Being a Pluralistic Supervisor: A Personal Reflection
Darren Hopgood, Counsellor and supervisor in private practice, Darren Hopgood Counselling
I have been a pluralistic counsellor for five years now, so not long. I have been a supervisor for just over a year, so not long at all. This is a short reflection on some things I have learned and discovered that have helped me and I hope, my supervision clients.
For me, pluralistic supervision supports pluralistic counselling and reflects most, if not all, the principles within this practice. For me this means working with, respecting, and accepting the difference and diversity of the practice of those that come to me, and working collaboratively to build a tailor-made supervision experience that is designed to get the best from our sessions and the supervisees’ practice.
I see my role as a qualified supervisor as one of guidance, oversight, and often as a restorative mentor helping supervisees both get the best from their practice. It is also one of personal development, working with them to develop professionally in the future by goal setting for their continue professional development (CPD): aiding future growth and achieving the vision they have for their practice.
My practice integrates multiple modalities and theories, many developed from post qualification CPD. I have a focused development plan for myself at present, I am working to develop online group counselling, supervision, and personal encounter groups. However, I am also reflective to the supervisee’s needs. I am quite early into my counselling journey, and often clients bring to their sessions things I have little experience or knowledge working within my ‘zone of competence’, but there is a need for development. This means there is a need for focused and responsive CPD which I work towards developing with supervisees.
A thing I have learned is not to just to take part in CPD because it sounds interesting, but to find focus. I have limited knowledge, and my supervisees and I can spend time learning together in a cooperative manner to develop skills. Personally, once we get to a point of trust and respect for each other’s work, I see nothing wrong with us going down parallel training road. So, all my clients have enjoyed and respected me saying ‘I don’t know, let’s work it out together.’
Another aspect of my practice is to encourage reflective practises that examines a supervisee’s own assumptions, biases, and reactions to their clients. We create a safe and supportive environment that encourages discourse around issues that may affect practice that may be sensitive in any other environment. We can reflect of the rationale behind decisions made in the here and now, and explore ethical considerations around actions. We look at alternatives ways to work with clients, and I may play ‘devil’s advocate’ whilst we explore this by offering alternatives and conflicting points of view. I may do this even though I 100% agree with the counsellor’s actions, as doing so helps explore angles to practice that might not have been considered before.
Reflective practice helps the supervisee to deepen self-development and to develop a more nuanced understanding of their clients and professional practice.
Due to the nature of our work, a good percentage of supervision can focus on the supervisee’s self-care and wellbeing, which sadly can fall by the wayside with many counsellors. At times a greater part of the supervision sessions is around this need for the supervisees to look after themselves, before burnout becomes a big part of their lives. It is easier to work with preventing burnout than it is working with someone that is in the middle of a potentially practice-ending burnt out state. We look at strategies that can build and maintain a healthy balance between practice and homelife so that the work of counsellors and clients are not negatively affected. This includes maintaining personal and professional boundaries to promote a sustainable practice.
Overall, pluralistic supervision builds on collaborative and developmental practices, enhances skills, expand on theoretical knowledge, and foster personal and professional practice that promotes healthy growth and balance. It facilitates a safe space to navigate the complexities of working with new skills and practices whilst maintaining high ethical standards and ensuring both counsellor and client care.
This has been a personal reflection on my first year as a supervisor and has not covered many aspects of pluralistic supervision. I would recommend those reading this to read Supervision from a pluralistic perspective by Mick Cooper. This work inspired me to write this personal perspective from my first year as a pluralistic supervisor.