For our last series of 2015, please join us in a conversation about supervision. “Supervision” for professional music therapists refers to a specific process in which the music therapist pursues ongoing clinical guidance from another professional in the field (or a related field). The music therapist wanting supervision will seek out a clinician that they feel they can learn from, and pay them for regular meetings (usually 45 minutes to an hour in length, on phone/Skype or in the supervisor’s office) where the two discuss the music therapist’s cases, and sometimes other professional issues as well. Sometimes music is used as part of this. Supervision is an opportunity to explore the dynamics of therapeutic relationship with various patients, as well as to develop greater understanding of one’s clinical identity.
Another valuable iteration of supervision is the peer supervision group, in which group members take turns sharing case material and providing feedback to each other. In private supervision, one gets the whole time to oneself to receive guidance and feedback, while in group/peer supervision, the time is shared and in addition to receiving one also reflects on others’ cases and shares impressions or suggestions.
This series of posts on supervision came about because of our collective observation that “supervision” is a foreign concept to a lot of music therapists. In my own personal experience, supervision was something that sort of appeared in my daily schedule as an intern, without any real explanation of what it was for or what I was supposed to do with it. Different schools and different internship sites seem to handle the concept of supervision differently: Some don’t mention it at all. Some consider it a time to go over practical matters, whereas others encourage deeper consideration of clinical issues. Some bill it as a part of internship only, whereas others encourage their students and interns to make supervision an ongoing aspect of their future careers.
We four are, of course, part of that last camp. We’ve all found supervision to be exceedingly helpful, and we all can hardly imagine our work without it. So we’re each going to share our thoughts on supervision this month, with another post on each of the next three Tuesdays. Each week we will address a different question about supervision.
Introduction: What’s Your Supervision Story?
Jillian: I’m currently involved in a peer supervision group that includes music therapists working in hospice as well as other settings. As for our training and our theoretical orientations, while we are by no means clones, there are a lot of overlaps and similarities. At times, that is a strength, and at times that may be a weakness. Regardless, the group is a professional lifeline. We meet monthly, and have been doing so for a few years now.
I am not presently engaged in individual supervision, and I miss it.
At work, I supervise interns with whom I work individually.
Noah: I currently receive individual supervision from a music therapist in addition to peer supervision with a cadre of colleagues that, as Jill aptly described it, are a much needed lifeline. Each supervision I receive roughly once a month.
I find individual supervision to be at once one and all of the following: confounding, angering, relieving, and clarifying. Confounding because of the barriers that our explorations frequently uncover, angering because of my tussles with those barriers, relieving when those barriers are either dismantled or reconfigured into an access point, and clarifying because of the insights that emerge and evolve when granted more fluid access to my intrapersonal world. There are times when one characteristic will dominate over the others, but the most meaningful sessions are when all four balance each other out in what Joseph Zinker coined a multilarity.
A multilarity is when there are multiple outcomes, as opposed to “just” two outcomes in a polarity. As this diagram of a supervision multilarity shows, the balancing of these four experiences creates a dialectical tension. When I have been able to successfully use individual supervision to resolve this tension, it has given birth to deeper, more nuanced insights.
Peer supervision is like the good kind of high school reunion (I’m assuming they exist somewhere…) where you connect with friends that you feel like you haven’t seen for a while, and pick up where you last left off. Sometimes the explorations are as intense as in individual supervision, but what I have found to be the most invaluable aspect of peer supervision is the deeply embodied compassion and empathy for my process through work and school that I do not get anywhere else. These are truly a collection of my peers who have lived similar experiences as my own, and can extend supportive understanding through as simple a gesture as a head nod.
I currently provide individual supervision via phone and Skype to music therapists out of state. With some the focus is on clinical issues, while with others it is more focused on professional development.
Kristen: My current supervision situation could be described as “complicated”! Previously, I had participated in and greatly benefited from weekly clinical supervision from a music therapist that I highly regarded. When that relationship ended, I had a transitional period, consisting of a “grief” of sorts for a relationship that I highly valued. I felt myself wandering and trying to determine what to do next. I think it’s also important here to mention that my needs had shifted. I had taken on a management/administrative role, causing the main focus of my work to be on staff and program development and management. Currently, I receive weekly administrative supervision, monthly clinical supervision from a psychologist, and participate in a monthly creative arts therapy peer supervision group. This has been my supervision arrangement for the past year and a half. I am currently looking for a music therapist who has experience in providing supervision to supervisors and managers. Through my role as program director, I provide weekly or biweekly clinical supervision to a team of 7 creative arts therapists (music and art) and child life specialists in the workplace setting. I also provide clinical supervision to music therapy and dance therapy interns as a component of their clinical training.
Meghan: I have had a lot of different supervision situations over the years: private supervision with a senior music therapist (in my case Diane Austin); private supervision with a drama therapist in my workplace and concurrently with my boss at the time, a clinical nurse specialist; several iterations of peer supervision with other music therapists; and two iterations of peer supervision with a group of various creative arts therapists in private practice. Currently, I do peer supervision once a week with an art therapist and a peer consultation group once a month with a group of clinicians of various backgrounds who work with people with foster care histories (which is part of my private practice work). For the past three years I have also paid for weekly private supervision with a psychologist/Jungian analyst.
On the provider side, I have supervised practicum students, interns, and new professionals in on-site workplace supervision sessions for a number of years. Currently and for the last few years, I’ve provided private supervision to music therapists in my office or via phone or Skype. I’ve worked with MT’s who work in hospices, psychiatric hospitals, and private practice situations.
Thanks for reading this first post in our series. We’re interested in your reactions as we continue on this topic! What do you want to know more about? What of our supervision stories surprises or intrigues you? What would you like to share about your own supervision story? Please share.