The Supervisory Relationship, a Person-Centred Approach
Updated: Nov 28, 2021
Supervisory relationships are a complex blend of professional, education and therapeutic aspects. Geldard & Geldard (2001)
Supervisors are experienced counsellors who have undergone supervisory training. Since all counsellors and supervisors are required to have supervision a number of practitioners are both counsellors and supervisors. I write this blog from my own experiences of being in both roles.
A formal arrangement
A professional requirement
An exploration of therapeutic work and any dilemmas that might occur
Educational - Supervisors may suggest relevant training and reading, facilitate the supervisee in linking theory with practice and submit reports for trainees on counselling courses
Supportive - of counsellors' personal and professional development and emotionally supportive in certain circumstances such as a client's suicide
Monitoring of physical, emotional and mental fitness to practice and of ethical practice
A collaborative relationship
From a Person-centred perspective supervision is a collaborative relationship. The intention is to understand and to explore counselling relationships, ethical issues and the supervisee's personal and professional development. This is a joint process and it is understood that each person has something important to bring to the enquiry, for example, professional experience, intuition, cognitive understanding, knowledge, wisdom and relationship with the client.
Supervisees can express and explore their worries, difficulties, irritations and uncertainties. They can also share their pleasure in a client's development and signs of healing.
Supervisees can talk about what happened in a counselling session, exploring any area that seems to be important or significant. Their perceptions and experiences of supervisees, clients and their material are considered. Issues are understood empathically from various view points.
Therapeutic relationships are explored. Areas might include power dynamics, the effects of gender, sexuality, race, class and disability, levels of openness and qualities of presence and connection.
Anything that is blocking a supervisee from being fully present and from being accepting, empathic and genuine. Examples are personal issues, difficult client material such as abuse, race, religious and cultural differences and sexual attraction.
Supervisee and supervisor consider appropriate boundaries and boundary issues.
Therapeutic responses and interventions are explored, what to say and whether or not to take a risk.
Theoretical understandings are explored and theory is linked with practice
Dilemmas can occur and there is careful consideration of what is most therapeutic and ethical in these situations.
For supervisees to feel supported and free to explore their work fully, I suggest that the following is necessary:
The supervisee can contact the supervisor between sessions if there is an emergency or a concern that needs immediate attention.
The supervisee feels comfortable to explore their work at depth, including areas that they are uncertain about and any regrets that they may have.
There is enough safety and warmth to be vulnerable in front of the supervisor.
The supervisee can comment upon the supervisory relationship without the supervisor becoming defensive.
When necessary, the supervisor is willing to speak truthfully to the supervisee.
The supervisor is aware of the supervisees level of experience and development and can work with them at that level.
The supervisee feels challenged at a level that is suitable for them.
A trusting attitude
Person-Centred supervisors have a trusting attitude towards supervisees. This includes believing in their movement towards personal and professional self-development.
I am most impressed with the fact that each human being has a directional tendency toward wholeness, toward actualisation of his or her potentialities.....if I can provide the conditions that allow growth to occur, then this positive directional tendency brings about constructive results. Carl Rogers (1980)A Way of Being.