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Clinical Supervision: Skill Building and Empowering Supervisees
It also helps supervisors make decisions about how to utilize time in the session and what topics to initiate. Finally, it helps to ensure that students are more likely to get their needs met. By being active in structuring the meeting, students can help to reduce the frustration that results when one or both parties feel that essential matters were not addressed.
Being prepared for the various roles (i.e., teacher, counselor, and consultant) that supervisors might slip into and out of when addressing the aforementioned topics can also help to reduce potential confusion and frustration in MHC students. When supervisors provide feedback about performance, teach or model techniques, explain the rationale behind interventions, or provide interpretations of counseling interactions, they are trying to instruct students from the teaching role (Stenack & Dye, 1982). Operating from the counseling role, supervisors are trying to facilitate students' self-growth as it relates to their professional development. Questioning students about their feelings (e.g., whether in response to supervision, counseling sessions, or trying specific counseling interventions) and providing opportunities to explore affective responses, defensive reactions, worries, and personal strengths are all appropriate supervision interventions from the counseling role (Stenack & Dye). From the consulting role, supervisors focus on the client in order to generate information and ideas about treatment. Accordingly, supervisors encourage students to discuss client problems or motivations and brainstorm alternative conceptualizations or interventions. Rather than directing the interactions and providing answers, as is done in the teaching role, supervisors in the consulting role encourage student choice and responsibility by providing options and alternatives instead of answers (Stenack & Dye). Understanding the purposes of each of these supervisor roles can prepare MHC students for responding in a complementary fashion from the respective roles of student, client, and counselor.
MHC students can initiate discussions about personal reactions and feelings by moving into the client role with the supervisor. A transition into the client role could be facilitated by the following questions and statements: I have a hard time paying attention to this client. Could you help me explore the anger that I am feeling toward the client's parents? For some reason, I am reluctant to confront this client, and I would like to figure out what is blocking me. This dream I had about my client contained some powerful images that I am having trouble interpreting. I find that I cannot stop worrying about my clients once I get home with my family. Sometimes in our supervisions sessions, I feel like I will never know enough to work with clients on my own. When I work with this client, he or she reminds me so much of my older brother or older sister. How can I ensure that these feelings will enhance rather that inhibit my work with this client?
Still other comments and questions from students, in the counselor role, can invite supervisors to move into a consultant role. Examples include the following: I am puzzled by the client's presenting symptoms, particularly in light of previous diagnoses. Can we spend some time discussing better ways to establish trust with this client? What do you think the client is trying to communicate by holding the sofa pillow when she talks? What kind of stress management techniques might work best with this client? I cannot really make sense of what keeps the client so stuck in this pattern of behavior.
Monitoring Self and Reactions
In addition to anxiety, transference and counter transference can be the root of confusing, difficult, and sometimes negative interactions between supervisees and supervisors alike (Pearson, 2000). If unrecognized, such unconscious processes increase the potential for ineffective supervision or conflict within the supervisory relationship (Pearson). Recognizing these processes requires a willingness by MHC students to engage in serious personal reflection. Students' expectations for what should be happening in supervision can be influenced by current and prior relationships with other authority figures, including parents, teachers, and bosses. For instance, if students perceive their supervisors as overly critical, aloof, uncaring, smothering, stifling, or untrustworthy, they need to examine the degree to which they have had similar feelings toward other authority figures. Students might also ask others who have worked with the supervisor about their experiences and perceptions. When students realize that their reactions are unique or exaggerated compared to others' reactions and that they have reacted similarly to other authorities, transference is the likely explanation. With such a realization, students are more likely to act constructively rather than react negatively.
Parallel process (Friedlander, Siegel, & Brenock, 1989) is another unconscious phenomenon that is less familiar to MHC students. Parallel process occurs when supervisees unconsciously present themselves to the supervisor in much the same fashion that the client presented to the supervisee. Thus, the supervisee unconsciously replicates the conflict of the client (S. S. Berger & Buchholz, 1993). S. S. Berger and Buchholz argued that MHC students who understand parallel process may be able to observe themselves more effectively and may be more receptive to related interventions by the supervisor. Because parallel process is often subtle, making it difficult to detect, MHC students can be alert to situations in which their responses, reactions, or needs in supervision are atypical for themselves and ask the following: What client am I currently discussing or reminded of? To what degree could the client be feeling similar to the way I am feeling now? Do you have any insights regarding my description of the client and how it compares to your and my feelings in this situation.
Reflection Exercise #8
Online Continuing Education QUESTION 33
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