High Benefit Supervision

In recent months I have been pondering  how to find a good Supervisor. Having worked with a number of different supervisors during my training and in various work settings, I have quite enjoyed my supervision with my current private supervisor over a number of years. In many ways, we are quite compatible, as we both trained in transpersonal psychotherapy, but have worked beyond this in clinical settings using DBT (Dialectical Behavioural Therapy, which can be very helpful to clients with Borderline diagnosises), thus, we “speak the same language”.

This was very important to me when I started working in private practice and I feel held and understood by my supervisor. We also have similar ways of working with counter transference, which makes it easy for me to know he understands what I am talking about and I feel held.

However, a while ago I started to feel that for my own development as therapist and for the enhanced well-being of my clients, it would be useful to have additional supervision with somebody who trained in a different modality and could therefore offer a fresh perspective.

As I was looking and asking around, I became aware of the multitude of fliers everywhere offering “Low cost Supervision”. Studying these with interest, it soon became clear that many of the people offering low cost supervision are doing so as part of their supervision training. This, I feel, is indeed legitimate and provides an opening for those who struggle to pay the full fee. Alas, it occurred to me that many of these trainee supervisors had only very recently qualified as therapists themselves, and, while often good insights emerge in peer supervision (including amongst students) due to having some thinking space and the feed-back of ones colleague, does have a hint of the proverbial, “The Blind leading the Blind?”

So, again, what are the qualities of a good supervisor?

Personally, I feel that a good body of reflective experience of working as a therapist her- or himself must be the very corner-stone of making a good supervisor. Further, a lively, intelligent, reflective mind and a supportive, holding receptivity might not go amiss.

Then there is the question of what sort of CPD the supervisor has engaged in, what are their interests in their own reading and development? Are they able to be integrative of different modalities and ideas the supervisee brings? Surely, all of these can only be developed over time and with experience… .

So, I would like to make a passionate case for “High cost – high benefit Supervision”.  I believe it is a great shame that the governing bodies only look at the amount of hours of supervision we take. Of course, it would be an organisational nightmare to do it any other way, and yet, haven’t we all had the experience that some experienced and intelligent supervisors have the ability to get to the heart of the matter in minutes, whereas with others, one can present a client in great detail without arriving at any discussion of underlying patterns, transference and so forth. When I was discussing the need for “high cost – high benefit supervision” as a spirited opposition to the prevailing culture of wanting everything to be low cost with a colleague, he remarked dryly, “The cheapest supervisor I know is my therapist. He charges £165 per hour.” You may forgive me for having looked somewhat perplexed at this point. Then he continued, “When I bring a client, it takes him 4 minutes and we are at the bottom of it.”

Now, this – to me – is an excellent example of “high cost – high benefit supervision”. I do not know whether or not his therapist ever did any supervision training, but I do know that my friend’s therapist is very experienced, committed to his own ongoing self-development and is highly intelligent.

I believe that many years of experience, a warm heart and a clear, unfettered mind are key qualities in a good supervisor – especially when supervising less experienced, young therapists. Only with experience can we be fully aware of the dynamics of in-depth long term work, the ongoing challenges of developing a private practice over the years and how both might be mirroring our own process (in our clients and practice). Additionally, there are of course questions of temperament, while many of us like a challenging supervisor, surely this has to be embedded in an atmosphere of mutual trust and regard. So when it came to choose my own second supervisor, I was delighted to find someone with heaps of experience and expertise, a good sense of humour, a different training-background but the willingness to work integratively and a more academic mind. And yes, he is reassuringly expensive.

(Madeleine Bocker, MA, Dip Psych., UKCP accr., MBACP)

Madeleine is a transpersonal psychotherapist and integrative supervisor working in West London.

For more info or to contact Madeleine, please click www.PsychotherapyWithHeartAndSoul.org.uk

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