• Paula Newman

Part 3: Focusing in group supervision: The second term

Updated: Nov 28, 2021

During the first term a structure has emerged. Following a lead in we share and reflect. Then we divide the remaining time between supervisees to explore their supervisory issues. Focusing is brought in as relevant. We then say our goodbyes.

Now I ask supervisees if they would like to try something different and less structured. With their agreement we have a lead in and then stay open to going wherever this takes us. I focus too, inviting supervisees to respond to myself and to each other. After the lead in there is a long silence. Within myself I notice an anxious part ‘what if nothing happens?’ and a trusting part ‘something always happens’.

Eventually we are Focusing and responding to each other. I sense into the pain at the back of my head and the tension which I am experiencing. I share this with the group. There are some reflections from supervisees and then Julie expresses her concern for me having to supervise with a headache. I am moved by Julie’s caring and I also feel well enough to supervise. After explaining this we reflect upon self-disclosure with clients. Robyn mentions not disclosing hot flushes, there is laughter as we note physical matters which we experience and rarely share with clients.

Julie is seeing a client with an issue that she has herself. When her client asked her a direct question she considered it appropriate to be honest and open, we consider this as a group. Julie then explores her anxiety about becoming overwhelmed by her emotions associated with this issue. I ask if she would like to get a sense of the anxiety in her body and she focuses for a while, noticing the sensations in her chest and whole body and keeping company with what is there. We move on when Julie is ready.

Rebecca explores her experiencing of a client who is working with a sexual issue, she notes her sense of his genuineness and this leads into a discussion about working with male clients who have sexual issues and our sense of safety as women counsellors.

During the session we also discuss a workshop about mistakes in counselling, Focusing articles and counsellor Accreditation. We go with the flow, there is laughter and tears, we move in and out of Focusing. An exploration of client work moves into a supervisee’s anxieties about being a ‘crap counsellor’.

Julie says ‘the whole session was down to the way it started’.......more free flowing’ Rebecca speaks of the session being ‘more open, more organic’. Next time she would like me to check whether any one has client work which they still need to bring half an hour before the end. Robyn says ‘there was less content which is ok really because for me supervision should be more to look at what’s going on for me about the client’ and ‘next time I’d like to try again.

Subsequent Sessions

We continue in this less structured and more integrated way, no longer dividing the time between supervisees, just going with the flow.

I explain and demonstrate:

Presence language for example ‘I’m sensing’ can take us more into the body and the word ‘something’ which does not label or limit what we find.

Supporting the focuser with reflections by repeating what is said almost exactly or in essence.

Occasionally making suggestions to help the focuser stay in presence with whatever is presenting itself, to deepen contact with it and to find symbols that describe it.

I explain about the four stages of a Focusing session: Coming In; Making Contact with something; Deepening Contact ; Coming Out (Cornell &McGavin 2004, pp. 149-150)

Focusing is becoming more integrated within our supervisory explorations

Robyn says ‘hello’ to an angry part and then notices a part that is ashamed of the anger. She senses into the angry part and associates it with a pain in her side. I suggest putting a gentle hand there. Now she is aware of ‘just allowing the anger to be free, to be angry without feeling guilty’

Julie is aware of something ‘floating around’ she notices tension in her feet and her head bending. She does not know what this is about. I suggest keeping it company with interested curiosity and we wait. As she continues focusing Julie recognises a racial issue which she fears might get in the way of forming a relationship with her client. We explore this issue together as a group.

We discuss supervisee’s dilemmas about which clients to bring to supervision. I suggest taking some time to get a sense of each client in their bodies and seeing what happens.

Afterwards Robyn says ‘I bring the person who I find the hardest to make contact with’.

Rebecca compares one client to a bird with its mouth open ‘feed me, feed me, I’ll take anything’.

Julie pictures a certain client in a boat, paddling away and coming back.

As the term draws to a close I sense an easiness and fluidity in our sessions. I step back a little to give supervisees more space and responsibility. As part of this we agree that supervisees will take responsibility for stating their needs, hoping that this will help us in managing our time.

Cornell, AW &, McGavin, B, (2004) The Focusing Students and Companion’s Manual, Part Two. Berkeley CA: Calluna Press

Contact Paula Newman
Counsellor, Supervisor, Focusing trainer
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