September 1, 2022

The Seven Perspectives: Perspective Three

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Supervisee-Client Relationship Focused Perspective 

Today, we continue our series on the Seven Perspectives for Professional Supervisors, looking at Perspective Three; the relationship between the Supervisee and the Client. So far, we have focused on each individually and how they may perceive each other. Perspective Three concerns the relationship between these two individuals. 

The difference between this and the first two perspectives is that it allows the Professional Supervisor to focus on the way their Supervisee and their Supervisee’s client would interact. For example, this would narrow in on the relationship between a Pastor (The Supervisee) and a member of their congregation (The Client), or a Principal (The Supervisee) and a teacher (The Client). 

A Professional Supervisee would want to know if the Supervisee and their Client were open with each other. Do they trust each other? Is their relationship healthy? Are there biases or untrue assumptions behind their conversations? Are there underlying attractions or attitudes or impressions that are unhealthy or destructive? If boundaries are being crossed, a professional supervisor can help their supervisee see it clearly and, hopefully, prevent it from going further. One of my close friends in ministry had an affair with a person in their church (a leader) and once it came out in the open, I asked him why he didn’t talk to me about it. (In this situation I was a friend not a supervisor.) He said he thought he could deal with it, but I wonder what would have happened if someone had been able to ask the hard questions before it got destructive to his marriage, family, ministry and church. 

Ensuring a Healthy Relationship Between the Two

One of the most crucial missions of a Professional Supervisor is to have a deeper understanding of and to ensure that the relationship between Supervisee and Client is healthy. This allows the participants to focus on keeping the sessions safe and professional. 

A common issue between Supervisees and their clients is transference, a phenomenon in which the client, say a student or parishioner, is directing feelings or desires related to an important figure in one’s life—such as a parent—toward the Supervisee. Past experiences with an authority figure can affect the way they interact with authority figures in the present. Transference oftens shows itself as attachment issues, like co-dependency, or strong detachment or rigidity. Counter-transference occurs when the Supervisee (e.g. the pastor or teacher) pushes their issues onto the client (e.g. the parishioner or student). Even experienced and well-intentioned Supervisees can fall into counter-transference if healthy boundaries are not being kept in place. 

Some Perspective Three thought exercises for a Professional Supervisor: 

  • Think about your client’s most recent session and imagine you are watching it as an observer. What do you notice about the Client and Supervisee?
  • What do you imagine the transference and counter-transference would look like if it was occurring in the relationship? 

Questions a Professional Supervisor can ask their Supervisee:

  • If you were shipwrecked on a desert island with your client, how would you each behave? What would you do straight away to survive? Imagine you’ve now been on the island together for a month. How are you each behaving now?
  • If you were both animals, what would you be? (E.g. “I’m a cat and my client is a mouse.”) How do you interact with each other? (E.g. “The cat is chasing the mouse! … I think my client wants to run away from me.”)

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