Best practice, General

Supervision Demystified II

This is our second of four posts this month on the topic of clinical supervision (read Part I here).  We’ve observed that lots of music therapists aren’t familiar with supervision, what it’s for, and what it’s like to receive it. This series was thus borne of our collective enthusiasm for supervision processes and their value in each of our own journeys of clinical and professional development.

In this particular post, we want to address how supervision for a professional differs from the supervision that all music therapists are required to receive during internship.  Below you will read each of our answers to this question, which we all tried to address from dual perspectives — our personal experience as music therapists who have received supervision as both interns and professionals, and our professional experience as supervisors observing those that we have supervised.

How is supervision different for students or interns versus professionals?

Jillian: Supervision as a professional, for me, is much more honest and straightforward compared with my experience of supervision as an intern.  That is, I’m more forthright about what I’m struggling with.  Being an intern can entail so much searching for approval—from without and from within.  With professional experience, however, there comes a baseline security that allows me to focus more on opportunities for growth and less on proving myself.

Noah: One word comes to mind when I consider supervision as an intern: survive. At the time of my internship, supervision was all about getting enough of my business in order that I could effectively cope and function through the next week, next day, next session. The image that comes to mind for me are those two-person paddle boats where you have to endlessly pedal to get from Point A to Point B: they’re stable and you won’t sink, but it’s hard work throughout. Yet, that’s not bad per say. Internship is an aggressive period of growth not unlike adolescence and any sense of grounding, no matter how fleeting, is most welcomed.

In contrast, the supervision process when a professional is afforded more time to allow pertinent supervision issues to evolve in their own time. Similarly, my identity as a professional is afforded more time to evolve, and as the maturity and self-awareness inherent to that evolution take shape, I’m better positioned to identify deeper topics and actively confront them. It’s the difference between a procedural television show where there’s a new story to introduce, move through, and resolve each week, and a show based on more long form storytelling that uses the entire expanse of a season (or multiple seasons) to nurture a deeper, broader narrative.

Kristen: Student supervision is a continuum of shifting dynamics from student-teacher to supervisee-supervisor. These are separate and distinct roles which carry different implications for intern growth and change. It is necessary for the intern to make the move from seeing the supervisor as a teacher who wields a grade and is the gatekeeper to the profession, to a mentor and eventually trusted colleague. The dynamic in professional supervision is not always quite as clear, depending on the role of the clinical supervisor (boss, chosen by professional, previous relationships, etc.).

Meghan: When I was an intern, I really wasn’t sure about what to do with supervision. I wasn’t given much guidance about what it was for, and I really didn’t know how to identify my own clinical needs and deeper questions. This started coming more naturally to me as I relaxed enough into the procedural aspects of internship (how to solicit referrals, how to initiate a session, how to handle requests for songs I didn’t know, how to find a patient chart, etc.) to be able to notice places where I was uncomfortable, or had questions, in the actual work with patients. I think I was about 2 years out of internship before these questions were formulating for me in a natural, flowing way. So when I was in a position to work with students and interns on-site, I worked very hard to help them clear away the noise of procedural anxiety and start noticing what was happening for them in the relationships with patients. My experience is that sometimes interns are like “what do I even need supervision for?” Professionals are usually thrilled for the opportunity to talk through their work, identify questions, and sort through to find the answers (and when they’re not, I get very concerned for their patients).

Readers, we are very interested in furthering this conversation.  If you receive supervision as a professional, how does it feel different from that which you received as an intern?  If you do not currently receive supervision as a professional, how do you think your internship supervision experience influences that choice?  For supervisors, what additional differences do you note between interns and professionals from those that came to mind for us?  Thanks as always for reading and we’ll be back next week!

2 thoughts on “Supervision Demystified II”

  1. Gosh, I identified with aspects from all of your perspectives. Like Meghan, I don’t think I understood the concept of supervision while I was doing my internship. And, because of that, I can also relate to Noah’s use of the word “survival” in terms of being an intern and relating to my supervisors. As Kristen (and to some extent, but not as specifically, Jillian) talked about, there was, for me, definitely a strong reliance on the teacher/student model of thinking (that feeling of “I need to perform” in order to pass this class). Part of the reason for this may have been going to an AAMT model school, which meant I was still a Temple student while I was going through my internship. Another part may have been cultural, having grown up in Iran and had instilled in me a very strong respect for (and perhaps some fear of) anyone in the position of “teacher” of some sort (or even elder, in the broadest sense). As I think about it, to a certain extent, I continued to feel that way in my early experience of professional supervision.

    As I’ve grown accustomed (over the last umpteen years) to supervision, I’d like to think I’ve begun to use the time in a more meaningful way. Rather than the initial frantic lists of questions and the desperate need for answers, I’ve been able to bring my uncertainty to my supervisor and explore that with her (as well as, of course, looking at the ways I might be creating the uncertainty).

    I’m really appreciating this topic. Thank you, all, for highlighting this important aspect of music therapy in your blog!

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