delivering creative supervision training. An organisation that I used to work for had a group whose focus was “to help the helpers”. I’m not sure about the phrase per se, but the spirit of it is about coming alongside people who are coming alongside other people experiencing difficult processes to enable them to keep being with. That is supervision. I love seeing people access healing to find their sense of Self. It’s amazing when they wake up to their own potential and find genuine new ways of being that fit with who they are. I love seeing practitioners developing their work way beyond what they thought was originally possible. And I love learning from supervisees and their clients. It helps me to keep being open and playful in my work.v
Want to find out more?
Join us on our Certificate in Creative Counselling Supervision course starting April 2019 – click here to find out more and book
Emma will also be running two Introduction to Counselling in Schools days in the spring – click here to find out more and book