Diane is an experienced supervisor, trainer and higher education lecturer with an ongoing  passion for this subject (and animal assisted therapy) and a helpful, creative way of making things simple to understand. She would safely be the guide as we embarked on our super-visionary journey; to identify what is needed and how to ask for it; how to make the most of group or 1-1 supervision; explore two models of supervision; experiment to discover what resonates and so learn how to enjoy supervision – even more!

 ‘The primary purpose of supervision is to ensure the counsellor is addressing the needs of the client’ and that ‘Supervision is the quintessential interpersonal interaction with the general goal that one person, the supervisor, meets with another, the supervisee, in an effort to make the latter more effective in helping people.’ Hess, 1980: Hawkins & Shohet.

Diane emphasised supervision is a shared experience and the responsibility of both supervisor and supervisee which must include the monitoring of standards and ethical practice. The supervisee gains skill, knowledge and understanding of their clients’ issues and needs and of their own as a counsellor. There is another key element within the supervisory process of monitoring i.e. ‘fitness to practice’ which is important throughout the years of a counsellor’s professional life. The supervisor holds a ‘helicopter’ overview from which to observe  what is actually going on in the client work for client or counsellor.

She cleverly used two role plays as part of the day’s teaching. The first to show the harmful power differential that can be mis-used to the detriment of the supervisee and  their clients. The supervisee said they felt ignored, unsupported and powerless – maybe even bullied. The second one illustrated an empathic,  power-sharing, re-assurance and insight which supported the learning the supervisee. In this case it was a parallel process which the supervisor observed and when discussed further was a moment of complete enlightenment for the supervisee. The discussions led to an overview of how to choose a supervisor and what limitations or practicalities were involved. Everyone is  different so each would need to identify what kind of person did they need, remembering this is about the counsellor’s development and client safety, so a healthy mix of support, guidance and challenge is useful. Diane recommended the gather information about who is around and have an initial session(s) with a supervisor(s) before making a decision. Some counsellors change supervisors fairly regularly throughout their careers and others are content not to.  

 Diane explained her favourite ‘supervisory guides’ are Inskipp & Proctor with the tasks of ‘Normative, Formative and Restorative.’  (‘Making the most of Supervision’ 2009 Ed.).

The Normative tasks: shared responsibility; monitoring of standards and ethical practice; 

The Formative tasks: on the same shared responsibility basis the aim is to enhance the supervisee’s knowledge, skill and understanding; 

The Restorative tasks: provide space to explore opportunities personal and professional; to discharge held emotions or worries created by the client work or other issues, to recharge energies and to explore ideas and to be creative. 

The second model, Diane discussed, was initially created by Peter Hawkins (1985) as a systemic and integrative model of supervision. Later through collaboration with Joan Wilmot, Judy Ryde and Robin Shohet the work emerged as the ‘Seven-eyed Supervision Model’ (Hawkins & Shohet, 1989). 

The 7 elements are: 1. Stuff from the client; 2. Counsellor’s responses/interventions; 3.Counsellor – client relationship; 4. Counsellor’s stuff; 5. Supervisor – counsellor relationship; 6. Supervisor’s stuff and 7. Organisations, systems and culture.

An important element of supervision is, of course, the contracting process between the supervisor and supervisee which will be a key part of their initial discussions as it lays the formal foundations of their work together. The aim of transparent contracting is to identify the different elements required to ensure the counsellor stays grounded and maintains their ethical and professional boundaries. Through the collaborative process the supervisee will be empowered to develop their skill and knowledge, theoretically and practically, as well as learning to pay attention to their own wellbeing whilst focusing on that of their clients. Diane emphasised supervision is fundamental for the provision of competent, safe, and ethical counselling especially during the odd times when a counsellor may not have any clients, during which it can open out as even more of a safe space for reflection, restoring and creative learning. 

 As students begin to explore the supervisory relationship with its requirements and contracts, the BACP (www.bacp.co.uk) has some detailed information and guidelines that could be a helpful addition to Diane’s teachings. Other professional bodies such as the UKCP and NCS will have similar. 

 Finally, Diane shared a photograph of her counselling space which mirrored her creative essence, and this led to a useful discussion as to how others would, or do, prepare their ‘spaces’ for clients so that they also offer a safe and ethical place where the work of counselling and needs of clients may be nurtured. Some preferred minimalist so that there were no distractions from the client’s needs, whilst others wished to have pieces art or nature around for a client to view as a form of helpful ‘distraction’ if the work is painful or, in fact, to help aid reflection.  

 On behalf of the students present as well as my experienced colleagues I would like to say a huge thank you to Diane for this informative, restorative and enlightening day.           

Reviewed by Jacqueline Holloway