When I began this program almost three years ago, I struggled with identifying a theoretical framework that matched my understanding and idea of a therapy framework that I believed would be the most beneficial for my patients/clients. In addition, what approach matched my philosophy in my daily life and what I believed would work for me personally and professionally. After exploration of the many theoretical therapy foundations, I found Person-Centered theory to fit my life philosophy. I choose this framework due to the emphasis and importance that it puts on relationships, trust, empathy, warmth and being in the present and in tune with one’s own feelings and explorations of these feelings. Additionally, providing a safe place to feel comfortable and at peace to be able to allow one’s self to reflect on the many feelings and emotions that we experience and that changes from minute to minute, day to day and year to year. Therefore, this is the theory that I base my therapy and supervision upon.
This semester Person-Centered supervision guided my meetings/sessions with my graduate students. Initially, the most important factor to me was establishing trusting and comfortable relationships with my supervisee’s. This was important because if my supervisee’s did not find me as a trusting and reliable supervisor they would not have brought the many difficult problems/issues they were experiencing with their clients/patients and the many struggles and doubts they were experiencing in their own personal lives. I knew I established these bonds when I had many of my supervisee’s in my office that disclosed many personal and intimate details in their personal lives that they felt was affecting them in their sessions with their clients. For example, I had a supervisee disclose that her mother was raped while in college and contracted an incurable sexually transmitted disease where this particular supervisee had a difficult time dealing with it within a group where woman disclosed sexual trauma at their practicum site. I also had a supervisee report that she felt that she was a member of the group versus a co-facilitator because she had been a victim of domestic violence and sexual trauma and she was amongst women like herself. Having established this trusting relationship and a safe environment allowed my supervisee’s to feel comfortable and be honest to share these experiences that evoked many different and uncomfortable emotions. This allowed me as a Supervisor to provide empathy, understanding and warmth and use this time for them to explore and address these feelings and connect it to how it relates to their work with a particular population which is all congruent with the person-centered approach. In addition, this allowed me to use a teaching tool on professionalism and how to handle it, when in a situation and how to handle it appropriately and in a professional manner. I also was able to recommend my supervisee’s to seek out personal counseling and the importance of self-care. I was able to utilize self-disclosure on my own personal experience with self-care and its importance not only for us but also to the profession.
I was able to establish great relationships with each one of my supervisee’s but I must be honest that I struggled with doubts on how receptive the graduate students would be of me being, an African-American female and using a cane. I was not insecure about my competence but more so my appearance based on the majority of the students in our graduate program being Caucasian students and use to being advised or instructed by other Caucasians. I believe this allowed for a great experience and exposure to a different culture and perspective for most of my supervisee’s. Once again because of the established relationship and safe space they were able to feel comfortable addressing many challenging issues about race, sex, culture, lifestyle and differences in general. The differences of race and culture in the supervisory relationship allowed for a learning experience to occur organically and may have changed some of my supervisee’s stereotypical beliefs of African-Americans, more specifically African-American women.
I often found myself asking myself after a meeting with my supervisee’s was that a therapy session and/or supervision and if there is a clear difference between the two. Although I understand that supervision goals can and may be different than therapy goals. The function of supervision is to “assess the learning needs; change, shape, and support the behaviors of the supervisee; and evaluate the performance” (Bernard & Goodyear, 2009, p.219). In my opinion, the function of supervision is pretty similar to the goal of therapy. Bernard & Goodyear (2009) suggest that the facilitative nature of person-centered, “the process within the context of the relationship, trust, and the exploration of one’s own ability and motivation to grow” (p. 83) resembles the same components which one would conduct in a therapy session. Through my supervision with graduate students, course readings and through my person-centered lens I am able to answer this question. My goal in each situation is to assist an individual, rather it is a patient or supervisee, to reach their potential by providing a safe and conducive environment that allows for exploration and processing of feelings and growth through some guidance and direction.
This semester as a supervisor of 9 graduate students I believe my supervision style method is influenced by person-centered theoretical framework, my past personal experiences with supervision which assisted me in identifying what I thought worked and didn’t work, my worldview and my philosophy in life which have all lead me to be who I am today.
My experience utilizing person-centered approach has been very beneficial. It has also allowed me to meet my supervisee’s where they are developmentally (in the present) which varied from student to student. Some students needed more directions and guidance in where they are in their therapy skills which required more concrete thinking and objectives. For example, some students brought in their progress notes and wanted clarifications on what should be covered and/or included in notes. Whereas, I the Supervisor had to clarify that this may change from site to site but there is always basic tenets that needs to be included which we were able to go over.
Then there were students that were more advanced and utilized supervision for consultation, they brought in specific topics or patients to cover with specific questions and utilized the time very wisely. These students took notes and demonstrated professionalism, the questions and explorations amongst these supervisee’s were at a different level compared to some of their peers. I believe I was able to appropriately meet each student at their specific developmental level. I found some students to be more challenging than others, in a good way. Some students challenged my ability to be creative and demonstrate how competent I am at this level of education, which I truly appreciated.
My supervision sessions were conducted in a semi-structured manner. My supervisee’s were aware and generally prepared for each session. I generally did a routine check-in to see how they are doing at their sites, any problems and/or concerns or pressing issues that needed to be addressed, immediately. My supervision intervention style generally consisted of my supervisee’s self-reporting on their self-selected patients/clients that they wanted to discuss and/or update me on. Through my supervisee’s self-report I was able to gauge their ability to case conceptualize, provide their perspective on the client-therapy relationship, explore their possible treatment plan/goal for their current and subsequent sessions, examine their problem-solving skills and professionalism through their self-report. This semester I wanted to utilize the audio recordings and transcribing interventions but there were logistical and confidentiality problems which prevented us from partaking in this form of supervision. My goal with the transcribing was to assist the supervisee’s in being cognizant of the questions they are asking and exploring if the questions are congruent and grounded in their stated theoretical framework. Although, I was not able to accomplish this activity with my supervisee’s, we were still able to address and explore theoretical frameworks.
