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What is supervision?

Counselling supervision is one of the best kept secrets in the professional world!  Actually it is not a secret at all, but it does not often get the proper fanfare it deserves from counselling students or beginning counsellors.  Many students seek supervision because it is required of them to fulfill an obligation for a licensing board.  Students and beginning counsellors may contract with a supervisor out of an external obligation, but they are not often prepared for the life-impacting experience it can become.   

Supervision has the potential to become the bridge from student to successful counsellor!  It is the perfect place to begin marrying theory with actual practice with real, live clients.  In supervision meetings, the counsellor can bring questions, concerns, doubts, and mistakes and examine them collaboratively with an experienced therapist. The process of being vulnerable can help the new counsellor deal with issues of empathy, countertransference, and fitness of client load.  A supervisor can help the supervisee learn how to do the hard work of referring a client out when it is in their best interest.  This kind of discerning, on-the-job training cannot be adequately explored while in a counsellor training programme because it has a different feel to it when it is actually happening rather than theoretically happening.  A supervisor helps build the bridge from theory to practice and assists the new counsellor in making the transition from student to practitioner.   

A counselling supervisor wears many hats!  The supervisory relationship is an motivating blend of mentor, trainer, teacher, coach and therapist.  The supervisor’s strength and value come from actual experience gained from years of practicing in the field and a willingness to help other beginning counsellors through some of the initial hurdles they may face as they enter the workforce.   The supervisor should be good at finding the strengths in others, building up people and challenging them to elevate their skills.  Supervisors of new counsellors can influence, educate, and edify supervisees in much the same way a coach would train an athlete.  The coach stands on the sidelines, observing, encouraging, making calls, and generally cheering the athlete on to greater success as they grow in their own skills.  Getting a professional coach is an invaluable investment for someone who wants to grow professionally! 

Counselling supervisors are like the specialized arborists who train bonsai trees.  The bonsai tree, like the supervisee, has its own unique characteristics inherent since it was a sapling.  But the caretaker, like the supervisor, sees the potential and brings that distinctiveness to life through shaping, fertilizing, and pruning.  The detailed attention this tree receives makes it a marvel, often causing people to take notice of its form and beauty.  Likewise, the supervisory relationship supports the new counsellor during the process of becoming shaped into a unique, proficient therapist.   

Counselling supervision is a relationship every beginning counsellor should experience!  It will create a long-lasting impact focused on helping the new counsellor develop skills, practice or integrate theories, and achieve higher client efficacy.  As a bonus, the supervisee will understand what it is like to be part of an effective, healthy professional relationship.   

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