I offer structured and supportive supervision to qualified and trainee counsellors, psychotherapists and counselling psychologists.

Why should psychological counsellors need to have supervision

Supervision is essential to ensure high standards of professional practice. Ongoing supervision helps practitioners to monitor and review the quality of their work as well as their client's progress.

Supervision, moreover, is a form of professional self-regulation. It is essential for the right to autonomous practice in the helping professions. Without supervision psychological counsellors might have to be regulated or "licensed" to practice by other professions (e.g. by the medical profession).

Counselling supervision is especially important for trainees. Counselling skills can appear deceptively simple to learn with few technical details or technical language. Supervision has a special role in helping trainees move beyond basic forms of counselling skills to develop a more sophisticated and sensitive form of counselling expertise. Equally, counselling placements need careful management and structured support. The trainee experience should be encouraging and empowering rather than negatively demanding. Supervision provides a solid base to help trainees make sense of their learning experiences and to facilitate their professionalism.

My Goals as Supervisor are:

1. To help supervisees have a better (more integrated) sense of the therapeutic process.

Therapeutic process is common to all different forms of counselling and therapy. It concerns the therapist's capacity to be self-aware; of thoughts and feelings, of possibilities and limitations in psychological counselling, and of personal and professional boundaries. It takes place in the interchange between therapist and client and is manifested in the style, pacing and art of therapy. The clinical gaze thus turns inwards during process considerations. Brems (1999) offers a useful framework for understanding process in psychotherapy and counselling. He argues it is best thought of as three separate but intervening circular processes:

  1. processing the relationship
  2. processing treatment challenges
  3. understanding phases of change

Process goals, moreover, may be distinguished from outcome goals. Whilst psychiatry and clinical psychology have specialised in formal assessment (e.g. using the DSM framework), psychological counsellors might be able to claim that they are moving towards a more process oriented form of client appraisal in which the primary aim is to provide the best fit their repertoire of therapeutic skills to the client's needs.

Walborn (1996) notes that process learning offers a guide or map, which frees counsellors to be flexible in the direction they take. The struggle to understand process, moreover, promotes expression of intuition. For my own personal development as a psychological counsellor, I find this one of the most significant factors.

2. To help supervisees develop principles of best professional practice.

Good professional practice is founded on a sound understanding of ethical principles. In turn this means therapists fine tuning their awareness of process considerations and their decision making in the course of negotiating therapeutic change.

Rogers "core conditions" are concerned with the ethics of good counselling practice as much as they are with therapeutic methods. Rogers (1961) reframes the nature of psychotherapeutic work from the question of how to treat the client to how to establish a relationship with the client. His emphasis is on experiential aspects of therapy rather than technical procedures. As he explains:

"Self-awareness, a recognition of process, an understanding of developmental needs and stages, and the emphatic atunement to the clients reality and phenomenology of the self are crucial aspects of the therapy and carry their tremendous responsibility and opportunity." (Rogers 1961:235)

Good practice also means maximising counsellor's effectiveness. By making the counsellors thinking explicit it becomes open to revision. That is, it functions as a form of learning through feedback, allowing the counsellor to learn from mistakes and to consolidate progress. Supervision also focuses, therefore, on the intentions and impact of therapeutic work and the general management of casework.

3. To help supervisees develop professional confidence and an enhanced ability to act autonomously in their working context.

Effective supervision also includes the need to understand the working context of therapy, not just the clients presenting problem. In my experience, practitioners need support to help cope with their practice setting as much as they do with client issues.

Hawkins & Shohet (1989) established a model of consultancy supervision in which supervisees have the responsibility for their work but consult on issues they wish to explore with someone who is not in a training or line-manager role. As they describe:

"Supervision sessions should always start from exploring issues from work and should end with looking at where the supervisee goes next with the new work that has been explored."

They conclude that supervision and support are a fundamental need for all the helping professions.

