This is our last of four posts about clinical supervision. Thanks for joining in the conversation so far! If you haven’t read our previous posts on this topic, you might want to go back and catch up! In today’s post, we’re each going to describe our respective approach in providing supervision, whether as peer or individual supervisor.
Who are you as a (peer or private) supervisor?
Jillian: To me, supervising others is like helping them finish a puzzle. They raise their issues, and the task of the supervisor is to identify what piece(s) might be missing. Is it knowledge? Is it a skill? Is it self-awareness? Is it another view or interpretation of the patient’s experience? Are multiple pieces missing? We may not actually hold the correct piece or pieces, or if we do, we may have only a small part of one piece. If we have something to offer, such as some bit of knowledge, then the next task is to offer that puzzle piece in a way that will allow them to receive it, put it into place, and grow from it. Or maybe we suspect the supervisee already has the missing piece somewhere in their puzzle box, and then our task is to do what we can to help them discover that themselves.
Noah: My supervision approach closely parallels my therapeutic approach: bear witness, structure a safe and supportive space for exploration, and promote meaning-making through exploration. One significant adjustment I’ve made to my supervision style is to expand my thinking when a supervisee identifies no pressing issues at the time we meet. I do not assume that they are being avoidant, in denial, or thinking superficially. Instead, I consider one of two possible options:
(1) Supervisees are legitimately having a week of grounded and self-aware work that requires no further processing because they have developed the skills necessary to manage such issues
(2) Supervisees have moved beyond the need to process day-to-day issues to address deeper clinical, philosophical, and/or theoretical concerns, questions, and ideas.
Ideally, both conditions are in place, indicating that the supervisee has reached a level of competence sufficient for diving under the surface to tackle the less explicit but no less prevalent issues that confront experienced clinicians.
Kristen: When I work with students, I see myself taking on multiple roles depending on the student’s place in their developmental trajectory. Sometimes it is necessary for me to be a mentor, role model, parental figure, or teacher. As the student moves through the developmental phases, the role of supervisor shifts to one that accompanies the clinical journey, at times being provocative and other times providing support. I ascribe to the view of one that accompanies when providing clinical supervision to professionals. My role becomes that of a listener and fellow traveler, guiding supervisees towards accessing resources within themselves.
Meghan: I try to do what has most benefited me — empower my supervisees to find the answers within themselves, and help them to find the meaning in each clinical moment. In moments where they don’t know “what to do” we talk about different possibilities, and how to choose the one that feels right in the moment. If they bring me a confusing clinical moment that they find upsetting, we work to understand the patient, the therapist, and the co-created space in between, knowing that often there is no clear delineation of these three. Supervision is an intimate clinical relationship too — and in most cases, my supervisees and I find ourselves on a journey towards their own self-discovery, even as they are helping their patients with the same thing.