What is the chemistry of supervision?

What is the chemistry of supervision?

coaches in conversation

31 January 2022

How do you find a supervisor if you’ve never been in supervision before? And how do you change supervisor if you feel a need to move on? Michelle Lucas, an accredited master coach and accredited supervisor, who has authored several books on supervision, shares her thoughts and experience on finding the right chemistry with a supervisor.

I am certainly of the belief that every supervisor will have their shelf-life – there will come a time when the supervisee feels a need to move on. However, finding a new supervisor is a bit like changing your bank or changing your accountant... it’s not something you do lightly!

Unlike these two analogies it’s not that changing supervisors is administratively onerous. The difficulty is much deeper than that, because it’s relational. A long-standing supervisor will have witnessed your development as a practitioner. You will probably have shared raw moments when you have been riddled with self-doubt and (perhaps more excruciating) they will have joined in to applaud as you basked in the glory of your most successful moments.

If you are already in supervision, then a clue that a new supervisor might be timely is when you can almost anticipate how the supervisor will support you – their help has become habituated. That in itself might prompt a sense of what you are looking for in your next supervisor. For me, I have sought out supervisors who are experts in a field that I have some understanding of, but am not expert in. This has provided a natural novelty in their perspective, and yet it’s not so new that I leave confused! Additionally, if you have already experienced supervision, then you are an ‘informed buyer’, as you will already have a sense of how supervision can best work for you.

If on the other hand you are looking for a supervisor for the first time, then it is of course much more tricky – a step into the unknown. It’s interesting that my own supervision business has grown organically. Rarely do I get a new supervisee who has found me on a directory or a website. Rather, I have been recommended to them by a fellow coach who is in or has received supervision from me. So if you are starting from scratch, ask your existing coach colleagues to see who has worked with them on supervision.

That said, if you would prefer to work from first principles, then a good start is to go to the websites of our professional bodies. They will typically have a directory of members who are accredited as supervisors. Of course, accreditation isn’t important to all of us, but the eligibility criteria are really good indicators of what you might want to check on with experienced supervisors who aren’t accredited.

Typically, they will have substantive training as a coach and separately as a supervisor, and they will have delivered a significant amount of hours as a supervisor and engaged in supervision specific CPD. Importantly, they will also have a supervisor for themselves! I would certainly recommend you ask a potential supervisor how they work with their supervisor – this gives you a flavour of what they may come to expect of you.

Most supervisors will offer a sample session, so that you get first-hand experience of how supervision with them would be. We do this for our coaching clients, so why would we not do this for ourselves! Gauging rapport is of course important, and yet for me it’s not just about feeling comfortable. Perhaps a better question is whether you feel ‘safe enough’ to be uncomfortable in their presence as they hold you to account, to do the work that your clients need you to do.

If you’d like to find out more hints and tips of choosing a new supervisor, listen to our podcast on the role and value of supervision in our Spotlight resources.

Image: Christina @ wocintechchat.com/Unsplash