This article is a follow up to the articles I’ve written about the problem of caretaking in the field of bodywork. I titled the series “Issues in Supervision” because I see the process of supervision as fundamental to our work as practitioners and also to the future of our profession.
What supervision is: In the social sciences and helping professions the word takes on quite a different meaning from general usage.
- First, the word connotes a sense of clarity and being in a better position to see things, to perceive patterns as from above. A supervisor in this sense is someone who has many years of experience and thus is aware of many of the problems that can arise.
- Secondly, in the helping professions the supervisor is one who helps the helper so to speak. In most cases the supervisor serves at the behest of the practitioner, not the reverse.
- Thirdly the supervisor must have interactive skills that foster confidence and validation in the supervisee.
- Fourth the supervisor maintains strict confidentiality towards the practitioner’s process.
- Fifth the supervisor can play a variety of roles to support the practitioner: mentor, coach, preceptor, advocate, tutor, consultant, counselor and sometimes therapist. Supervision is required in many of the helping professions because most of the work is one-on-one with patients or clients and therefore intimate and personal.
What supervision is not: Supervision, according to Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, means to lead or to oversee a worker; a supervisor is a lead person, someone who represents the interests of the employer but who knows the worker personally. Unfortunately that meaning keeps on coming up. The word itself does not connote a hierarchical relationship or power over another. It also does not mean that the supervisor necessarily represents the interests of a third party. In the civil war hot air balloons were used in order to observe troop movements from a height that could give the commanders better intelligence. Rarely did the commanders go up in the balloons since the observers on high were favorite targets for sharp shooters. So the job was non hierarchical… often given to someone more expendable.