THE RESPONSIBILITIES OF A COUNSELLING SUPERVISOR AND WAYS IN WHICH SUPERVISORS CAN SUPPORT THE COUNSELLORS THEY SUPERVISE
In the guidelines of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy there is an essential requirement that all full training courses should include ‘a substantial amount of supervised counselling practice with real clients’ (BACP, 2005). I am going to consider the supervisory responsibilities and consequently how these can be put into practice.
In depth courses which can last from one to three years will include a supervised placement during that time. Some shorter courses do not have this requirement. Certain agencies, however, may include supervision even on short courses e.g. Cruse and the Samaritans. There is an increase in provision of good quality, in-depth courses and subsequently there is a logical increase in the supervisory element. It is important before embarking on such a course to ensure that a good quality placement can be found to facilitate this element. When a course is well supervised, it ensures that the relationship between the student and client takes place safely and theory and skills are properly put into practice. Clear and precise accurate records of all supervision must be kept. These would include ‘an agency/trainee counsellor contract, a supervision contract, a log book to record student/client hours, a record of mentor assessment of the student and written trainee/counsellor/individual client contacts. (Hough, page 21).
It is the obligation of a supervisor to ensure that the values and beliefs of any particular organisation are upheld by all counsellors. The supervisor needs to be able to steer and maintain consistency between all counsellors. Good practice should be maintained at all times in order to protect clients from poor handling. Supervision is designed to offer a multi-level support with an atmosphere whereby integrity and openness will make for a higher level of counselling skill. This support provides the counsellor with a positive form of feedback and instruction regularly during his practice. There should be a form of mutual respect between supervisor and counsellor with regards to each individual’s values and beliefs and skills. The ultimate responsibility of the supervisor and the counsellor is to the client so a good degree of interaction will allow this. The supervisor will give support, guidance and feedback to counsellors who work with clients.
“All counsellors, psychotherapists, trainers and supervisors are required to have regular and ongoing formal supervision/consultative support for their work in accordance with professional requirements. Managers, researchers and providers of counselling skill are strongly encouraged to review their need for professional and personal support and to obtain appropriate services for themselves” (BACP , 2005).
This has been practiced for a very long time – indeed, many prominent therapists have supervised one another in such a manner. People in a number of occupations also find the benefits of supervision and consultation. The nursing profession is keen to promote this practice.
There are a variety of difference forms of supervision. There is the straightforward individual supervision which allows for a more personal interaction. There will be more time for in-depth discussion of practice. Group supervision is where a group of counsellors are supervised by one person. In this case there will be less time for dealing with individual concerns. It can be argued that it is more cost effective which may in some situations be an issue. As mentioned before, some individuals in a similar situation may offer peer support although this lacks the quality of supervision.
Support and supervision to counsellors is beneficial for many reasons. It will allow the counsellor objectivity about his work. Different skills and approaches can be discussed which can open up the counsellor’s mind into how a client should be dealt with. It can provide a clearer and innovative outlook to practice. He can make an appraisal as to how he has been working. It may be that the supervisor will be able to recommend a different approach which will also improve the counsellor’s experience and talents. Supervision can be very positive to the general wellbeing of the counsellor. Practice can be draining and can take its toll physically and emotionally. Support can re-energise the individual by allowing him to reflect on things and thereby permitting a boost in self esteem and confidence in his abilities. It may be that a counsellor can become closely involved with a client’s particular problem. It might be that it is an issue which the counsellor has dealt with on a personal level in the past. Perhaps the counsellor with have great empathy with the client and this can lead to an unbiased course of action. With the use of supervision, the counsellor will be encouraged to make a clearer judgement of the situation allowing him to identify his counter-transference feelings.
I have covered ways in which a counsellor can benefit psychologically and emotionally for supervision. The supervisor should also be aware of the physical safety of the counsellor as well. A supervisor will offer support and awareness to ensure that the counsellor can avoid potentially dangerous situations or know what action to take should in such a case. It must be stressed that in counselling no circumstance must be put down as ‘an occupational hazard’. No counsellor should take either verbal or physical abuse. It is part of training to teach the counsellor about these potential problems and how to avoid them in the first place. A good form of supervision will also deal with incidents after the effect. It is the responsibility of the supervisor to give support and use their own counselling skills to allow the person to work through his feeling caused by the incident. There may be lessons to be learned. The supervisor will never be judgemental but rather provide a constructive outcome.
In conclusion, it can be seen that the role of supervisor is paramount to good counselling practice.
HOUGH, M (1998) Counselling Skills and Theory (2nd edition) Hodder Education, London
LINDEN, J & L (2000) Mastering Counselling Skills. MacMillan Press Ltd., Hampshire and London