Positive effects of supervision

Matt Hudson writes.

I work as an assistant psychologist with traumatised children. My job is to manage groups who can be violent, sexualised and oppositional, teaching them mindfulness and emotional regulation. It’s a tricky job, but one that I manage, for the most part, to leave at work. What I did not expect to take home with me, however, were the conversations I had during supervision. Like most assistant psychologists, I’ve been a capable member of teams. Previous supervision focused on meeting service outcome goals, which suited me just fine because I was getting positive feedback about my work with families.

It wasn’t until I started as an assistant that I discovered how much I had to learn, not just about my practice, but about myself. I remember one group of children in particular who left me feeling frazzled and, frankly, miserable. I’d been running a session where the children ran rings around me. They were becoming more dysregulated and distressed and I felt I couldn’t maintain control. In supervision I was expecting a dressing down in the vein of ‘you should have used this intervention’ or ‘you should have stepped in much earlier’. Instead we had a disarming chat about why this control was so important to me in ways I’d never registered before. After our conversation, the manic group didn’t bother me so much and eventually calmed down.

A few weeks later I was asked to formulate about myself, how I think and feel. Presenting my formulations was a brutally exposing experience as I was forced to acknowledge how some of my perceived strengths may be barriers to good practice in the future. Previously I would have left a conversation like this defeated and grumpy. Instead I left the room full of anticipation. I wasn’t used to having someone who was willing to see through me to such a degree and act upon their observations for my professional betterment.
I was told by a supervisor that psychologists tend to be inclined towards an avoidant attachment pattern. I agreed, under the impression I was an exception. Yet supervision helped me see how I kept feelings at bay. As time passed I realised I was no longer ignoring the feelings that would go alongside my thoughts. Thanks to supervision I am simultaneously capable of a level of happiness I wasn’t engaging with before and have cried more in the past half year than I have in the past ten.

I’ve been in my post over a year and supervision has made me a more capable practitioner and a more engaged human being. For this reason, I feel supervision is often overlooked as a vital part of an assistant’s journey.

Matt Hudson MBPsS

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