Making the most of the supervisory journey

Alana James (Royal Holloway University of London) reports from the Society's Annual Conference.

What is supervision? Susan van Scoyoc (independent practitioner in counselling and health psychology) threw this question open to the room during her keynote address to the Trainee conference. It is a light being shone for the supervisee, it is a collaboration, a discussion, it is a formal process with a power differential, it is not about the supervisee but about improving client experience. Whilst it should be facilitative, for trainees there is no getting away from the role of the supervisor as gatekeeper; they are there to judge as well as to help. Van Scoyoc acknowledged that supervision does mean different things to different people, and changes over time and with experience levels. It was an interesting point in her own supervisory journey – she herself had recently become a supervisee again and her former supervisee Jamie Hacker Hughes was about to become the new BPS President.

What can you do to promote a successful supervision partnership? The room discussed the idea of choosing a supervisor with a good ‘fit’ – rather than the one who is closer or cheaper – and being able to acknowledge when it isn’t working. Considerations include how available the supervisor is, whether they have clear expectations, do they listen or are they overly directive, and perhaps crucially - do you hold similar therapeutic values and approaches?

For some trainees though, this careful selection isn’t possible as supervisors are assigned. Van Scoyoc noted that everyone needs to find out the requirements of their supervisory experience at the start, and try to ensure both partners are working to the same agenda. It may be worth looking at the sample contracts available (such as the BPS one for trainees) and asking some difficult questions up front – Who is responsible for what? What happens if problems arise during supervision? Who would mediate if there was a conflict?

It is also important to look after yourself as a supervisee. Van Scoyoc pointed trainees towards Seligman’s positive psychology perspective that suggests that everyone needs positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishments. To this she added maintaining your physical and mental health, and reflecting upon what helps you – ask yourself what is it that you value, what refreshes you and gives you the oomph to keep going, what is that drives you on?

- More reports from the Society's Annual Conference will appear in the July print edition. Find out more about next year's event

BPS Members can discuss this article

Already a member? Or Create an account

Not a member? Find out about becoming a member or subscriber