Psychoanalytic supervision needs to provide a set of
conditions that facilitates the student’s ability to
scrutinize what he already does.
Supervision of experienced therapists
Supervision is a relationship designed to support a deepening
understanding of work with specific patients as well as a more
general enhancement of the supervisee’s growth as a therapist. A key supervisory task is therefore to contain those elements which obstruct the learning process; my attunement to the supervisee’s experience is the key contribution which I aim to bring to the work. Supervision is often referred to as a resonating process and this fits with the idea of attunement as the focus of our attention on the musical pitch and rhythm of communication.
In the supervisory hour the supervisor makes herself available to the supervisee in a way which quite closely resembles her role as therapist. The difference between the two roles is important but not simple to define. Psychoanalytic supervisors would probably agree that the supervisee’s emotional state impacts on their capacity to think, but might hold different opinions about the extent of the supervisor’s responsibility to help manage feelings. I consider that the supervisor has a key role in helping contain difficult affect; if this holding is effective then the supervisee will feel secure enough to think freely and more deeply about their clinical work. The single most powerful form of containment is the demonstration by the supervisor that they can tolerate disturbing feelings and still continue to think. Occasionally I hope to provide a significant insight into client work but for the most part I aim to facilitate the supervisee to unearth the hidden treasures. I know from experience that this is more likely to translate into a new experience in the therapy room.
Supervision of trainees and newly qualified practitioners
The essence of the supervision task is described in the paragraphs above. I have supervised trainees in placements and in college over many years and am familiar with the anxieties which come with different stages of learning and from working in different kinds of settings. I have in mind the acute anxiety of seeing a first client, the challenge of setting up a private practice and the particular organisational stresses that come with working in the NHS or in voluntary agencies working with specific client groups - such as addicts.
My fee for supervision is £70.