Workplace well being through Mindful Supervision as a key resource for anybody who is working with people is not new. I have been supporting workplace wellbeing with online mindful supervision primarily within the social care and disability sectors within Ireland for many years now. Most often I am approached by an organisation or an individual when there is a crises or potential or sometimes actual burnout. The work I do here is caregiving, nurturing towards self awareness, self care and the rebuilding of strong boundaries as healing takes place.
I believe that that this workplace wellbeing support formally known as Supervision within the non clinical space has so much more to offer than this late stage crises management. I am committed to help people to understand the potential of workplace wellbeing with Mindful Supervision as a key educational, development and transformative tool for anybody who is working with people.
As a mindfulness teacher and soul coach I spend much of my time working with individuals seriously impacted by workplace stress. It is clear that while this support in a time of crises can be transformative there is a lost opportunity when we only use this workplace wellbeing support as a last resort to manage stress in crisis situation. Online Mindful Supervision has enormous potential to help you as an individual worker to strengthen your workplace wellbeing, your resilience, and ultimately your happiness in the workplace or role. Committing to your workplace wellbeing through online Mindful Supervision process will support you to improve your competencies and confidence in your particular role – teacher, guard ( police), welfare officer, healthcare worker, administration, adult education, pastoral care, spiritual guidance, complimentary therapist or carer…..
What Online Mindful Supervision is not
The potential of robust caring Online Mindful Supervision is most often misunderstood in three specific ways:
- Supervision is not line management – though accountability for work done is relevant
- Supervision is not a place for the supervisor/ boss to give negative feedback, ask for more work, load the pressure on
- Supervision is the same as a work performance appraisal.
Where does this idea of professional space called Supervision come from?
The profession of supervision is probably best understood as clinical support within the counselling context. Understanding what this is and how it works gives us solid ground for understanding the potential and value of Cross Professional Mindful Supervision.
Supervision as clinical support within the counselling profession
The roots of supervision are probably best understood within the counselling profession where ongoing clinical supervision is a requirement. Supervision in this context has been described as a ‘working alliance between supervisor and counsellor ’ (Inskipp and Proctor, 2001).
The clinical supervision process within the counselling profession is a formal arrangement that allows the counsellor to ‘offer an account of their work, reflect on it, receive feedback and where appropriate, guidance’.
Understood in this way it is easy to see how supervision can be seen as a professional helping relationship that is built on a clear working agreement between the supervisor and supervisee. This relationship in turn is based on trust, respect and goodwill.
The push to develop a framework within which this profession operates began in the 1980’s which in turn gave rise to a wide variety of supervision models such as psychoanalytic, humanistic and behavioural. Within each of these models though there are accepted roles and functions which serve us well as we now focus on Cross Professional Mindful Supervision. This type of supervision has a clear role to play now as a support for those working with people across a wide range of disciplines outside of the traditional clinical focus of supervision.
Roles and Functions of Supervision
Over time there have been many ways of describing the functions of supervision. There are two schools of thought that I find particularly helpful in supporting my own work in Cross Professional Mindful Supervision, namely that of Inskipp and Proctor , and Hawkins and Shohet.
- Inskipp and Proctor (2001) use the terms formative, qualitative and restorative to describe the key functions of supervision.
- Hawkins and Shohet (2000) also developed their own particular model of supervision and they define the three main functions or roles as:
- Development – developing the skills, understanding and competencies of the supervisee
- Resourcing which supports the supervisee to both understand and respond to the effect of work .
- Qualitative – quality control function and ensures that the work of the supervisee is appropriate and falls within defined ethical standards. Copeland (2005, 122)
It is generally understood that there are seven generic tasks of supervision (Carroll 1996). For Carroll and others ( including myself) the supervision relationship is the container within which tasks are performed and roles are carried out. It is a professional relationship between supervisor and supervisee ,and as such requires clear roles and boundaries which spell out the rights and responsibilities of both parties.
Carrolls Tasks of Supervision
Teaching is an essential task of supervision and changes as the relationship changes. The teaching task recedes as the supervisor becomes more experienced.
The counselling task of supervision encourages supervisees to reflect on their personal reactions arising in working with clients (Carroll 2004, 59). It is important to make a distinction between counselling as personal therapy and counselling as a role within supervision. The latter has a place in supervision and need not imply that supervision has crossed the boundary into therapy. One aim of supervision is to help supervisees become better therapeutic workers, whereas the aim of counselling stresses becoming fuller functioning.
The monitoring task is the quality control function.
This professional/ethical task of supervision ensures that clear boundaries are maintained with both counselling and supervision, that both client and supervisee are safe, that accountability is assured and that personal and organisation contexts are given reflective time.
Within supervision evaluation may take one of two forms. Formative evaluation consists of ongoing feedback for and evaluation of the supervisee, it is informal and ongoing. Summative tends to end up as supervisory reports. According to Carroll the
The consultancy task is the most frequently used task in supervision (1996, 76) and refers to the whole area of process in supervision. It considers client dynamics as well as the various relationships in the system. The administrative task of supervision is about monitoring the various contexts in which the supervisee works
The administrative task is about monitoring the various context in which the supervisee works.
