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Amber Samuels Photo Aug 11, 2020

Counselors in the Role of Supervisor: Practicing and Modeling Self-Care in Supervision During COVID-19

Given the loss, fear, and uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and the ongoing need for social distancing, counselors and supervisees alike are feeling understandably more anxious. Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become increasingly important for counselors and supervisors to make self-care an even greater priority as we continue to take care of clients and supervisees respectively. Here I share two practical ways I have modeled self-care in supervision during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Normalize Self-Care Through Self-Disclosure

In the time of COVID-19, I continue to need to put my best self forward for my supervisees. As a counselor, I find it important to continually assess my own self-care practices and keep in mind what I am doing effectively as well as what I could be doing better. Likewise, just as when I am in the role of counselor and attending to the needs of my clients, when I am in the role of supervisor and attending to the needs of supervisees, I cannot do this effectively without attending to my own needs first and taking care of myself through engaging in self-care.

For example, one way that I have modeled self-care is to be deliberate in normalizing it through self-disclosing my practices, successes, and challenges with it during the time of COVID-19. Throughout supervision, I also aimed to be transparent about my increased attention to self-care to ensure I am taking care of myself in a way that ensures I can show up for them the way that I need to during this time. As the saying goes -- you can't pour from an empty cup. 

Name Fears and Talk About Anxiety

The current pandemic is a time of uncertainty for everyone, and for many it is also a time of anxiety and fear. Given that a counselor’s anxiety can affect a client’s experience in counseling as well as interfere with a counselor’s ability to provide quality care, I have been intentional in not only leaving room for the discussion of anxiety during supervision, but also in inviting it into the conversation.

For example, one way I modeled self-care was to discuss ways for counselors to notice when they are becoming anxious regarding COVID-19, particularly when discussing it with clients. These conversations involved not only how they might go about managing their anxiety in session, but also how they might make use of it therapeutically. In addition, I also initiated conversations about how naming my own fears and anxiety during this time has been an essential step in enhancing my own self-care so I can effectively show up in my role as supervisor. I also made sure to invite them to discuss any anxiety that is impacting their work with clients and to seek out support from mental health services when needed.


Amber M. Samuels is a doctoral candidate at The George Washington University working toward a PhD in Counseling and a Licensed Graduate Professional Counselor (LGPC) in the District of Columbia. She is board-certified as a National Certified Counselor (NCC) and is an MBTI® Certified Practitioner. Amber takes an intersectional approach to counseling and utilizes an integrative theoretical orientation to guide her in helping the individuals she works with move toward optimum mental health. Her research centers around using research as a tool for advocacy and as a way to inform culturally sensitive clinical practice. You can learn more about Amber at https://www.linkedin.com/in/itsambersamuels/

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