Witnessing other person’s suffering can take a heavy toll on mental health professionals. As a counselor, you will deal with challenging and emotionally depleting situations that can trigger personal stress or have other adverse effects on your mental health and overall wellbeing.
Adding to the emotional implications of the role is a lack of support, exhaustion, and poor work conditions some psychotherapists in supervision experience.
When such stressors exceed the person’s ability to cope, they can be emotionally and physically draining, leading to burnout and various mental health issues. Furthermore, when a psychotherapist is in distress, their client’s wellbeing and the success of psychotherapy may be put at risk.
Therefore, supervision plays a significant role in developing resiliency in supervisees.
Resiliency represents the ability to adapt when challenged with significant sources of stress and adversity. It involves a good understanding of what caused our angst and acceptance of reality, which is at the core of our ability to cope with stressful situations.
Lack of resilience is associated with various mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression. Furthermore, it may lead to compassion fatigue, burnout, or unhealthy coping mechanisms such as alcohol and drug abuse.
However, research suggests resiliency can be learned and improved through cognitive transformational practices, education, and environmental support. [i]
The Importance of Supervision in Raising Resilience in Supervisees: Resilience Based Clinical Supervision
While the supportive function of clinical supervision in counseling and psychotherapy is acknowledged, it seems that its significance is rarely emphasized.
A clinical supervisor is someone who can (and should) recognize and respond to signs of supervisee’s training-related distress.
This highlights the importance of implementing strategies that enable supervisees to develop resiliency during supervision training and their future professional life. Supervision plays a significant role in helping supervisees develop a self-care plan and utilize it at work and in life.
In other words, supervision should implement self-care practices to alleviate stress and prevent burnout. This is what resilience-based clinical supervision in counseling and psychotherapy aims for – to mitigate work-related stress and support supervisees in building resilience.
Resilience-based clinical supervision is founded on the principles of compassion-focused therapy. This approach to supervision helps individuals reframe their experience through structured and reflective discussion. It incorporates skills that develop proficiency and mindfulness, distress tolerance, and positive reframing.[ii]
The piloting of a resilience-based clinical supervision model with groups of mental health nurses showed consistent improvement in professional wellbeing and consequently prevention of compassion fatigue and burnout.
Developing resiliency in supervisees appears to be a necessary process in clinical supervision. Ongoing support and consultation with supervisors can help prevent mental health concerns and build resiliency.
Resiliency-focused clinical supervision aims to assist supervisors and supervisees in addressing stress and burnout by strengthening resiliency through structured and reflective discussion, self-care strategies, and ongoing support.
Resiliency developed in supervision can help supervisees maintain good mental health and become a better resource for their clients.