Really good coaches (and counselors) assure their clients (especially organizational buyers of coaching) that they have a quality assurance process in place; their work is based on the latest evidence based practice; and that they are committed to the protection of their clients’ interests. Working with a specially trained and experienced supervisor is one way to ensure this. Engaging in an ongoing supervisory relationship gives you this competitive edge.
So what does a coach or counselor get in supervision? As we all know, our work can get to be a very lonesome journey. So, the first thing you get is a relationship (the supervisory alliance) with someone who knows the journey you are on, and can relate to the things that (i) you, (ii) your client, (iii) you and your client together, are going through. You get to discuss issues around these three entities with someone who brings in – not only a different perspective – but also additional knowledge and skills.
An effective supervisor enhances your own critical understanding by the process of inquiry; and s/he can give you feedback on blind spots because s/he knows your strengths and areas of struggle. ‘Supervision monitors and ensures competency in client care, and contributes to the education and training’ of the coach or counselor.
Most importantly, the supervisor dramatically increases your just-in-time learning by tailoring learning strategies and tools to suit your needs. Supervision gives you the structure and framework for learning how to apply knowledge, theory, and skills to your client situations. All these aspects translate directly into benefits – not only for you – but also for your client. And, your competitive edge lies in letting your prospective clients know this!
A critical – often overlooked or ignored – role that the supervisor plays is to keep you ethically grounded. Therefore, in your relationship with your client, your supervisor will alert (perhaps guard?) you against boundary crossings and boundary violations, engaging in multiple relationships, being alert against the dangers of physical intimacy with a client, and every other principle or standard of the Ethics Code. And before one forgets, part of the ethics code is to work with respect and sensitivity with diversity (race, culture, gender, sexual orientation…) in all its facets. This is a safeguard for you, and most importantly, for your client. Once again, sharing this with them gives you a competitive edge as a coach/counselor.
Your own development as a coach/counselor is based on your personal values and strengths. Your supervisor is your strongest supporter in your own development. S/he will continue to acknowledge, validate and affirm you (through your screw-ups), and will provide feedback that leverages your strengths. One way this happens is through the self-reflection and self-inquiry that is integral to the time and space dedicated to the supervision meeting.
So, who would be an effective supervisor? Does one go and get any other senior coach/counselor to be one’s supervisor? Perhaps that’s better than nothing! But it is certainly not an effective option. In addition to the experience and expertise of being a good coach or counselor, supervisors have received additional training and practice that enables them to supervise the work of another professional. The aims of the supervision process itself are different from coaching or counseling therefore the training, approach, and learning strategies in supervision need to be tailored accordingly. In short, a supervisor is NOT just another super coach/counselor.
Trained supervisors are able to reference client situations through the lens of an appropriate theory or framework. The supervisor is able to draw insights from these frameworks to facilitate critical thinking. Therefore, an effective supervisor must be heavily invested in his/her own learning and development. If they are not adding value to themselves, what will they add to your own growth?
Furthermore, an effective supervisor must be alert to identifying parallel process in the coach/counselor and coachee/counselee relationship, and also between the supervisee and supervisor. Not only must the supervisor be able to spot it, but draw on its learning value for the coach/counselor at different levels. Parallel process refers to the playing out of unresolved issues or ways of managing relationships that percolate from one dyad to another. For example, the hostility by a client towards the coach/counselor can be in turn be reflected as a parallel process in the hostility that the coach/counselor brings to the supervisor. There is much to learn when this parallel process is identified and discussed. The same happens with the process of transference and counter-transference. A trained and effective supervisor will know how to deal with these aspects of the supervision process.
In conclusion, good coaches and counselors understand the benefits of working with a supervisor on an on-going basis; and they are able to leverage this relationship, not only to benefit their clients, but also to present it as a competitive edge. And, it truly is!
Take your own professional journey to the next level by working with trained and experienced supervisors. Set up a complimentary chemistry check/supervision session. Email for details – firstname.lastname@example.org. More details on supervision on our website www.globalcoachtrust.org.
Casebook for clinical supervision: A competency-based approach. Editors: C. A. Falender & E. P. Shafranske. 2008. American Psychological Association.
Clinical supervision: A competency-based approach. By C. A. Falender & E. P. Shafranske, 2004, American Psychological Association.