Practitioner Supervision


The Practitioner Supervision Approach

Every practitioner is individual and unique in their approach. Practitioner Supervision advocates the following ethos, methodology, and epistemology when offering supervision to practitioners:

Ethos simply means 'the state of being' in Greek, and it refers to the inner source, the soul, the mind, and the original essence which shapes and forms each of us.

'To care for anyone else enough to make their problems one's own, is ever the beginning of one's real ethical development.'
~Felix Adler

Striving for the following 'states of being' are valuable for each practitioner's ethical development:

Consistent Professional Practice
A co-creative supervisory relationship is a professional and ethically sound way for the practitioner to ensure an open, enquiring, and non-attached yet committed attitude towards their clients' needs and outcomes. It also supports the practitioner's well-being through complex and difficult session developments.

Supervision provides an interactive and dialogical support system for the practitioner. Investment in this kind of working structure offers a synthesis between two minds so that the practitioner can function reflectively. The challenges that clients brings to sessions in session material, events, situations, and boundary issues may produce confusion or impasse in the practitioner.

Working with clients is demanding because no clients' narratives are the same, nor are their concerns, challenges, or dilemmas. Appropriate supervision reduces the risk of what may be regarded as fascinating, interesting, or vulnerable client information being disclosed by the practitioner when the practitioner seeks out support and which may result in an inappropriate discussion.

The process of clients' opinions being heard, respected, and treated as a legitimate expression can produce remarkable results. This is because whenever clients feel understood an opportunity arises for self-understanding and goal-orientated progress which is achieved through practitioner acceptance and acknowledgment.

The OED definition of methodology is 'a particular procedure for accomplishing or approaching' something.

'Every discourse, even a poetic or oracular sentence, carries with it a system of rules for producing analogous things and thus an outline of methodology.'
~Jacques Derrida

Practitioners use methods acquired through experience. Individual practitioner development can be enhanced with the following methodological approach:

Skill Acquisition
This is an aim and objective of the supervisory relationship, and is achieved through requests and comments which the supervisor and practitioner discover during their working relationship.

As has already been discussed, the supervisory relationship is an appropriate forum for practitioner support and is a solid and rigorous way for the practitioner to approach best practice.

Comparative Discourse
There is value to be gained from investigating what other discourses may offer practitioner development. Philosophy, art, psychology, literature, medical research, and other fields may offer a commentary on human nature as experienced in the consulting room. This can be explored in the supervisory context and indirectly inform the practitioner's everyday practice.

Learning through Experience
The most valuable place for a practitioner to develop their skill is through direct process reporting in supervision where their reflective and reflexive thoughts bring together their learning experiences and produce a more robust practitioner. This is different to simply reading or listening to something and then applying it, because in the latter examples the knowledge has not been attained through experience.

The Principle of 'Not Knowing'
It is important that the practitioner is constantly adding to their knowledge base. However, once in front of a client, it is vital that the practitioner does not assume anything about the client (no matter how well-informed the practitioner may be . . .). The practitioner's knowledge base needs to be set aside so that the client can present a working model of their own.

The OED definition of epistemology is 'the theory of knowledge, especially with regard to its methods and validity'.

But epistemology is always and inevitably personal. The point of the probe is always in the heart of the explorer: What is my answer to the question of the nature of knowing?
~Gregory Bateson

Practitioners are challenged by another's knowledge each time they practice, and they need to consider these challenges in a forum where their clients' knowledge maps out potential ways forward . . . and which the practitioner may not have otherwise considered. The following elements are supportive of this process:

The supervisor works to create a sustainable forum by not demanding all of the practitioner's resources in the way in which a client might. Intensive or difficult work may deplete the practitioner's capacity and affect the practitioner's ability to function productively on an on-going basis. The supervisory relationship can offer ways of thinking about pacing, rhythm, stamina, and replenishment of the practitioner's resources.

Pluralistic Thought
Practitioner processing is complex — it is challenging to remain in a direct relationship with a client and simultaneously maintain a degree of objectivity. Supervision helps the practitioner strengthen multi-functioning and thereby consider varied perspectives. Often, the supervisor's independence enables the supervisor and practitioner to become aware of, and think about, areas that the practitioner had not been aware of. Clients' expressions might only become apparent during supervision.

Continued Professional Development
The supervisory relationship is an environment which fosters the practitioner's experiential learning. It is the single most important place where the practitioner can explore, challenge, and question ideas without external interference. The supervisor encourages personal and professional development with the goal of a 'fit for purpose' and robust practitioner in mind.

Good supervision respects the practitioner's current models of thinking, and explores ideas such as 'what they know they don't know' in order to facilitate further theoretical acquisition which will be channeled into experience and knowledge.

Purposive Development
Practitioners are constantly working with value- and belief-systems, attitudes towards goal orientation, and areas of self esteem. Practitioners must attempt to maintain a non-directive, not-knowing stance; therefore the entire construct is rooted in the premise that each client has their way forward in them but this may not always be accessible. The clients' investments in the process engages purposive development with the practitioner through mutual dialogue.

Ethical Standards
The independence of the supervisor allows for attention to be drawn to ethical issues and standards of practice. This supervisory sessions are the place where these areas can be discussed, thought through, and actioned to maintain client safety. Even with the best will in the world, a practitioner operating without supervision might tend towards tunnel vision.

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