This week we looked at the role of supervision in counselling, and its importance. I understand that supervision in counselling is of the upmost importance as it provides another layer of safety for both the client and counsellor.

Clinical Supervision in Counselling is when a counsellor meets with another, more experienced counsellor to review their casework and the way they work with their clients. “Super” means over or above, and “visor” comes from the word vision, which means to look or see, and that is essentially what supervisors do: they oversee a counsellor’s work with clients.

It is recommended that a counsellor have 1.5 hours of supervision a month, but it could be more depending on their experience levels, the amount of hours they do per month, and what type of work or client group they are engaging in – this is because some areas are more emotionally intensive than others. A supervisor holds qualifications in supervision as well as counselling, and is more of a mentor than a superior or manager, in that they help their supervisees develop their professional skills and ensure they work to best practise standards. Supervisors typically have a lot more practical experience than their supervisees, and it’s important they match their approach to supervision to the supervisee’s chosen modality – it would be difficult for a supervisor that mainly uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and a supervisee that practises as a Psychodynamic Counsellor to form a professional rapport that is conducive to the supervision process.

Ethics and boundaries are an important part of counselling, and supervision enables someone to look at the therapeutic relationship between counsellor and client from an impartial safe distance and oversee those boundaries and ensure that ethical procedures are being followed. This creates another layer of safety over the therapeutic relationship between counsellor and client, especially taking into account that they also offer a fresh perspective on a counsellor’s caseload, and given their experience, they often spot things that the counsellor may have missed with their client. Their supervisor is often the first port of call for any safeguarding issues that a counsellor may detect in the therapy room.

Supervisors also provide personal, moral and psychological support, for example by acting as a sounding board for any ethical issues a counsellor may have. It is common for a counsellor to think “I’m taking this to supervision” when they encounter anything that they don’t feel able to deal with on their own, such as an ethical problem or situation they are concerned about, when they feel stuck with a client, or when a client brings up unexpected feelings in them. A counsellor could even get bored of a client – this does happen! – And it would be important for the counsellor to take this issue to supervision and get to the bottom of it. If a counsellor is feeling stuck or frustrated with a client, supervision would be the safe, confidential place to vent about it rather than to their significant other; that would just be breaking all kinds of confidentiality boundaries!

With that in mind, it’s important to note that supervision is not personal counselling. For example, if something repeatedly brings up powerful emotions for a counsellor then it would be more suitable to explore this and try to resolve it in personal counselling rather than talking around the issue in supervision. Although saying this, therapeutic ideas such as sand-trays and some gestalt therapy techniques can help clarify issues and are quite revealing when used in supervision. Counsellors using supervision as a place to reflect on their own work is quite helpful as well – as just like some clients, they might not necessarily have half an hour to just sit quietly and think productively about their problems. Signposting is another area supervisors help with – their larger experience gives them a more informed idea of which other organisation would better help a client.

Just like there are different models and theories in counselling, there are different models of supervision as well. One of the more popular ones is the Seven-Eyed Model of Supervision. This model focuses on seven core aspects of the relationship between counsellor, client and supervisor, and they help pinpoint issues and problems. This identification process then makes it clearer to know what to work towards.

The seven core aspects, which are referred to as eyes because they represent different ways of looking at the therapeutic relationship are:

• The client
• The counsellor’s intentions
• The client and counsellor’s relationship
• The counsellor’s own experiences
• The supervisor and counsellor’s relationship
• The supervisors reflections
• The wider context

The CPCAB Case Study Presentation sheets are quite useful as well. They provide space for relevant background information, as well as for the issue the counsellor wishes to raise in supervision. Link: https://www.cpcab.co.uk/public_docs/cst-l3-case-study-presentation-template

Peer supervision or group supervision are alternatives to one-on-one supervision. They can be good for discussing new developments in the field of counselling, as well as keeping up-to-date with the latest research. It’s also a good way for agencies to provide support for a large number of counsellors, and can also be used to maintain relationships the other students a counsellor qualified with, and learning from them and their experiences. Group supervision is led by a qualified supervisor, but because it involves more people and is not always focused on the supervisee and their casework, the actual amount of time spent in the room does not directly equate to the required supervision hours. The more counsellors in the group, the less actual supervision time can be claimed. Peer supervision is seen as more of a supplemental extra compared to clinical supervision with a more experienced counsellor; it is not routinely counted towards actual supervision hours.

Managerial supervision is different to clinical supervision in that it focuses on the administrative side of counselling rather than the interpersonal aspects of the therapeutic relationship. In an agency setting, it could also known as line management, and it could involve performance reviews or client progress reviews with key workers, as well as logistical requirements such as organising appointments and allocating rooms. It also allows the supervisor to monitor compliance with internal policies and procedures. For counsellors in private practise, managerial supervision focuses on the administrative side of counselling. For example, a counsellor that runs a private practise may have a form of supervision to ensure their businesses are compliant with laws and legislation, such as if their personal indemnity insurance is correct, to ensure their buildings or premises licenses are in order, or even to receive support with their finances and tax returns. This is more of a logistical aid, but does help keep both the counsellor and any clients safe as it deals with legal procedures that must be followed. It’s important to add that this does not replace clinical supervision.

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