You Remind Me of My Mother; The Importance of Clinical Supervision for Therapists

Sometimes in agencies, the managers and administrators  forget the poetry and delicacy of sharing intimate details with another human being. Supervision can become devoid of the human texture; the reality of the messiness of being human. When we hold the beautifully complicated therapeutic relationship with high integrity; we are able to be great therapists and help many people. There are a few components that are the fabric of comprehensive supervision:

  • Trauma informed
  • Transference
  • Countertransference
  • Skill Building
  • Building a relationship of trust
  • Nurturing meaning/spirituality/life path/bigger picture

There a few components that comprehensive supervision stays away from so as not to become dry, dull, unhelpful, administrative/bureaucratic:

  • Overly focused on administrative details
  • Overly focused on skills used-but devoid of how the therapist interacts with these skills and how the client receives them
  • Overly focused on relationship, with little focus on administrative

There of course has to be a balance between doing all the required paperwork, note-taking, referral making/taking that a counselors job entails. Sometimes, we allow our fear that these won’t get done, to get in the way of participating in the relationship with the person choosing to sit with us and ask for help. People often fall to one side or the other on a spectrum; either focusing too much on administrative and “skills” or focusing more on the therapeutic relationship and not having the diligence to also store good notes, complete paperwork, etc. High integrity supervision takes this spectrum into account and holds the supervisee accountable, with a firm yet kind attitude.

So, let’s take a scenario of countertransference as an example of how high integrity supervision would help a clinician. Say a client reminds a clinician of their mother and they have feelings of fondness, love and even deference for this client. The clinician is so fond and kind with this client, that they are not holding the client accountable or challenging her; they are worried about upsetting the client or that she might not like them as much.

If you have built a relationship of trust with your supervisor, you can be challenged in this area. The supervisor can discuss this countertransference and how it is affecting your interventions (or lack of). The goal is to relate to this client as who they are, in the relationship with you now. Not as your mother; a relationship of your past. The supervisor might need to refer you to a therapist to work on any issues that are arising from being reminded of your mother.

It’s important to note that clinicians are not bad when this happens! It is so natural to see people from our lives in our clients; but it is important to create a therapeutic relationship with them, not people in our own lives. They deserve to be seen for who they are. This is a big reason why people come to see us. We are so starved of visibility. When a therapist is able to move their own static to the side and really see a client; that is nourishment for the soul.

And that’s what good supervision does; it helps you learn how to see people and how to guide them in feeling the essence of who they are.

When your supervisor can guide you in having the experience of who you are as a therapist (which is my orientation and the bigger picture I am holding), as a human and how being a therapists relates to your bigger picture; there’s no holding you or your clients back from healing; it just happens.

Now, the second part of really good supervision is helping the clinician in documenting what has happened. Documentation can seem dull compared to the beautiful experiences we have with clients when we are helping them. When I have a difficult time getting notes done, it can be helpful to think about why I’m doing the notes and how accurately I can write about what happened during our appointment. The supervisors job is to look for ways that help you get these done; which includes what motivates you to do them. Simply saying “these need to get done and that’s they way it is,” isn’t always helpful or create a reciprocal relationship. Creating a reciprocal relationship between supervisor and supervisees is the most beneficial to the client in the end and also part of my bigger picture.

If you are a clinician looking for a clinical supervise; set up a free 15 minute phone consultation to see if we are a good fit.



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