Sharon Branagh, Specialist Practitioner, Therapist & Supervisor
What is meant by ‘Relational Supervision’?
The emphasis is upon a ‘relational’ approach, where the term ‘relational’ is used to refer to two key interrelated concepts. First, supervisory issues arise as a direct product of situations. Second, the quality of the supervisory relationship is therefore pre-configured by, and in itself pre-configures, the content, process and output of the session/meeting. For these reasons we see the context of supervision as being of fundamental importance in framing both the ‘what and how’ of the supervision session.
In a relationship of trust and transparency, supervisees talk about their work and through reflection and thoughtfulness learn from it and return to do it differently. Supervision is based on the assumption that reflecting on work provides the basis for learning from that work and doing it more creatively (Bolton, 2001: King and Kitchener, 1994: Moon, 1999). Here is no such thing as supervision where work is not reviewed, interviewed, questioned, considered and critically reflected upon. Ryan (2004) puts it well: ‘Supervision’, she writes, ‘is an inquiry into practice. It is a compassionate appreciative inquiry…In supervision we re-write the stories of our own practice… supervision interrupts practice. It wakes us up to what we are doing. When we are alive to what we are doing we wake up to what is, instead of falling asleep in the comfort stories of our clinical routines.’ (p. 44).
Supervision is a form of experiential learning. Supervision is reflection-on action, or indeed, reflection-in-action to result in reflection-for-action. In the present we consider the past to influence the future. Lane and Corrie (2006) summarise what they see as the benefits of supervision. One or more or all of these benefits are true equally for all supervision:
• it offers protection to clients (cases are reviewed);
• it offers reflective space to practitioners (so insights for improvement);
• it helps practitioners identify their strengths and weaknesses;
• it helps learning from peers
• it offers the opportunity to keep up to date with professional developments.
Other further benefits to the above:
• it alerts practitioners to ethical and professional issues in their work and creates ethical watchfulness;
• it provides a forum to consider and hold the tensions that emerge from the needs of various stakeholders in supervisee’s work (the organisation, the client/s the profession);
• it allows practitioners to measure the impact of their work on their lives and identify their personal reactions to their professional work;
• it offers a ‘third-person’ perspective (feedback) from the supervisor who is not part of the client system;
• it is ultimately for the welfare and better service to the client;
• it creates a forum of accountability for those to whom the practitioner is accountable (organisation, clients, profession etc.);
• it updates workers to the best in innovation, insights and research in their chosen areas of work.