What makes a good counselling supervisor?

qualities of a counselling supervisorA few years ago after gaining the certificate in counselling supervision it led me to reflect and re-evaluate my own supervision sessions.  Was I getting the best out of my supervision?

My supervisor and I had an open and frank discussion about the different aspects of my own supervision. We focused on what I have found helpful and unhelpful throughout my supervision. We re-assessed our work together and for me to take a fresh look at what I was contributing and what positive changes I could make.

I was fortunate that my supervisor was open to this discussion, and I realised how important this was.  She understood me and we built a good, trusting relationship. After years of working together,  I was sad to hear that she was retiring.

I need to find another supervisor. Where to start? What makes a good supervisor? There are many supervisors out there. What do you need to  for?

This is the list I have formed in what I feel you need to ask yourself when finding a new supervisor.

  • A supervisor should inform you about how they like to use supervision session and what model they use. This will give you an idea of whether the supervisor style is for you or not. The supervisor should also let you know what is included in their contract (i.e. the ground rules, for example can you call them in an emergency?)


  •  You need a supervisor who will encourage you to reflect and who will be open to questions. You should feel free to ask questions and you need to know that if your supervisor cannot answer a question that they are able to say ‘I don’t know’ and be able to sign post you to someone else who can help you.


  • You want a supervisor that will only share their knowledge and experience when it is needed only. This is possible to gain an insight into this on your first meeting.


  • You want to feel free to say anything that you want to without fear of criticism or of being made to feel small. You need to feel free to admit your mistakes, or your ignorance, or that you don’t understand what your supervisor means.


  • Your supervisor needs to be honest and not frightened to challenge you. Supervisors who are warm, accepting and keeping a friendly eye is not what you want. You need someone who can push you and will help you develop. I feel if you think supervision is just to meet BACP guidelines or meet your course then you will not learn from it.


  • You need a supervisor who listens and is open to engage with other models. If you are stuck you will find it helpful to have different insights into helping you find a solution.


  • Finally you want to feel safe. You want to be able to refer to a personal issue which may have influenced your response to a client, or because it is getting in the way. It needs to feel ok to talk about it without it turning into a personal therapy session. You also need to feel safe within your boundaries and that supervisor will carry you throughout any difficulties you may encounter. You want to be looked after, encouraged to learn and be able to make the most of your supervision to enable you to grow as a counsellor.

Building a positive relationship with your supervisor have a look here


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