SUPERVISORY THOUGHTS that can be easily overlooked

By Lydia Sterry | Submitted 2024

Supervisors have numerous tasks, duties, and responsibilities. We may assist other therapists in clarifying ethical or professional problems, examining the dynamics of the therapeutic relationship, and addressing client and therapist themes, among other things. The list sometimes seems never-ending. However, before we can effectively address all these areas, it's worth pondering on the type of setting you've created with your supervisees.


Asking loaded questions, where we seek a specific answer or believe we know the answer, may block the supervision process. Philosophers like Buber, Heidegger, Levinas, and Rogers underline the value of self-questioning and being open to answers. Providing a setting to think out loud and question possible assumptions about the supervisee's client might be useful.

We may ask the supervisee questions such as: How do you feel when you're with your client? How might you want the client to see you? What might you be doing to engage with this particular client? How comfortable do you feel in the room? Do you feel skilled or unskilled? These questions may reveal shadows in the therapeutic process that could hinder progress.


Encouraging the supervisee's style to appear may lead to a more authentic and truthful way of relating. This helps reach a level of understanding about their relationship with the client. It requires both the supervisee and the supervisor to open up with a willingness to be altered by the encounter. This openness may tap into a wealth of information.


Creating an atmosphere to focus on preconceptions and prejudices can be helpful. Shedding light on difficult, confusing, secretive, or unknown aspects of the relationship without judgment enables self-discovery for both the supervisee and the supervisor.


In a reflective and supportive space, supervisees can voice mistakes, insecurities, and uncomfortable feelings. This can reduce anxiety about criticism and lead to reflective thinking that enhances self-acceptance.


Clashes may arise, especially when maintaining ethical/safety/boundaries themes in supervision. Discussing and monitoring these issues is crucial. Taking responsibility for the well-being of the supervisee and their client should be brought into focus early on.

FREE FLOATING SETTING (rather than immobilization)

Rather than dictating to the supervisee, exploring possibilities and potential pathways that align with the supervisee’s way of working may be more useful. Sitting with pauses and ‘don’t knows’ creates space for something to emerge, leading to re-igniting flexibility and creativity.


Modelling boundaries, not barriers, is essential. Boundaries of time, place, touch, and self-disclosure should be firm but not rigid to avoid blockages. Sustaining, holding, and moving with supervisory 'waves' is crucial for openness to the unfamiliar.


Being open to the unknown and allowing room for surprise could be fruitful. However, this may not be suitable for every supervisee and may be postponed until trust or a bond is formed.


Each therapist has unique strengths, weaknesses, and learning styles. Tailoring supervision to meet individual needs is crucial.


Check if you are over or under encouraging supervisees to engage in ongoing professional development activities. Sharing relevant resources and keeping them updated on new research tends to be appreciated.


Effective supervision is an ongoing process requiring flexibility, empathy, and a commitment to the professional growth of your supervisees. Familiarizing yourself with or implementing these tips could provide valuable support to therapists under your supervision.

If you are looking for an existential supervisor and seeking a ‘fresh point of reference’ to your profession, simply email or click here to be book your free supervision consultation.