My interest in ‘supervising’ (co-learning) alongside student interns, community workers and clinicians began when I had an experience of clinical supervision that was very different from any I had had in the 14 years leading up to it. I was used to the type of supervision that did not address power relations in the supervisor-supervisee relationship – a top-down approach – and one that centered the supervisor’s knowledge and understandings above my own. At Oolagen, a youth mental health centre, where I worked as a therapist for more than seven years, I had an experience of supervision that centered my ethics, skills and knowledge. Rather than problem-solving, offering me advice, offering opinions about the motivations of the young person I was consulting about, my supervisor invited me to name, and think my way through dilemmas I faced in my practice by asking self-reflexive narrative questions. Not only was I invited to name and explore problems (e.g. Self Doubt/Dread) that were showing up for me in conversations with young people, but I was also invited to name the skills, ethics, politics reflected in directions I took. I was never the same person leaving these conversations that I was when I entered. I felt an aliveness about doing the work, which stemmed from understanding how my values/ethics/politics and skills were showing up in decisions I made, and as a result, my confidence in my skills grew. I also left conversations feeling more connected to what the young people/parents I consulted with taught me, what they contributed to how I was able to show up in conversations with them, and how I was different on account of these conversations. These supervision conversations were profoundly transformative, and inform the way I facilitate supervision conversations with individuals and groups today.
For 6 years I have ‘supervised’ people of diverse genders and racial backgrounds, and people whose educational background, theoretical framework, and work context are different than mine. I have supported workers who do community outreach alongside 2SLGBTTQIA youth, people who work in health care settings, mental health, harm reduction and folks who are in private practice. After 6 years of engaging in ‘supervision’ conversations, I still feel the same, in terms of how these conversations move me. I am not the same person at the end of a conversation with a supervisee (co-learner) that I was at the beginning. For the purposes of this page I will refer to people who are commonly referred to as ‘supervisees’ as co-learners, as this is how I see the two-way learning relationship I have with the people with whom I consult.
My Philosophy of Supervision
My supervision practice is guided by a commitment to social justice and informed by Narrative Therapy, anti-colonial practices and intersectional feminist frameworks. I strive to uphold the ethics of collaboration, transparency, consent and centering ethics in my work with co-learners. I am mindful of power differentials may impact on what is said and not said in the therapy/supervision room, and take seriously my responsibility to redistribute power in the relationships I have with co-learners and clients. From the outset I name the various sites of privilege that I hold (and benefit from), and invite a conversation about how this may be influential in our relationship. Questions I might ask to facilitate this conversation: “What might you notice if differences in our social location were influencing our relationship? How might you let me know? If I responded in a way that felt affirming of your decision to bring it to my attention, what might I be asking/doing or not asking/not doing?”
The ‘tools’ that I bring to my clinical consultations are in the kinds of questions I ask that invite practitioners into a philosophical investigation of the ethics, personal politics and values that guide them in this work. By asking questions that invite self-reflexivity, rather than offering advice, clinicians have reflected that they experience a greater sense of agency in the work. My philosophy of supervision is very much inspired by the work of Vikki Reynolds and Dale Andersen-Giberson.
I have been told that the questions I ask in supervision conversations have been helpful to clinicians in terms of feeling more connected to the skills, ethics, values and commitments that are reflected in their work, and that this has been useful, not only in terms of the development of their confidence, but also in terms of having an expanded repertoire of questions they might ask their own clients.
By inviting ‘supervisees’/co-learners to question some of the taken-for-granted ways of thinking about this work (i.e. the histories behind certain practices or ideas; whose benefit these practices or ideas serve; at what, or whose cost; and how or in what ways these practices fit and/or do not fit with their own preferred ways of working), therapists and community workers have expressed that they have come away from our conversations with a deeper sense of their preferred ways of being in this work.
I offer group and dyadic co-learning conversations.
Click here to read testimonials from ‘supervisees’.