External (or professional) supervision is of great benefit to everyone who works in a people helping role. For many of us it is mandatory for our professional registration, for others it is highly recommended. I believe that regular supervision can help many people who may not be familiar with it, or required to attend as part of their work role. In fact everyone that works with people should consider attending supervision. Professional supervision is described by Lane and Corrie (2006) as “A formal independent process of reflection and review which enables practitioners to increase individual self-awareness, develop their competence and critique their work.”
Professional supervision is for you - even if you have not thought about it before:
Supervision is perhaps an unhelpful naming for professional supervision. There is a tendency to associate ‘supervision’ with line management and someone prioritising or evaluating our tasks. But that is not what professional supervision is. Rather professional supervision is a safe space outside of the regular work environment, to experience facilitated reflection on your work, your self and the interaction between the two.
Professional Supervision is for you because the world is a busy, ambiguous, ever-changing place: It is a world of inputs: podcasts, blog posts and e-books. Information comes to you from so many different directions. Your mind is a hard-working receptacle collecting experiences, client work, what you read, what you hear, what you experience and see. It is easy to just keep filling your mind with more and more input. The result is that your mind begins to feel like an overflowing washing basket, all jumbled and crumpled and muddled. It then becomes easy to start to lose your sense of self, to drift from your values, to feel overwhelmed and to lose your self-confidence. Professional supervision is a powerful pause amongst the input. It is a safe reflective space outside all the demands that you are facing. It is a chance for you to get help sorting and folding all the jumbled piles in your mind, and to consider the changing world and the changing needs of your clients. Facilitated reflection with a skilled supervisor will leave you feeling neat and orderly with the increased clarity and insight that you need for sustainable, flexible and excellent work.
Professional Supervision is for you if you work with others:
Caring for or helping others requires a lot from you, professional supervision is part of how you can care for yourself as you face all those needs. Professional Supervision began in the social work profession in the late 1800’s but quickly spread throughout other professions that are centred on people helping, such as counselling, psychotherapy and psychology. Now it is common in a range of professions, from spiritual direction, and clergy to youth work and nursing, and social workers call it their gift to the helping professions. Support is an essential foundation of professional supervision, it is a safe place for you to take and process all the emotions that your work with others creates in you. A supervisor will provide support and guidance to help you work with and be curious about your emotions, and how you can use them in your work, and care for yourself in your experiences of strong emotions.
Professional Supervision is for you - if you use your ‘self’ in your work:
You - your own self is the source of and resource for your work. If you use your own presence and self, your own story and your own emotional engagement with clients then supervision is an essential support for you in this work. A supervisor can help you explore how you are being your real self in your work or whether there are areas in which you are holding back. They can help you craft your role so that you can be more authentic and have ownership of the way you work. Professional supervision is also a safe space to explore the vulnerability involved in your use of self and how you can ensure you are doing so in a sustainable way.
Professional Supervision is for you - if you want to grow:
A key outcome of attending supervision is growth. If you want to grow in your professional identity, your confidence, or in the quality and extent of your work, then a supervisor can nurture and encourage your to stretch in those areas. A supervisor can help you unpack your attitudes to feedback so that you can use it more effectively and will be there to talk through cases and client work with you. Professional supervision is an ideal space in which to explore and experiment with your own authority as a professional and to process your growth or struggles in this area.
Professional Supervision is for you - if you want accountability:
Unlike coaching or counselling, professional supervision contains a focus on the end user of the service. The clients or people that that you work with with ideally should receive a better service because of your attendance at professional supervision. This means there are many layers or relationships and systems to work with in a supervision session. Accountability is a central component of supervision, of course this is influenced by the professional standards within which you and your supervisor work. Through reflecting on your work with your supervisor you have an opportunity to consider your decision making processes and to work on increasing your ethical maturity. It is a safe space to consider complex relationships and the ethical implications of these.
If you are unsure what benefit you would gain from attending supervision - supervision is still for you.
There is a lot to be gained from attending supervision. In my own experience supervision has been transformational. It facilitated my growth as a telephone counsellor by providing safe challenges that took me out of my comfort zone, it provided emotional support and mindset shifts when I struggled with the organisations I was part of. As someone who now works by myself it ensures someone is checking on my well-being and resilience practices and it has enabled me to grow in confidence in the services that I provide. I consider supervision an essential component of ensuring that my practice is both competent and ethical.
Supervision is for everyone:
Supervision is indeed a gift, a useful and empowering practice for anyone who works in some sort of caring role with people. Working with people requires extra care and support to do well over the long term. In the not for profit sector within it can seem that each year requires more empathy, more client support, more professionalism, more learning of new skills and knowledge and more pressure to do more with less. In the face of these increasing demands working sustainably and with attention to self-care, spirituality or values, work-life balance and resilience is hard work. Therefore professional supervision is an almost essential layer of support to ensure you are working sustainably.
I LOVE to talk about supervision, so if you have any questions about professional supervision and whether it is right for you I am most happy to answer them