This blog highlights some of the differences between counselling / psychotherapy and supervision. In reaching out to students, qualified therapists and new supervise es my hope is that you will gain a little clarity in what can sometimes be fuzzy territory. The first few years as a therapist can be very difficult and lonely and many counsellors and psychotherapists lose heart on their journey.
Before I start it feels right to summarise the differences between counselling and psychotherapy because as a supervisor you need to be able to know what and who you are working with in order to best ‘guide the therapist to higher levels of expertise and professionalism’. So here we go……
A Psychotherapist can work with more complex presentations and mental health conditions such as trauma, anxiety, addictions and is certainly qualified to provide counselling services. A Counsellor generally does not have the training and skills to provide psychotherapy. However, what really matters to a client in distress is that the therapist who works with them can hear them and help them to find a way forward in their lives. Both should be able to work with a client on a range of issues for short and long term work, as needed.
From personal experience psychotherapy is a more soulful, developmental and deeper experience because it can attend to the early and intrauterine life experiences that shaped the person and also the templates that organise their life today. Counselling alone does not generally do this.
The attunement is the most important element counselling and psychotherapy So it is not important what approach or technique we use but that we can feel the feelings of the other, not simply understand them conceptually. Our hands, our body and our minds need to be in the very same vibration of the client / patient whilst keeping the basic emotional stability that they need.
If you are seeking supervision for the first time or are wanting to change your supervisor for good reasons it may help to clarify some of the main differences between therapy and supervision
An aim of the therapist is to help the client lead a more enriched and fulfilling life whereas for the supervisor it is to enable the fullest therapeutic use to be made of the counselling or psychotherapy (Page and Wosket (2015, p. 19.)
As the supervisor I will be helping the supervisee develop skills and deepen reflection on the therapeutic process.
The therapist may refrain from expressing their understanding of the clients world for a number of sessions whereas the supervisor will address what is happening in the ‘here and now’ with the appreciation that it only relates to the work with this particular client at this time.
As the supervisor I will be keen to find an outcome before the supervisees next session with the client.
The client who attends therapy may very well be encouraged to arrive unprepared but the supervisee attends regular supervision prepared with the materials necessary to work with during the session.
As the supervisor I will ensure that the supervisee brings material to work with.
In terms of the relationship, which I believe is the most important and vital aspect in both counselling / psychotherapy and supervision the qualities of ‘holding’ clearly differ.
The containment in the former case is an emotional containment of the clients world experience and their distress is a central point of focus in the therapy sessions. This is in contrast to that of the supervisor where the containment includes emotional holding of the supervisee in their task of working with their client in giving them another layer of holding for their clients material (Page and Wosket (2015, p. 20.)
In the therapy relationship the job of the counsellor / psychotherapist is a nurturing parent to child relationship whereas in the supervisory relationship the supervisors job is adult to adult.
What I can offer you as a Supervisor
For me, Supervision has been the most natural step to take and with my wealth of experience with children and young adults including those with additional learning needs and other complex issues too I am able to work with counsellors and psychotherapists as well as other health professionals who work directly with the children and young people. Also mental health, people in recovery and soul loss.
Trauma informed work is important to me and why I am currently taking the Trauma recovery focused pathway training. Knowing that I am able to be a solid link in my capacity as supervisor, in changing and transforming the subconscious patterning of bad attachment in those children and young people of today gives me a real sense of purpose.