Supervision, mentoring, debriefing, reviewing, reflecting ...
There are many words to describe the function and purpose of supervision. It's a word that is easily misunderstood by those outside of the counselling framework, as it sounds like a top-down checking-up on the practitioner. In reality it is far from this -
Supervision is designed to hold a supportive space for the space holders.
It's one of the best ways we can support the sustainability, longevity and health of workers who spend their work lives with the intimate details of what's really going on for human beings, whether it's counselling and related work, bodywork therapies, physical and emotional caregiving, or management and leadership.
Those who hold space for others need the same sort of quality attention for themselves. We care for others best when we feel nourished and understood, when we have a place to share our professional lives with their many difficulties and joys, and also to share some of the professional responsibility we carry in this kind of work.
Who is it for?
Supervision and mentoring is for a broad range of therapists and caregivers. It's for those who work in an intimate, therapeutic, educational, supportive and/or caring capacity for others. This includes anyone who feels that it would be good self care - whether therapists such as Breathwork practitioners, Rebirthing practitioners, counsellors, psychotherapists, art therapists, music therapists, dance therapists, bodyworkers, educators, medical professionals, mentors, energy healers, spiritual guides, clergy, hospice workers, or other caregivers.
Who can benefit?
All of us benefit hugely from having supportive and heartful allies walking with us through all aspects of our lives. We are stronger with the contribution of the gathered wisdom and experience of others - of those who've gone before us and those who are travelling alongside us.
Most of our consultations and sessions are one to one. As therapists we're making decisions on the go and responding to a vast array of ways of being. We are engaged with the issues of others, their struggles, life paths, complications, traumas and different ways of processing. Our work is strongly supported by being able to discuss what enters our rooms with someone who offers not only similar experience, but also empathy, kindness and compassion. Good supervision takes place with respect, honesty and trust, with those who will guide us when necessary, and hold space for us, as we work together to find what is happening, both for us and for the client.Burnout and compassion fatigue can be natural consequences of going it alone as many therapists do. There is often a personal cost of being an empathic listener, a sensitive, a heartful therapist, facilitator, healer, carer or manager. This builds a little at a time, day by day.
It's simply wise practice to apply radical self-care and compassionate self-awareness, right from the beginning.
What does supervision and mentoring offer?
Self care: It's true for everyone, all the time: When we care for ourselves, we are more able to care for others and care about others. When we are nourished, we have what it takes to nourish others. Supervision and mentoring is a foundation for good self care - a professional and ethical space in which we can talk honestly about the details, dilemmas, gains and losses of working with people.
Debrief: A debrief facilitates a clear reflection on the many people and issues that come into the session room. It also provides a space for the issues we experience with colleagues, managers or co-workers. Debriefing includes reflection on your personal and professional responses and reactions, and includes help to identify whether further action is required.
Reflection and Review of what's working and what's not working offers other possibilities and approaches, while at the same time as encouraging honesty and authenticity. Very often it offers new insights and inspiration.
Ethical practice: Ethics includes those of the professional association or organisation within which we are working. It also includes our own personal values and moral compasses. The application of ethics is demystified, supported and best understood through kindness-based reflection on work with clients and on our responses. Reflection helps in the maintenance of boundaries and right relationship with clients, and it helps to identify transference, counter transference, and our personal triggers,
There are particular challenges in working with clients in altered or heightened states of consciousness. This can happen within many healing and therapeutic modalities, where unusual, profound, and transformative moments occur within the professional relationship. Altered states of consciousness have the potential for greater client healing, and they also present ethical challenges outside the usual. Supervision can only support our understanding and navigation of these particularities.
Australian Breathwork Association requirements
This video was recorded In 2015, and aimed at encouraging professional members of the Australian Breathwork Association to learn about the supervision requirements of their membership. The Association's policy regarding Professional Supervision is here, and is worth reading for anyone interested in the thinking behind supervision.