If I was able to utilize any supervision intervention and had access to the necessary accommodations and technology, I would have loved to see my supervisee’s in action. I would want to observe them utilizing audio/video recordings to observe their body language, non-verbal’s, and witness the actual questions they ask, their personality/therapy style, and be able to attest to their theoretical framework. I would opt out of being able to use techniques such as bug-in-the-ear, in vivo, walk-in and phone-ins. I believe the best way of learning is through making mistakes and processing them if they do not cause any harm to their patient/clients. The interventions mentioned above will be distracting and disruptive to the therapeutic process in my opinion. I believe presession planning and postsession debriefing interventions would be beneficial to discuss their clients beforehand and process their session after their therapy session while it is fresh on their mind and I have been able to observe as the session was occurring.
I also would have like to complete a supervision agreement/contract. I believe there are many benefits to doing this type of documentation. The most important is accountability and responsibility of the supervisor and the supervisee. In addition, the acknowledgement of the significance of the weekly meetings, the process, expectations of the meetings, supervisory relationship, address ethics and issues of the supervisory relationship and evaluation. This would ensure that the process and expectations are clearly explained and understood and allow for questions about the process. This agreement would also provide more guidance and structure for the supervisor, somewhat of a protocol. The supervisor toolbox provides a wealth of information and guidelines that are advantageous for individuals in supervisory rules which I wished I utilized more.
Through this course and the opportunity to experience supervision, I have been able to identify my weaknesses and strengths as a supervisor. I believe the things that I can state are strengths can and may also be seen as weaknesses.
My strengths are my confidence in my competence, my ability to build a trusting rapport with my supervisee’s fairly quickly, my intuition and ability to listen more than I talk and deal with silence, my capability to be honest, positive and provide constructive criticism/feedback and my ability to gently guide, direct, explore and challenge. I feel we all as human beings, no matter the level of education, can question ourselves and our ability to lead and fear making mistakes and doing or saying something wrong. Initially, I doubted my skills and feared that I may not have all the answers but I was able to remain confident that I have received the necessary education, experiences and obtained the knowledge and techniques which in my opinion allowed me to provide adequate and appropriate supervision. My upbringing and work with diverse and multicultural populations have afforded me the skills to be open minded and able to get along with and build rapport fairly quickly with people. My caring nature and my philosophy to treat all people with respect, dignity and like family allows me to provide an environment that is safe and trusting which in turn leads to developing trusting relationships. I believe people know themselves better than anyone and can be the best advocate for themselves, therefore being able to listen, and deal with awkward silence allows the supervisee time to process and explore their feelings on their own. This allows the supervisor to assist with the exploration of feelings through guidance, direction and challenges of thoughts and feelings.
My weaknesses can be my tendency to care and want more for my supervisee’s maybe more than they want or believe in themselves, being too accommodating, flexible and available to my supervisee’s better working knowledge of all theoretical frameworks to assist my supervisee’s in grounding their therapy session within a specific theory. In addition, time management and termination. Some meetings with supervisee’s I found myself spending the whole session attempting to convince and/or assist the supervisee in feeling good about their skills and working on building that confidence within themselves and recognize they belong in the profession. Although, this was needed maybe I provided too much without forcing the students to internalize and find it for themselves. I believe my supervisee’s may have in my opinion taken advantage (a little bit) of my willingness to accommodate their schedule to the best of my ability and making myself available via email and phone. Although, this could be seen as positive this could also be seen as enabling the supervisee to not take full responsibility and uphold their share of the obligations of the mandatory in person weekly meetings.
My knowledge of person-centered theoretical framework is pretty good but working with my supervisee’s who endorsed other theories forced me to recognize that I need to further my working knowledge of the other theories. Due to the limited allotted time to meet with each student, I feel we did not always have time to address all issues and I struggled with cutting some students off due to my feelings of being rude but not doing this affected everyone’s scheduled meeting times. Lastly, termination is hard for everyone and I am able to address and explain this but I still struggle with termination even though it occurs on a regular consistent basis but I continue to get better with it each passing year.
This semester I believe I was able to find my niche in providing supervision. I enjoyed each and every one of my supervisee’s and enjoyed getting to know them, their patients through their self-reports, the honor to have many of my supervisee’s disclose many personal and intimate details, experiences and feel comfortable crying in supervision, providing feedback, brainstorming and assisting them with professional and patient problems. I was able to recognize how important individual supervision is as the foundation for my supervisee’s professional development and the magnitude my choices, skills and competence play in their development. I hope I was able to leave a good and everlasting impression on my supervisee’s experience and future careers. My supervisee’s have given me such good feedback and expressed how much they will miss this component of practicum because they are able to really hone in on things not addressed in their onsite supervision which they articulated is necessary. This feedback gave me a greater appreciation of the work and importance of my supervision and the relationship to the supervisee’s and ultimately, their caseload.
I am amazed at the number of options that are available in conducting supervision and the value of quality supervision. My selected supervision method was determined by my experiences, interest and capability in accessing and utilizing different methods based on perceived and actual needs of my supervisee. The field of psychology is forever growing, developing and changing and the importance for psychologist and supervisors to continuously study and know many different methodologies is imperative to serve our supervisee’s, their clients and the profession.