‘Alone we can do so little: together we can do so much’ Helen Keller
Whether you are a trainee therapist just starting out or an experienced practitioner, professional supervision is compulsory in Britain. Once you have found the ‘right’ supervisor for you, supervision can be immensely facilitative of your practice and of your personal and professional development.
Many supervisors will offer you a free meeting or you may prefer to book a full session to get an idea of how you might work and connect with each other. Below are some suggestions regarding what to consider when looking for a supervisor.
Will I be able to talk to this person when (I think) I have made a mistake?
Many of us feel vulnerable about sharing our perceived mistakes with another person. However it is essential that you are comfortable enough to work with sensitive areas during supervision. In my view this is easier with a supervisor who is empathic, genuine and non-judgmental.
Can this supervisor challenge me?
Challenge can help you to examine yourself and your practice when it is given carefully and is in tune with your level of development. It can facilitate personal shifts and you can gain new perspectives.
Will this supervisor be able to understand my supervisory needs?
For example will your prospective supervisor recognize and provide the balance of support and challenge that you need? If you are just starting out you may need extra support and if you are an experienced counsellor you could be seeking more challenge.
Does this supervisor understand and respect my counselling perspective?
If you are thinking of working with a supervisor whose counselling approach differs from your own I would recommend checking that the supervisor understands your way of working and is willing to support your work in this approach. You might gain new insights by working with a supervisor who has a different theoretical perspective.
Does the gender of my supervisor matter?
It may be that you prefer to work with a supervisor whose gender is the same or different to your own. Or perhaps the gender of your supervisor is unimportant. Exploring your own standpoint can be interesting and revealing and can help you to make decisions when looking for a supervisor. Likewise you might consider whether the race, culture, age etc of your supervisor is significant to you and to your work.
Are the location, supervisor’s availability and fees realistic for me?
The answers to these questions are sometimes clear from the start, or you might want to try out the journey and discuss fees and availability with your prospective supervisor. Some offer a reduced fee for trainee and voluntary counsellors.
Availability includes the days and times when you can book an appointment and the extent to which you can contact the supervisor between sessions, for example if you have a concern or an ethical dilemma.
The supervisor’s qualifications and experience
If you are a trainee counsellor it is important to check that your supervisor’s qualifications and experience fulfil any course requirements. You might want to work with a supervisor who has been practicing for a certain amount of time or who has experience of working in a particular area. Examples are young people, addictions and bereavement.
If you are applying for counsellor accreditation and if you are starting a private practice, you may want to work with a supervisor who can support you in these activities.
Do I feel comfortable?
This includes feeling comfortable with the supervisor themselves and in their working environment. When you meet you may or may not experience a sense of connection.
You can often learn about a prospective supervisor by visiting their website and having a telephone conversation. However, in my experience the best way of discovering whether there is a bond between you is to meet in person.
The Counselling Directory includes a separate section with supervisors