September 8, 2022

The Seven Perspectives: Perspective Four

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Supervisee-Focused Perspective (Internal)

The Fourth Perspective in our seven part series on Perspectives for Professional Supervisors might sound familiar. There are some similarities to Perspective Two, in that we are focusing on the Supervisee again. However, while Perspective Two looks at the Supervisee’s external way of working with clients; their individual strategies, interventions and perceptions, Perspective Four looks more at the internal process; emotional reactions and resonances to the client, as well as the overall well-being and how that affects their work. 

Working with clients can be emotionally challenging, draining, exciting and rewarding all at once. A Supervisee can go through all these feelings in a single session. It may be tempting to brush these emotions aside, as just a side-effect of the job. However, it is vitally important to pay close attention to these feelings; when they occur and why.

Embrace The Emotions

How the Supervisee responds to their client says a lot about the relationship. If they are internally celebrating alongside them when good things happen, and empathizing when things are difficult, they are probably experiencing a healthy connection to their client. If the Supervisee feels apathetic about their client’s highs and lows, it could mean they are feeling apathetic about their work or life in general. Strong reactions are always something to look closely at. For example, did the Supervisee find themselves frustrated or even angry with their client during a session? Or too emotionally connected? Is the client’s grief, pain or shame haunting the Supervisee’s day-to-day life, and so they find themselves fixating on the client. It’s essential to check where these feelings are coming from (refer to our last blog that looks at Transference), for the Supervisee’s own health and for the sake of their relationship with the client. Everyone tends to bring baggage into their work environment, but part of the job of a leader is creating boundaries. Creating this professional distance can protect themselves and their clients from their own personal issues. 

Being able to Understand

In addition to being mindful of the Supervisee’s internal world and feelings during a session, it’s important to try to understand the Client’s internal world as well. This can be tricky as many people have trouble being open about their most vulnerable emotions and can struggle to communicate feelings. Sometimes, all we get are external signals that they are uncomfortable (sweating, avoiding eye-contact, jiggling a foot) or we can read between the lines of their words. For instance, “I’m all right” with a sigh has much different weight than “I’m all right!” with a smile. 

Questions for a Professional Supervisor to ask their Supervisee: 

  • How do you feel emotionally in response to your client?
  • What are your physical sensations in response to your client?
  • What thoughts do you have about your client?
  • Notice your body language in response to your client. What are you saying through your gestures? (e.g. “I need you to like me.”)
  • What is the client is telling you through their body language? (e.g. “Please fix me.”)

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