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Relationships with Supervisors

The inherent power imbalance between student/junior practitioner and their supervisor can be a source of anxiety and conflict if it is not managed well.  It should however be a relationship that is open, nurturing and safe.  The following measures are ways in which this can be effected.

  1. Supervision contract

This should include times of day when supervision takes place, the frequency of supervision sessions, and how long they are scheduled for.  There many templates available online for supervision contracts, but in addition to ‘housekeeping’ tasks such as supervision times (see below), they should state a list of supervisors’ and supervisees’ rights and responsibilities

  1. Changing supervisors 

We cannot get along with everybody as the old saying goes.  Sometimes we find out that there is a lack of compatibility between us and others and this can also mean that you feel this way about a supervisor.  If you feel that you do not have a safe and secure relationship with your supervisor, this should be addressed firstly with them, and then if one or both parties feel that this cannot be reconciled, there should be a clear route established to help the supervisee find another supervisor.  Such a mechanism could also be included in the supervision contract.  Supervisees can often feel that they cannot raise such an issue for fear of negative appraisal.  While we are all human and nobody likes to feel that they are incompatible with another person, a supervisory relationship is one of the most important that we forge in our professional lives, it has to be good enough to help us evolve as people and clinicians.

  1. Keeping to supervision times

It is essential to keep to the scheduled time for supervision, as informal or ad hoc supervision, if occurring regularly, tends to devalue the relationship, and can lead to supervision feeling less safe for one or both parties.  We all like to get on with other people, and supervision is a strange concept as it can feel like a forced or artificial relationship.  That’s because it is!  It should also be recognised that it should be.  A supervisory relationship should be predicated on respect and trust, much like a therapeutic relationship, but it is not a friendship, nor should it be.  Keeping to structured times for supervision ensures that the time is valued and used as a space for the ongoing development of the supervisee (and to a degree the supervisor also).

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