As you all may have noticed, I have strayed away from my initial subject of supervision in counseling. I felt that I needed to verbalize the significant events that were occurring around me.
As another semester begins for me, I have come full circle again and want to discuss some of my supervision experience so far, in the role of a supervisor.
Although I am typically more experienced and credentialed than my students or supervisees, I still find myself humbled by how much I do not know and still need to learn. I need to continue developing my ability to communicate effectively with supervisees, especially when there are problems, concerns, or conflicts. I have needed to do this with a couple of supervisees, but still feel relatively novice in this area since I have had few complicated supervision experiences. I also need to continue learning about effective supervision, supervision models and how to effectively integrate and implement them in practice.
The evolution of my approach to supervision was somewhat similar to how I formulated my counseling philosophy, in vivo. After graduating from my master’s program, I fortunately was able to obtain a job working for a HIV/AIDS clinic, providing mental health services and community outreach. Aside from my practicum and internship experiences and layperson, voluntary community counseling, I had not worked with clients, and I felt ill-equipped. Similarly, when I finally obtained my license in professional counseling and had at least two years post-license, I felt unprepared to switch roles from the supervisee to supervisor. In either case, I jumped in with tools at hand. I ensured I received supervision on a weekly basis, continued building my knowledge base by attending trainings and workshops and surrounded myself by peers who were also going through a similar experience and/or had senior perspective. None of these support systems were readily available; I had to find them myself. So, by joining different associations (i.e. – ACA, NVLPC, etc.) and utilizing my existing networks, I was able to get what I needed.
Sometimes, I feel like I am flailing and uncertain about how effective I really am…other times, I feel “successful,” productive and confident. This is why a positive support system to include supervision is crucial! I have grown to appreciate the process of supervision. I admit that as I was going through my masters program, I did not fully understand or embrace the concept. In hindsight, I should have taken more advantage of the opportunities to learn from other clinicians.
I frequently discuss the concept of an evolving identity with my clients and supervisees. Of course, this is easier to apply to others than to myself. I am aware that I do not give myself enough laxity which has caused unnecessary emotional turmoil. However, to my credit, this has “evolved,” and I feel more comfortable with where I am now and the uncertainty and excitement of the future.
I also try to operate under the philosophy that life is a journey of learning (and finding meaning) and that only when we cease to exist, do we cease to learn. I feel that we need to be humble during this journey in order to be effective clinicians, educators, supervisors or whatever role we want to be in.
My approach or philosophy in providing supervision is again similar to my approach to the counseling process. Since I believe that the basis for effective supervision is the supervisory relationship, the Person-Centered Model fits. I believe in not only supporting supervisees, but empowering them in their process of learning. I also believe that the “facilitative conditions” (think Rogerian) and trust are necessary to form an effective relationship. The Person-Centered model focuses on the strengths of both the client and supervisee and the purposefulness of behaviors. Another model that I espouse is Solution-Focused. This model is also strength-based and assumes that the client or supervisee is capable. Based on this model, the supervisor provides support by facilitating learning, rather than directing it. The supervisee-supervisor relationship is collaborative in nature and focuses on realistic and achievable goals developed by the supervisee. Solution-focused supervision allows for flexibility and creativity, and embraces different perspectives.
As with counseling approaches, I believe we need to think about what is best for the client, ultimately, while respecting our own being. There is a way for us to be who we are as counselors, educators and supervisors while also being effective. This being said, I am open to my ever evolving philosophy of supervision, and it is this journey that we all should keep in mind and embrace.
Grace Hipona is a counselor in the state of Virginia. She currently serves as a Mental Health Therapist for a clinic, a counselor for a private practice and is a doctoral candidate. She operates from a strength-based perspective