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Therapy or training? Drawing out the contextual infl uences in this way highlights


for me the overlapping, and sometimes competing frames of therapy and teaching. I take the ethical position mentioned above that, as clinical supervisor, I hold clinical responsibility and privilege the clients’ rights for good enough therapy over the training needs of the clinical associates. Easy to say, but not always easy to specify or act on. Allowing the trainee to stay with their own mud pool that they are creating in the room with a family will provide a good learning experience for them, but this has to be balanced by providing good enough therapy. Schwartz et al. (1988) propose some useful questions for a supervisor to consider before actively intervening, one of which is: “Is the outcome of the session at stake?” (p. 187). Sometimes, this is clear, such as when there are issues of risk that are being ignored. Oſt en, though, it is a case of judgement, based on (amongst other things) how well you can anticipate the consequences of intervening or not; how well you know your trainee; the quality of the relationship between you and your trainee which will determine how they use your intervention; the quality of the relationship between the trainee and the clients; and just how everyone is positioned on that day. Almost inevitably, the decision to intervene or not will be infl uenced to some degree by a diff erence in style and pace between supervisor and trainee, although, the more you know your trainee, the easier it will be to identify times when it will pay to be patient. Likewise, the demands of the training context may not be


straightforward. For example, is it bet er to facilitate learning by discovery, or by modelling? In diff erent ways and at diff erent stages of training, the tension for trainees between wanting to be told how to do something and wanting to fi nd out for themselves is evident. T e educational context where I practice privileges experiential, practice-based learning under a social constructionist model of education, but where the supervisor retains clinical responsibility. I try to off er a collaborative style of supervision, which leads me to be reluctant to ‘show’ trainees how to do it, in case ‘my way’ dominates. My aim is not to demonstrate and teach what I know about how to interact with clients, but to facilitate the trainees in their own discoveries about how they can work therapeutically, whilst not denying my expertise and experience. Philp et al. (2007) suggest, “Too much supervisory ‘expertise’ can inhibit supervisee creativity and critical awareness and too lit le ‘expertise’ might leave the counsellor feeling deskilled” (p. 55). In retrospective supervision-sessions, I notice that sometimes


I will interview a trainee about an issue, in front of other team members, and sometimes I will suggest the interviewer is a peer. T e eff ect is diff erent in that there is an opportunity to model a systemic interview but, if I chose to do this, an opportunity for a team member to practice their interviewing skills would be lost. Making that choice to interview oſt en depends on how complex I judge the issue to be, or whether I have an idea I wish to model. I notice, as I become more experienced in the role, I am


becoming less anxious behind the screen to focus exclusively on the therapeutic process. I am becoming more able to hold both contexts in my head, which enables me to know more clearly if I am intervening for the client or for the therapist, for the therapy or the training. It helped me realise that, as supervisor, I wasn’t doing the therapy through the trainee therapist, but helping them do the therapy.


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Individual trainee In any live session, the greater focus tends to be on the


trainee therapist in the room. Even though everyone is learning, this is ‘their’ session, where the focus is on ‘their’ clients’ therapy and their identifi ed learning edges. Working out with that trainee how they would like to use support is important and frames what you might notice as supervisor. T e relationship between supervisor and supervisee is important to pay at ention to, including factors such as gender and cultural diff erences. Having a colleague who is male helps me to question whether I am noticing or responding to something in a clinical associate because I am female, or whether the supervisees are relating to me in that way because I am female. Particularly diffi cult are those moments when assessment and


evaluation are prominent in the trainees’ minds. T e trainee may be looking to the supervisor for advice, but the supervisor is trying to facilitate the trainee’s identifi cation and discovery of their own strengths. T e trainee might then experience the supervisor as non-commit al, which may increase anxiety rather than facilitate self refl ection. Or, the trainee could be feeling criticised when the supervisor thought that all they were doing was off ering constructive refl ections. It is easy to forget how exposing this way of working can be. One of the dilemmas I experience is when the trainee


has identifi ed a learning edge and wants to practice this in their session, but the session develops in such a way that it isn’t appropriate. A simple example might be the practice of interrupting clients. In the dominant ‘white Welsh helping professionals’ culture that a signifi cant proportion of our clinical associates come from, it is considered impolite and disinterested to interrupt. Yet, sometimes it is important to do so in order to develop a therapeutic conversation that is more than empathic listening. A supervisor telling the trainee it’s OK to interrupt isn’t enough, they have to experience the usefulness of doing so for themselves. If the trainee were to interrupt inappropriately, the therapy may be compromised. Preventing this from happening would be prioritising the therapy over the training, but would run the risk of undermining the trainee, and may not be necessary if the therapeutic relationship is suffi ciently strong, or the client gracious.


Team context One of the signifi cant experiences of our MSc is that of learning


within a team. As supervisor, I have learnt that the team provides a rich learning-resource. Whilst I don’t have to provide all the answers, I do need to pay at ention to relationships within the team and the diff ering relationships each team member has with me. Part of what has helped me achieve this has been physically sit ing further back from the screen. T is places me in a position where I get a bet er perspective on some of the other relationships operating and, in doing so, I am more likely to have my at ention drawn to ‘mud bubbles’ occurring behind the screen as well as in front. Another signifi cance of this is that it positions me as


supervisor to the team who are consulting to the therapy, rather than as the expert demonstrating to the team how to tell the trainee therapist how to do therapy. T is is hard to do in the early stages of training when anxieties amongst trainees are high, and all eyes are on the supervisor to tell them what to do. Later in the training, there is a moment when team members begin to use the


Context February 2012


Mud pools and daisies: Using the CMM Daisy to aid decision making in live-training supervision


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