What is counselling supervision and why do counsellors need it?

Regular supervision is an ethical responsibility and professional requirement, as it protects you, the client, whilst allowing a safe space for your therapist to explore confidentially the work you do together. Respecting at all times ethical boundaries agreed upon with you when you contracted for the sessions.

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Clinical supervision allows a practitioner like myself to be reflective of you, my client, and to gain another experienced perspective, basically another pair of eyes overseeing my client casework. Being an ethical practitioner and having regular supervision is paramount, as is working within one’s competencies and limits of proficiency which gives a layer of protection to you the client and safeguards re duty of care I professionally adhere to.

What modalities I use in sessions and therapeutic tools is explored, and a supervisor might shed a different light on a client's presenting issue that I have not thought about, which allows me to learn, grow, and enhance my professional practice which benefits you, the client.

In talk therapy, a supervisor is not sitting alongside a professional in the room, unlike in some professions. A supervisor can only comment on and give insight into what I bring into the room. I have read some supervisors can ask supervisees to record sessions with clients and bring these recordings to supervision for training, but I personally think ethically it can be thwarted regarding issues around confidentiality but that is indeed my professional opinion. My client contract clearly says sessions will not be recorded electronically thus, there would never be any ambiguity around this subject if it were to arise.

Contracting is paramount in the supervisor and supervisee relationship alliance as it is between client and therapist. As a trainee, you might be assigned a supervisor at an agency, so I suppose it is not the same as seeking out a supervisor who feels right for you. 

If, however, you are seeking out a potential supervisor, one might consider factors such as modality, experience, qualification, days, venue, frequency, cost, etc and yes somebody you relate to, who dare I say, you get on with and indeed like! Even if mandatory, it should not mean one should have to experience supervision that is not of standard and conflicts gravely with a trainee's own ethical working boundaries.

How much supervision does a counsellor need?

I professionally feel I need weekly or fortnightly supervision because I work with clients in private practice and at a specialist agency one afternoon a week for complex trauma. 

Although I work within my limits of proficiency, this additional supervision allows me to bring all my clients to supervision sessions and discuss case formation at a deeper relational depth. I feel this helped me professionally progress through learning regularly in these supervision sessions and has greatly informed my practice. 

My experience overall has been a positive one and I look forward to supervision sessions because I gain a lot from them. Greater clarity regarding my client’s wholeness of construct through exploration with my supervisors who work integrative alongside me has assisted me to reflect and process my client work and own feelings at a deeper level regarding my relationships with clients.

What have I professionally gained from supervision?

Receiving feedback, be it positive on how well I am working or constructive feedback from my supervisor and indeed peers in group supervision of things I could look at or do differently. 

I think I favour constructive more because I can learn from this and, for me, there is extraordinarily little growth in being told what I am good at. I am trying to recall over the past few years receiving feedback I found challenging but I simply cannot recall. All the feedback I have received, be it constructive or positive, I feel has been fair, balanced and bang on the money and warranted for my professional growth and learning.

Counselling Directory is not responsible for the articles published by members. The views expressed are those of the member who wrote the article.

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London, SE1
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Written by Elle Heasman, Psychotherapist and Trauma-Informed Counsellor MNCS (Accred)
London, SE1

When I am not seeing clients, I am still working in the Counselling and Psychotherapy community, advising, and supporting colleagues on professional memberships, qualifications, training routes and other matters. I can also be found on Counselling Tutor (FB) where I have been the Group Expert for qualified and trainee members since last year.

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