Supervision and Personal Psychotherapy

Supervision

Supervision is the basis of the Association’s guidance and assessment of provisional members and is also a valuable means of developing psychotherapists’ skills throughout their professional lives. In fact, it is the primary way the Association ensures that psychotherapeutic practice is safe, effective and ethical.

The Association is unusual among professional bodies in that most professions require supervision only during the training period. Members of the Association, however, continue in supervision throughout their working lives as a welcome opportunity to discuss current work and develop under standing of their clients.

Supervision is founded on a close and often longstanding collegial relationship which offers support, challenge and learning. In general, supervisory sessions are welcomed by both supervisee and supervisor as a means of developing skills and enhancing practice.

Supervision may be arranged in a variety of ways. Generally, it involves one-to-one meetings with a supervisor, but it may also involve peer supervision in a group setting, where the psychotherapist presents work and others respond to it. They may, in addition to the usual discussion, present a tape, video or verbatim transcript of their psychotherapeutic work. For those who live far from city centres, supervision may be a mix of telephone calls, faxes and email, as well as face-to-face meetings.

The frequency of meetings or contact also varies. Ordinarily, provisional members are asked to have weekly supervision for at least two years of their time as a provisional member.

Benefits

Supervision benefits the psychotherapist, the client and the community.

  1. The psychotherapist is offered a relationship that aims to guide, mentor, inspire, provide emotional support, and develop insight and understanding. The most important benefit of examining the relationship between a psychotherapist and client is increased awareness and understanding of transference and countertransference, the processes by which feelings are stirred up in both psychotherapist and the client as they work together.

    The difficulties clients have in dealing with other people are often what brings them to psychotherapy. A client’s fear or suspicion or, equally, their hopes or admiration in relation to their psychotherapist may indicate how they relate to other people, past and present. The supervisory sessions can usefully focus on helping a psychotherapist recognise and understand each participant’s experience of the psychotherapeutic relationship. Feelings developed within the supervisory relationship are often a live and current version of characteristic responses and struggles which arise in the clinical encounter between psychotherapist and client. Exploration, recognition and understanding of such parallels can be very instructive and enabling.

    In working with an ordinary member, the supervisor can focus on the details of clinical work and the running of the practice, while the supervisor of provisional members, in addition to the usual attention to clients, will focus on helping prepare the supervisee for admission to the Association.

  2. Supervision benefits the client by strengthening and sustaining the psychotherapist’s ability to reflect, understand and provide psychotherapy, and by offering a valuable “second opinion”.
  3. Supervision benefits the community by providing quality assurance through the close monitoring of professional practice standards.

The Supervisory Relationship

The relationship of a supervisory pair needs to be close and trusting. Therefore, it is important that supervisor and supervisee are well matched. As the supervisory relationship is crucial and often long-lasting, it is important that both supervisor and supervisee give careful consideration to what they expect from each other as they establish a contract.

The aim and spirit of supervision contracts is to assist the supervisee and supervisor to achieve a clear and well defined working agreement which has the support and approval of the Association through its Regional Supervisors’ Groups.

Regional Supervisors’ Groups are set up to discuss matters concerning supervision in general, and the development of provisional members in particular. This helps to ensure the safe, effective and ethical practice of psychotherapy.

The Regional Supervisors’ Groups comprise people who have been ordinary members of the Association for at least three years and who have had previous supervisory experience. Membership of a Regional Supervisors’ Group confers the status of accredited supervisor of the Association. Accredited Supervisor of NZAP’ cannot be used as a qualification.

All super vision contracts have to be ratified by the Regional Supervisors’ Group. Contracts between provisional members and their supervisors are discussed and approved by the Regional Supervisors’ Group, with the chosen supervisor in attendance. Supervisors of provisional members are expected to attend meetings of the Regional Supervisors’ Group regularly and to discuss the progress of their supervisees at least once a year.

Members return a signed and approved supervision contract to the Convenor of the Regional Supervisors’ Group, who sights it and advises the Executive Officer of the Association. Once the Executive Officer has received the annual subscription and the notice of approval of the supervision contract, the Annual Practising Certificate will be issued.

In preparing the annual contract, members are asked to present to their supervisors a report on their ongoing training, personal growth and proessional development for the year. This might be an account of new areas of personal and professional development and include a reflective summary of workshops attended, books read and papers written.

The Association’s Supervision Committee, at national level, publishes guidelines and requirements and may be consulted by members through its Chair. Locally, the Convenor of the Regional Supervisors’ Group may be asked for information and clarification.

Personal Psychotherapy

Another valuable way of understanding and reflecting on the relationship between psychotherapist and client is for the psychotherapist to have been in the client’s chair. Therefore, the Association encourages provisional members to have ongoing personal psychotherapy as part of their learning and continuing professional development.

Personal psychotherapy helps to ensure that the experience of being a client in psychotherapy is understood and appreciated. A client seeks professional help when faced with his or her own suffering. Psychotherapists need to know this not only from their readings but from their own experience of psychotherapy.

A unique benefit that psychotherapy offers a client is the opportunity to be listened to in a personal and skilled way. Many clients approach psychotherapy anxious about revealing parts of their inner self. Finding an attentive, non-judgemental listener helps them to open up. By experiencing this as a client, a psychotherapist may gain a fuller understanding of the value and potential of this special relationship.

It is the most direct way that a psychotherapist as the very instrument of psychotherapy is alerted to the operation of their own conscious and unconscious patterns, which are likely to affect their perceptions, judgments, needs and responses during the psychotherapy.

Personal psychotherapy also makes the literature of psychotherapy more meaningful. Theory begins to make sense most clearly when it illuminates a practitioner’s own experience and strong emotional moments.

When psychotherapists are asked what was the most formative element in their professional development, personal psychotherapy is usually given highest importance, ahead of mentors, training, reading and research. Generally, the frequency and intensity of the personal psychotherapy undertaken will match that of the form of psychotherapy the practitioner chooses to specialise in.