Photographs © Avigail Abarbanel

Supervision

Mental health professionals

Clinical supervision is mandatory for accredited counsellors and psychotherapists and other accredited mental health professionals. It is strongly recommended also to non-accredited practitioners who are actively seeing clients. The purpose of clinical supervision is to support practitioners in their clinical work to ensure that they remain healthy and balanced over time and do not suffer from burnout. By extension, supervision contributes to clients’ safety and to effectiveness in therapy.

Good quality supervision should cover all areas of practice and mustn’t be artificially limited to discussing only client work or only the client. Among other things, good quality supervision should offer support, validation and encouragement, opportunity to discuss and explore client work, debriefing, opportunity to explore any personal issue that might impact on the practitioner’s work, mentoring, opportunity to deal with any difficulties in the supervision relationship, information and learning, suggestions for reading and professional development, support for accreditation, opportunity to discuss professional issues and plenty of ongoing challenge.

*All practitioners involved with Fully Human are required to see a supervisor regularly and be committed to working on their own personal issues.

It isn’t necessary for the supervisor and the supervisee to be using the same approach to therapy for supervision to be effective. What’s important is the quality of the supervisory relationship and I believe also shared values. That includes values in general but in particular a shared understanding of what therapy is for. The closer the values are, and the more honest and open the relationship, the more effective supervision will be. The more the supervisee is prepared to engage with the process, the more he or she will get out of it. Supervision should support the ongoing development of the therapist as a practitioner and as a person.

The relationship between the supervisor and the supervisee is strictly confidential.

Avigail has been offering clinical supervision to psychotherapy and counselling practitioners and to trainee therapists as well as members of other professions since 2006. Avigail uses an active and dynamic model that draws on psychodrama and Gestalt supervision theories among others. While supervision tends to focus on the supervisee’s clinical work, the model that Avigail uses is comprehensive and holistic. It requires practitioners to engage with their own feelings and their own inner dynamic actively, openly and honestly.

Practitioners must be prepared to face their own ‘demons’  in the same way as their clients without avoidance, and be committed to working towards increasing their self-awarness and level of maturity, integration or self-differentiation (See Murray Bowen’s Scale of Self-Differentiation in the Resources section). The more differentiated and self-aware therapists are, the more they will enjoy their work, the safer and more effective their client work will be and the more they will remain safe from energy drain or burnout and from secondary-traumatisation.

No one is ‘perfect’ or ‘issue-free’ and therapists are no exception. But therapist have to demonstrate an ongoing commitment to engaging with their own personal journey and problems. It is unethical for therapists to ask their clients to go through a journey they themselves are not prepared to go through. Clinical supervision offers the opportunity for therapists to keep an eye on and engage with their own personal issues, which will inevitably surface in the course of their work with their clients. It is not only appropriate but essential for therapists to engage in their own therapy from time to time. Occasionally it will be at the promoting of the therapist’s clinical supervisor. Therapists who do not engage with their own personal work regularly can risk having their own issues getting muddled up with those of their clients’. This can lead to a loss of perspective and objectivity and can therefore compromise effectiveness. It can also be risky both for client and therapist’s wellbeing.

Therefore Avigail’s supervision covers not only the supervisee’s clinical work but the whole person. While supervision is not the same as personal therapy, personal issues can and should be raised, discussed and processed if they present themselves in the course of the supervisee’s client work. Avigail works from the assumption that almost everything in the life of therapists will affect their wellbeing and the way they do their work. Human life and experience cannot be compartmentalised or put in nice, neat boxes. (Avigail’s own clinical supervision is based on these exact same principles. Avigail keeps being challenged by her own supervisor and she never stops working on her issues and blind spots.)

In addition to regular clinical supervision contracts, Avigail also offers individual and group supervision to organisations in mental health and other professions.

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Other professions

Clinical supervision is recognised as crucial for the work of mental health professionals. It is not yet required in other professions although professionals in other fields often face a potentially high risk of burnout in a similar way to people in the mental health field. Other professionals that can benefit from clinical supervision are social workers, life coaches, doctors, nurses, midwives, ambulance officers and medics in general, teachers, complementary medicine practitioners, police officers, fire and rescue personnel, prison officers, military personnel, professional carers, clergy, volunteers who engage in areas of human and animal suffering and members of any other profession where there is a high volume of emotional content and the potential to encounter emotionally challenging or distressing material.

Avigail offers supervision to professionals from other fields who feel that they could benefit from ongoing support in their work in a safe, supportive, challenging and confidential environment. It is for those who wish to maintain their wellbeing and job satisfaction over time, avoid burnout, develop professionally and personally and enhance the quality and effectiveness of their work.

Avigail’s supervision sessions run for 90 minutes and the fee is £75 per session. Facilitation of group supervision is also available for organisations.

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