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Making the Most of Supervision

Supervision is an essential component of a counsellor or therapist’s working life. It is a formal, professional relationship between a supervisee and supervisor and its main purpose is to ensure the welfare of the client while facilitating the professional development of the supervisee.

While supervision is an ongoing professional obligation for all those working as counsellors or therapists, trainees, unlike qualified practitioners, are required to maintain a set ratio of supervisory to client hours. Trainees with less that 150 clinical hours need to maintain a minimum ratio of one hour of supervision for every four client hours, moving to one hour of supervision for every six client hours after this. In addition, trainees need to be in supervision at least every fortnight.

WELFARE OF THE CLIENT - It is important that a trainee’s practice is overseen by an experienced and competent supervisor. When the supervisee is unqualified, the supervisor usually has clinical responsibility for the trainee’s clients. The supervisor carrying this responsibility will be the placement supervisor, where there is one, and the Metanoia Approved Supervisor, where there isn’t. The supervisor with clinical responsibility works with the supervisee to ensure that clients are not being harmed. Although supervisors work in a variety of ways, they will usually carry out their task by listening to recordings of the trainee’s work with clients, and by listening to the supervisee talk about that work.

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT OF THE SUPERVISEE – The supervisor will work to help the supervisee become the most effective practitioner they can be. This will involve helping the trainee reflect on and evaluate their interventions, think about alternative ways of intervening, become aware of their countertransferential experiences, integrate theory into practice, and maintain self-care. In this way, the supervisor assists the supervisee in developing and enhancing their ability to engage ethically, professionally and at relational depth with clients.

PREPARING FOR SUPERVISION – To get the most out of supervision, it is important that the trainee prepares for it. What is prepared, and how, will depend on the process and goals agreed between supervisor and supervisee and on the particular needs of the supervisee in relation to client load and stage and level of training. Some ideas for getting the most out of supervision are given below:


* Make a note between supervision sessions of any questions or concerns that arise out of your work. If you simply rely on memory, you may forget important information.

* Bring intake sheets of all new clients with you so that you can introduce them to your supervisor (ensuring, of course, that the client’s identity is protected).

* Bring case notes to supervision as an aid to initiating discussion about clients.

* Bring audio tapes (with transcripts) of your work with clients, ensuring that they are password-protected and encrypted to comply with data-protection regulations.

* Listen to your tapes before supervision and identify interventions that seemed to work well and those you feel unsure about, so that you are ready to discuss these with your supervisor.

* Identify areas of your client work that you think might be usefully informed by the theory you are learning in training, so that you are able to discuss the links.

* Think about areas of risk in your work and how these might be ethically addressed within your practice.