Ethically, all Counsellors and Psychotherapists are required to have regular clinical supervision alongside seeing clients, no matter where they work. Supervision is a confidential space where therapists can discuss and explore their work, with the focus being on the therapist’s responses, interventions, and internal process.
I’ve found supervision can be invaluable as a safe working relationship by which to understand clients and their needs, my experiences of them and our work, all to better offer psychotherapeutic support to them.
What is clinical supervision?
Supervision for therapeutic work can be hard to define. I feel this is partly due to the fact that therapeutic work requires the therapist to be acutely aware of their own emotions, thoughts, attachment style, biases, and any other element of their internal experiences when doing relational work.
Simply put: whilst the focus of supervision is on enhancing the standard of therapeutic services delivered, doing relational work means the therapist (as the supervisee) needs to be taken into account to meet that standard. One example of this is what it means for me to offer an anti-oppressive practice.
The mental health system has a long history of pathologising non-dominant societal groups such as black people and people of colour, LGBTQ+ people, and people with disabilities. Being a professional within this system includes avoiding repetition of the systemic harms that such people face.
As such, I take into account my own identity, lived experiences, and relevant privileges to actively deconstruct and minimise the inherent power imbalance in psychotherapy. How I’m moved by my clients as people, along with their lived experiences, hugely shapes our work. Therefore, anti-oppressive psychotherapy needs to be co-constructed, collaborative, and underpinned with repeated informed consent.
Ultimately, clinical supervision is an opportunity to think collaboratively as colleagues and feel more empowered to better meet our clients’ needs.
I am in the process of completing a Diploma in Clinical Supervision at the Scarborough Counselling & Psychotherapy Training Institute (SCPTI). The course includes experiential weekends along with more traditional training methods like reading, writing essays, and doing presentations within my group.
So far, I’ve attended one weekend where we focused on contracting with supervisees. This can include defining person-to-person what supervision is, in line with what a supervisee’s professional needs are. The experiential element includes a continued awareness of our own internal experiences, along with how this comes to life in a group setting with our peers. In this way, we practice the relational element of supervisory support.
Why offer supervision?
I really like working with other therapists to improve what we offer as mental health professionals. This can include sharing information, ideas, and perspectives (including lived experience) to enhance clinical practice.
For me there is often an activist element, seeing as many of the clients we meet have experienced inequality, oppression, and systemic/relational harm. How can therapists do better within and outside of appointments to make mental health support accessible and effective within their communities?
My working experience so far includes: delivering psychotherapy to adults across multiple services, creation and co-ordination of three therapeutic services in Leeds, creation and management of a small independent business, writing, speaking, activism, training, and consultancy. Supervision at this stage feels like a natural extension of this experience, which I’m excited for.
As a trainee Supervisor I am pleased to be taking on supervisees, including Counsellors and Psychotherapists.