Supervision Since Covid: Have Your Needs Changed?

Kate Dunn

13 December, 2021

Are our supervision arrangements keeping pace with rapid changes in how we practice? Following her previous blog about offering blended or hybrid approaches, Kate Dunn, a psychotherapist, supervisor and trainer who has been practising online since 2008, suggests some ways in which our supervision relationships, and requirements, may be shifting in the wake of Covid.

14 Dec Supervision Since Covid Have Your Needs Changed

Supervision is likely to have been critical to you whilst navigating the challenges of the pandemic. After all, as counsellors and therapists we consider supervision to be critical to the delivery and maintenance of ethical practice and essential for both monitoring and maintaining our own wellbeing. In the light of substantial changes of practice – which I discussed in my last blog – it now feels important to reflect anew on our supervisory needs and whether pre-pandemic supervision arrangements continue to meet them. 

Moving online may not have been something your supervisor ever seriously considered prior to the pandemic. Supervisors, as well as therapists, have found themselves working in unfamiliar places, using unknown tools. In my last blog, I encouraged practitioners to take time to consider the relational as well as practical implications of working online. Relationships arise not only between people, but also with the technology itself. Some practitioners are reporting that their own relationship with technology is very different from that of their supervisor, which is causing unexpected imbalances and difficulties, perhaps even ruptures, in previously good supervisory relationships. You may both need to seek additional support elsewhere, or training, as you negotiate this new territory together. 

It has been recognised that power dynamics in therapy may be different in online meetings, which are often experienced by clients as more ‘equal’ than those where both sit in the same room – a location which is established and under the ‘control’ of the therapist. Perhaps you notice something similar arising within your supervision. Conversely, you may notice a new discomfort that was not present before Covid-19. 

Now is a good time to review this relationship openly and honestly together. You may now be offering hybrid/blended approaches – a combination of face-to-face and remote working – and will need to explore these relational nuances with a supervisor who is able to offer a parallel experience that mirrors these shifts and changes within your supervision. It has long been advised that at least some supervision sessions should reflect the medium in which you work. Are you finding your supervisor willing and able to offer this? If not, what should you do to ensure that your needs are met? 

Suzie Mosson has previously written for this Blog about online supervision during the pandemic. She describes the triangular relationships we have not only with clients (and/or supervisors!) but also with the technology itself. I encourage you to read and discuss her post together with your supervisor, perhaps alongside Anne Stokes’ 2018 book on this subject, which includes contributions from Suzie. 

Honesty, curiosity and openness on both sides will help everyone to make important choices and decisions about appropriate and effective ongoing supervision. You owe it to yourself – and your clients – to ensure that, as you make changes to your practice, your supervision continues to meet your needs fully, and your supervisory relationship remains one of mutual respect and learning. 

If supervision is a place of active learning for both parties, these explorations will bring vibrant, energising opportunities. If this is not your experience, it may be time to consider whether your present arrangements continue to be right for you, in the light of all that has changed.

Kate Dunn
Kate Dunn is a psychotherapist, supervisor and trainer and has worked in private practice both online and in person since 2014. Prior to that she spent 10 years as a counsellor at the University of Portsmouth, where she pioneered an early online provision for students, offered alongside more traditional face-to-face counselling. She has carried out research into the online therapeutic relationship for which she received seed-corn funding from BACP and her research and ideas have been published and cited in peer-reviewed journals and books about online therapy.

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