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Koster (2003) stated that "supervision leads to a mental and emotional education that can guide practical work, frees fixed patterns of experience and behaviour and promotes the willingness as well as the ability to act suitably, carefully and courageously"(p1). This essay will explore Koster's quotation about best practice in supervision, in relation to supervision in the area of counselling. This essay will also identify the benefits and difficulties of supervision, in regards to counselling, that can arise in supervision. Examples from a personal perspective will be presented on how supervision throughout work experience enabled difficult situations to be handled. Furthermore, an analysis of how effectively supervision was conducted throughout work experience, as well as personal suggestions on improvements of supervision in that work setting.
Koster's quote does speak truth as supervision can lead to all sorts of positive and negative developments (Pelling, Bowers & Armstrong, 2007). In particular he claims that it can lead to mental and emotional education that guides practical work, frees from fixed patterns of experience and behaviours. Supervision in counselling is very vital as it aims to increase self-awareness and enhances professional competence which will guide the supervisee throughout their work in a confident manner (Pelling, Bowers & Armstrong, 2007), which is similar to what Koster is trying to state.
The goal of supervision is primarily about the supervisee's developmental growth and professional awareness (Pelling, Bowers & Armstrong, 2007). Which again leads back to Koster's quote about how supervision leads to development; and that development of experience will guide the supervisee throughout their work in counselling. Thorough supervision, the supervisee will grow, reflect and develop in their professional and personal skills. It is through these developments that will alter their behaviour that will eventually guide them through their work to act in a suitable, careful and courageously; throughout their career in counselling. Which in return, is vital for a counsellor as his or her mental and emotional education needs to continually develop, and this can be accelerated through supervision.
It can be said that a number of individuals and organisations can benefit from quality clinical supervision. Quality supervision is about making sure the client is not being harmed and is being assisted to accomplish established goals in competently appropriate ways, the receiver of counselling services is the first to benefit (Page & Wosket, 1994). The majority of the conversation in supervisory sessions centres on interventions being used for the client and advance to how the supervisee is stressed with various parts of the case.
While the supervisor is interacting, clarifying, explaining, educating, supporting and coming up with helpful professional interventions, another person is benefiting from this while interacting back to their supervisor - the supervisee.
As Pelling, Bowers, and Armstrong (2007) suggests:
This is where the supervisee's scope of practice, expertise and insight is being intentionally and incrementally expanded. Engaging supervisors in the struggle for understanding is valuable for deep learning to occur. In this sense it is the clinical material that is the teacher, not just the supervisor themselves. Supervision can insulate the supervisee from work-related stress, variously referred as burn-out. (p. 126)
In addition, if the supervisee is an apprentice from an educational establishment, the organisation itself benefits with the development of a more proficient and safe practitioner (Pelling, Bowers & Armstrong, 2007). This gives the organisation an excellent reputation for supporting and appropriately training the people in their charge in a professional manner, hence supervision being provided by the organisation benefits the organisation with a good positive professional reputation.
Last of all, the clinical supervisor gains a great deal from offering supervision. While they support the supervisees, their understanding of clinical work, knowledge, experience, the world and themselves develops a great deal and the sense of fulfilment of being additive to so many is indeed rewarding and satisfying (Pelling, Bowers & Armstrong, 2007).
Supervision can be a valuable constructive learning tool, but at times difficulties in supervision can make it a negative experience. Moskowitz and Rupert (1983) found in their research, within USA, that supervisees reported that 38% of those surveyed claimed that there had been difficulties and conflict in their supervision that interfered with their learning. Their research further found that there are three major areas of difficulties and conflict that arise in supervision: theoretical orientation, style of supervision and personality issues (Moskowitz & Rupert, 1983).
Differences in theoretical orientation may lead to difficulties and conflict in supervision (Carroll & Gilbert, 2006). In various organisations, supervisees may not have a choice of a supervisor and may perhaps end up getting supervised by somebody who has a different theoretical to their own. For example, a supervisor may be convinced of the 'rightness' of their orientation and is not ready to accept interference that arise from a different school of psychology. These differences in theoretical orientation are a common problem in supervision and it may lead to rifts between the supervisor and supervisee, therefore failing to negotiate differences of this kind (Holloway, 1995).
Secondly, difficulties and conflicts may arise in supervision when it comes to the style of supervision. Some supervisors have a formal style whilst others have an informal style of approach (Carroll & Gilbert, 2006). There are four unsatisfactory styles of supervision that cause conflicts and difficulties: constrictive supervision; amorphous supervision; unsupportive supervision; and 'therapeutic' supervision' (Abott, 1984).
In the constructive type, there is limited autonomy. In the amorphous type, there is very little supervisory contribution and the supervisor may have a somewhat laissez faire outlook to the entire process, where 'whatever happens goes'. Unsupportive supervisors are unfriendly and distant and supervisees would not willingly approach them with their difficulties. Therapeutic supervision transforms the supervisee into a 'patient' while the supervisor takes on the position of the 'therapist' often in a persistent and pushy manner that infantilizes the supervisee (Carroll & Gilbert, 2006).
