Supervision offers opportunities to reflect on and explore all facets of one’s clinical practice while inviting the ear, feedback, perspective and support of an experienced professional practitioner (the supervisor). The main goal of regular supervision is the promotion of professional, ethical, high-quality client services.
Supervision thus implies evaluative components, such as corrective feedback, additional teaching aimed at skill development, and clinical management (e.g. addressing issues around transference and countertransference within client-therapist and therapist-staff relationships). Supervision also implies supportive components, such as providing a sounding board, and offering solution-based feedback and developmental options regarding the student/practitioner’s personal and professional life (e.g. promoting the necessity for self-care and continuing development to be implemented by the supervisee in order to avoid burn-out).
Even though there are different levels and ways of doing supervision (see “types of supervision” and “levels of supervision” below), supervisors typically start by asking many questions, offering the supervisee space to explore his/her own lived experiences of therapy processes and clients, as well as assisting them to become aware of and explore underlying dynamics, blind spots, and different perspectives. The supervisor may become more directive if the supervisee is unable or unwilling to explore. Supervisors may also follow up and monitor the practical implementation of insights and skills gained through supervision. Supervisors may enquire about the supervisee’s theoretical understanding around a certain client scenario, offering suggestions in terms of further reading/studying.
Although supervision is NOT therapy, the supervisor-supervisee relationship offers additional opportunities to explore, understand and manage transference and countertransference issues, including projection, resistance, defense mechanisms, splitting etc. Thus, although supervision implies support, trust and guidance, criticism, challenge, and in some cases, confrontation may also be necessary; If supervision is always pleasant/flattering/positive, or always unpleasant/destructive/negative, something is amiss! Do remember – we all walk/have walked this road from scratch! Over time it becomes crucial to acknowledge and integrate one’s own strengths and weaknesses. Whether in the role of student, intern, therapist, or supervisor, we all need supervision.
Supervision can happen on-site, face to face, via Skype, Zoom or WhatsApp, or shared recorded video/audio clips or entire sessions can be watched together by supervisor and supervisee, pausing when necessary (computer screen share) if consent has been formally obtained.