This is part of the title of my PhD research project. Included in my research aims are the following questions:
- What is happening in supervision?
- Does supervision do what it claims?
In this short blog, I share in the briefest of ways, some of what I have discovered and hope to take further.
I’m happy to say that what I’m discovering is:
- There are various positive processes going on in supervision. Feedback from research participants suggests that supervision is highly valued, provides much needed support and facilitates insight.
- Most of the time, supervision provides accountability and enables supervisees to develop safe, ethical practice.
- I have sadly heard some stories that include either harmful or inadequate supervision practice. Thankfully, this is a minority.
There is much to be learned from all the above scenarios, I think. We can see what’s going well, identify areas for development and address blocks to safe, effective supervision.
Confident in going forward
So, we can be confident in going forward.
We are not imposters or kidding ourselves. Supervision is a fantastic discipline, has much to offer and many areas that can be developed.
My hope is for supervision to be fully recognised and developed. This has begun, but in my view, needs some work.
As I’ve been looking in depth at the processes involved in supervision and mapping them out, I’m aware that it’s a complex set of interactions involving a wide range of skills and knowledge that include, but go beyond, the therapist or counsellor’s skill set.
Supervision is different from therapeutic work and as such requires its own models and competencies. However, training in supervision is not a requirement per se. There is no standard framework for what is included in supervision training, and little post-training support or development.
I’m not saying they don’t exist at all, but I am saying they need developing.
Supervisors in my study talk of feeling isolated, holding much responsibility yet with few ongoing opportunities for research based CPD or peer support.
Norse Yggdrasil tree: tree of life.
This tree has three enormous roots which extend into different worlds. It is the source of life, insight and balance / integration.
There are three commonly agreed purposes of supervision:
From what people are telling me, one of those strands, support for practitioners, is excellent. And that makes sense, I think. We know the fundamental importance of relationship, connection and enabling a safe supervisory space. Experienced practitioners who become supervisors are very skilled at those processes.
The second strand is accountability. This also seems to be going well, certainly within supervision. There are some broader issues, which is a story to tackle another time and certainly more fully in my thesis.
The third strand is education, or as I see it, learning and development. This is an area where I would argue, there are gaps. I’ve addressed the issue of working with difference in another blog (needs a link). Other gaps include a lack of creative processes and the need for further application of adult learning processes in supervision.
Creativity in Supervision
Supervisees state that creative approaches in supervision are powerful, provide longer lasting learning and ways of continuing reflection even after supervision. And yet, they also say they do very little of it in supervision.
Using creativity in supervision is a discrete skill. It’s not the same as using creativity in therapy.
It also means letting go and taking risks. When I start a creative activity in supervision, I’m confident that it will work, but I never know what the next step will be, or where a supervisee will go with it.
We both must be willing to play around with it and go with the flow.
It can also meet some resistance. To their credit, some honest research participants have said creative processes in supervision are very powerful and effective. However, they don’t ask for them because they know it’s powerful and they’re going to learn something about themselves and their work. So, it’s easier to stick to talking where they can avoid this level of insight.
Both processes suggest developing models and training / ongoing peer support where supervisors can consciously and confidently work with these processes to good effect.
Supported learning processes
Supporting learning processes in supervision requires knowledge of how people learn and how to use diagnostic and formative assessment as appropriate to supervision.
My sense of this is a lack of clear models for this set of skills and of opportunities to share effective, innovative practice.
Working out where a supervisee is at in different aspects of skill development is a discrete and complex skill set. It requires knowledge of adult learning processes, assessment and feedback skills, a wide range of subject knowledge, and the ability to enable the supervisee to gain reflexive skills which help them to find practice answers for themselves.
Quite a mix of processes.
In my view, we need new, clearly mapped out integrative, creative models of supervision, where all the strands of supervision and the multi-faceted skills of each aspect of supervision are woven together to good effect for supervisees and their clients.
So, I’m hoping that as I write about what I’m discovering and connect with other supervisors, we’ll be part of the next steps in the evolution of supervision.
Article by Emma Steadman