Suki Yip MBACP (Accred), Counsellor and Supervisor
Supervision is perhaps the most important component in the development of a competent practitioner. It is within the context of supervision that you can begin to develop a sense of your professional identity and to examine your own beliefs and attitude regarding clients and therapy.
A good counsellor will be fully aware of his or her own values, beliefs, attitudes and biases; being aware of them lessens the danger of their impacting negatively on the counselling relationship. We all operate within a personal belief system, but counsellors need to remember always to work with their clients in a way which is consistent with the client's values, not their own.
Discussing counselling sessions with a supervisor and getting feedback enables practising counsellors to gain an objective insight into their own performance and skills. It provides an opportunity to learn and practise new skills and to find better ways to help clients. Debriefing is also an important element of the supervisory relationship, enabling the counsellor to look objectively at the issues raised in the counselling session and their response to them.
Due to the sensitive content of many client issues it is easy for a counsellor to become over- involved and for professional boundaries to become blurred; as your supervisor, I will quickly spot this tendency and can intercede to stop it becoming problematic.
Counsellors will be challenged by many ethical dilemmas along the way and the correct path is not always clearly marked; discussing these issues with a supervisor will ensure that professional ethical standards are maintained.
Whatever the difficulties, however, I believe that good professional supervision is a necessity for all counsellors, for learning, for debriefing, for self-development. I also believe that our clients have a right to expect that we do undertake ongoing professional development at all levels, remaining up to date and aware of new trends.
There are many reasons to be proactive in getting supervision for ourselves. First, supervision is a central form of support, where we can focus on our own difficulties as a worker as well as have our supervisor share some of the responsibility for our work with the clients. Second, supervision forms part of our continual learning and development as workers, including eventually helping us to learn how to be supervisors.
As a supervisor I can also help us to use our own resources better, manage our work load and challenge our inappropriately patterned ways of coping. We think that, if we are helping clients take more change of their own lives, it is essential that we are doing the same.