The last style of supervision that causes conflict and difficulties is known as personality issues. This is when there is a 'personality clash' between the supervisor and supervisee which can result to a rupture in the supervisory alliance (Carroll & Gilbert, 2006). These ruptures are often caused by confusion in communication, for example the supervisor may misinterpret something the supervisee has said in a negative way. Furthermore, the rapture may be simply be caused by the supervisees own defensiveness. An example would be that the supervisee may act defensively when the supervisor gives feedback, therefore causing a strain in the supervision relationship.
Supervision is a valuable tool for a supervisee when they are having difficulty dealing with their client in an effective professional manner. Whatever the problem is, in regards to the well-being of the client, the supervisee can discuss these issues throughout supervision in order to uncover helpful interventions in dealing with the matter (Wosket, 1999).
An example from work experience in which supervision enabled to deal effectively with a difficult situation, is when there was a client who brought up an issue that was difficult to handle. The reason the issue was difficult to handle is because there was limited knowledge in that area and there was no confidence in dealing with the matter. So in order to deal with this dilemma, it was brought up to the attention to the supervisor throughout the supervision session.
Throughout the supervision session the supervisor, listened to the dilemma and asked explorative questions, made encouraging statements and shared self- disclosure. She also in return, working the supervisee, came up with interventions to put together in order for the supervisee to handle the struggling case. The supervisor clarified the problem to the supervisee and explored potential explanations and interventions for the supervisee to consider. The supervisee filled in the gaps of the knowledge and asked the supervisee to reflect and explore options on how he will put the explored interventions in to action. The supervisor also used modelling and role-plays to show the supervisee on how they might be able to assist their client. So through supervision, the supervisor's challenges and confrontations facilitated the supervisee's critical reflection and learning, hence this gave confidence to the supervisee to handle and deal with their difficult situation.
A concise breakdown will currently be offered on how efficiently supervision was carried right through work experience. Supervision was conducted effectively because the supervisor followed a significant process in order for supervision to function at its best. The initial supervision session is when the supervisor clarified what the supervisee has done in the past in regards to practice and supervision, and asks where they would like assistance.
When it came to the daily supervision sessions, it was noted at times that the supervisor would follow a process right from beginning to end. When the supervisee had an issue, it would be looked thoroughly. Issues discussed in supervision included: intervention strategies and future plans; counsellor professional development; supervisee - client alliance and boundaries; client issues and goal setting; supervisor - supervisee relationship; ethical and legal issues; and so on.
Once the issue were discussed, the supervisor would ask a series of structured questions in order to gain clarification, as well as allowing the supervisee to reflect and offload. Such helpful questions included: What are you feeling and views about the issue?; Where do you feel most confused?; what kind of help would you like?; and what are the key details I need to know about the case?.
Furthermore, during supervision the supervisor and supervisee took notes during sessions to have an ongoing record of plans, themes, struggles, clients discussed, learning and progress. Once the issue was discussed and the supervisor asked her questions, the supervisor would then encourage the supervisee to: understand the problem; find links among the information; develop a treatment plan to put into practice; and create a working proposition (Carroll & Gilbert, 2006).
Towards the end of every supervision session, the supervisor would give feed back as well as ask for verbal feedback back from the supervisee. The supervisor would ask something as simple as 'How was our session for you today?' or 'Was this session valuable or unbeneficial to you today?'
Summing up, supervision was conducted effectively because the supervisor followed a valuable process throughout the sessions. Apart from following an effective process, the supervisor herself was encouraging, respectful, genuine, empathetic, and self-disclosed, which as a result added further to the effectiveness of supervision.
From personal experience, the supervision that took place during work placement cannot be faulted. However, there is lack of knowledge of how the other supervisors function in their role, as during placement only one supervisor was given to work closely with. Focusing purely on the supervisor provided with, her name being Amy, she was nothing but professional, educated and friendly. One could suggest that Amy is the ideal supervisor as throughout work placement she always showed respect, genuineness, empathy and was always encouraging. She was also concrete and showed a great deal self-disclosure throughout supervision. As stated, Amy would be the ideal supervisor as her supervision qualities match what Carifo and Hess found in their research in what makes an ideal supervisor. Carifo and Hess (1987) found that "the ideal supervisor is a person who shows respect, empathy, genuineness, concreteness and self-disclosure in his or her dealings with supervisees" (p.247).
So as one can see, supervision cannot be faulted as it was nothing other but a positive learning experience, with the help of a true professional supervisor who knew how to function in her role. Therefore, it is too complex to come up with suggestions for improvements for supervision in the work setting because it just worked to well in order to suggest any changes.
Supervision may have its benefits and difficulties, but it is those experiences a supervisee needs to experience in order to develop their mental and emotional experience. It is these developments and experiences that allow the individual to be able to learn and handle future challenges in their area of counselling. With the right supervisor, as well as having regular supervision sessions that are conducted effectively, it will consequently transform the supervisee into a stronger counsellor who is willing to learn, act suitably, carefully and courageously; throughout their counselling career.