Walborn (1996) cogently argues that the counsellor must create a safe "emotional holding environment" for clients concerns. He might have added that it is just as important to create a safe holding environment for the counsellor's concerns. In offering professional supervision I aim to create a structured and supportive environment, which enables the practitioner, just as they help empower their own clients.

4. To help supervisees explore alternative means of understanding and intervening with particular client issues.

Supervision can also help the counsellor to develop in-depth understanding of the client and facilitate appropriate goal setting. Counsellors may also acquire new skills and knowledge to improve their functioning through goal directed work. Cormier & Hackney (1999) contend that formulation of goals have motivational, educational and evaluative advantages. I find that having specific goals to work towards can help counsellors work more effectively and efficiently as well as facilitating commitment.

It is also a common experience among practitioners that they occasionally become "stuck" with a particular client problem (i.e. there is no evident progress and the client appears to disengage). Counsellors too, may even privately feel the same way. Client resistance or reluctance may stem from clients need for self-protection but often leads to therapeutic breakthroughs. Successful processing of being stuck relies, though, on the counsellor's continued acceptance of the client and communication that the therapeutic environment is a safe place to allow such explorations. Supervision can play an especially important role in helping practitioners to address moments of "stuckness". Good supervision can help the practitioner reframe the problem and reaffirm the basis of their therapeutic alliance.

5. To help supervisees explore past and present experiences of therapeutic work and to find ways to develop their own unique therapeutic style.

The form of supervision will also be inevitably influenced by the therapeutic model employed by the supervisor since it implies theoretical formulation and the anticipation of interventions. In my case, I work within a broadly Integrative approach, made up from elements of Person Centred Counselling, Systemic Therapy and CBT. Click onto Theoretical Framework for a more detailed academic discussion.

Rennie's (1998) sophisticated version of Person Centred counselling promotes the concept of counsellor's style. The point is for the counsellor to develop his or her own style whilst staying genuine and meaningful to the client. Rennie warns against too wooden a style through too literal an interpretation of the core conditions. The sophisticated view of person centred counselling is in considerable contrast to the more widely purveyed literalist version. Although both adhere to the same basic principles of core conditions, the sophisticated Person Centred counsellor recognises that being with the client involves more than good intentions. Rather, counsellors adapt their strategy to fit the client's preparedness to work in the counselling relationship. The counsellor invites the client to work in certain ways and utilises feedback to direct the client through the counselling process. This involves the counsellor monitoring his or her own reactions to client experience and highlights reflexivity in the moment-to-moment experience of counselling.

Whilst I am always concerned to develop and validate my own theoretical framework, I try to avoid imposing my own style but encourage supervisees to discover their own. I am especially interested in helping supervisees recognise and develop their own unique style. Supervision can facilitate the reflective process by which therapists assess their own standpoint and their style of practice. Reviewing our counselling style is as much a part of the art of therapy as reviewing "purely" therapeutic interventions. They are inextricably linked, only the emphasis differs.



Brems, C. (1999). Psychotherapy Processes and Techniques. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Cormier, S. & Hackney, H. (1999). Counselling Strategies and Interventions. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

Hawkins, P. & Shohet, R. (1989). Supervision in the Helping Professions. Milton Keynes: Open University Press.

Rennie, D.L. (1998). Person-Centred Counselling: An Experiential Approach. London: Sage.

Rogers, C.R. (1961). On Becoming a Person. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.

Walborn, F.S. (1996). Process Variables. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks / Cole.


What does Supervision cost and how do I make an appointment

Sessions can be timed flexibly to suit your particular circumstances (e.g. occasional sessions, or weekly, fortnightly or monthly sessions). Supervision sessions are 50-60 minutes long and cost £50 (10% discount for trainees).

Dr. Don Rawson
Chartered Counselling Psychologist

01895 820 402


This website is offered as a free source of information about counselling psychology and as a guide to my professional practice.
© Don Rawson (2003) If you find any of this material helpful for your own studies please feel free to download or quote it but acknowledge the source.