So what is workplace wellbeing through Cross Professional Mindful Supervision ?
For me workplace wellbeing through Online Mindful supervision is essentially about attending to the inner and outer landscapes of our lives for meaning, connection and growth. The specific model of cross professional supervision I have trained in with an Chroi Ireland is rooted in the Wisdom Model. This focuses on mindful exploration of the four pillars of Contemplation, Compassion, Creativity and Collaboration. This model was developed by Dr Geraldine Holton who defines supervision as providing “ a safe confidential learning space where all aspects of the self, physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual can be explored and developed to enhance client care, professional practice and organisational change.” Dr.Geraldine Holton
Supervision – An Emerging Profession
We understands now that Supervision has evolved from its historical meaning of overseeing and line management to a more collaborative process between supervisee, supervisor and the organisation. Within the helping professions supervision has had a uni–professional history, as a field of practice within each profession where each discipline developed its own supervision tradition and literature. While this practice is commonplace in most clinical and counselling contexts it is not that regular for those working in other helping relationships such as adult education, pastoral care, police, spiritual guidance, complimentary therapists or carers. In response to this emerging need and to promote a culture that values supervision within such areas, the practice of cross– professional supervision has developed.
What is Workplace Wellbeing with Mindful Supervision?
Cross-Professional Supervision, as a term was originally coined by Dr. Geraldine Holton. It involves working across professions, across disciplines and across modalities. Within this approach supervision is accepted as a profession ‘in its own right’ with a unique set of skills, tasks and competencies. The role of the supervisor within this model is as facilitator of learning, change and transformation. The result of this promotion of workplace wellbeing with Online Mindful Supervision is an enhancement of client care, practitioner personal/professional development and organisational progression and change. Being a supervisor within this model does not mean imposing a particular perspective on a supervisee. Rather it is about facilitating the development of the supervisees clinical wisdom and experience in the best interest of the client.
What are the benefits of promoting workplace wellbeing with Online Mindful Supervision ?
- Manage workplace stress and anxiety
- Improve clarity and focus
- Potential for growth and transformational learning
- Develop clinical wisdom and skills through reflective practice
- Identify learning challenges and goals
- Uncover blind spots and work creatively with blocks, and limitations that may impact practice and well being
Why I believe workplace wellbeing with Online Mindful Supervision is especially important now
Working with people at any time is complex and leaves a residue at days end. Stress builds up and negatively impacts our health and wellbeing both in the workplace and in our personal relationships. In the midst of a global pandemic there are much higher levels of stress, anxiety and fear within the whole population. It effects both those we are working with and ourselves. This is understandable in the context of uncertainty. Now is a time like no other for making time for reflection and self care.
Seeking your Workplace Wellbeing with Online Mindful Supervision
Maybe you will seek supervision within your organisation or independently to support your workplace wellbeing and professional development especially in these challenging times. It is very likely that as you do you will work online with your supervisor at least in the short term as we negotiate our way through this pandemic. Apart from the very important step of ensuring your supervisor is qualified, affiliated to an industry standard professional organisation, and engages in supervisions, the following five tips may help you to prepare to get the most out of this supportive space as you look after your own well being in these challenging days.
Five tips for supporting your workplace wellbeing through Online Mindful Supervision
Get to know the online platform you will use for supervision ( in my case Zoom)
Before doing an actual session spend time setting up a meeting with just yourself and learn how to use the various functions. While not all of these are necessary for one to one meetings in my experience familiarity with the functions will ring great ease. Zoom have really good tutorials on all of this but actually I learned by doing.
Set up the space
Play with how best to establish a warm safe physical space where you will not be disturbed. Arrive early and take a short time for some mindfulness practise to help you to become present.
Give your own ( and your supervisers ) eyes some rest during the session
Rest your eyes and allow your superviser to rest his/her eyes. During my first one to one zoom sessions I was uber focused on maintaining contact with my supervisee to the point that I certainly strained my eyes and undoubtedly exhausted my unfortunate guest. It is true that I will not pick up all of the body language that I might so easily do in a physical room. I can however learn a great deal from the face in front of me, and I find I do this best now with only the occasional glance or holding look. This along with maintaining respectful distance and space creates the safety and respect you are right to expect in the supervision space. It is important for me to know that I look into the green light of my computer camera to make eye contact rather than at the face of my supervisee on the screen. This seemed really strange to me at first but now that I realise that these glances into the green light are similar to the occasional look into the eye of the supervisee just as that I might do in a physical room it is fine. You might want to explore this looking to the camera rather than the person on screen too.
Get comfortable with silence in the online space
Silence as supportive space is critical to good supervision but anxiety in the online space can make it feel much less comfortable. Initially as I supervised online I found the silence in the virtual space difficult and I felt uneasy in a way that I do not as I hold silence in the my physical meetings. As my confidence grows, I now relax back into the silence, and value as much as ever its potency and power. It is important that you too settle into the potency and power of the silent that might form part of your supervision session.
Be bold with creativity
Part of the process within Cross Professional Mindful Supervision for me is touching in with creative modalities for exploring and expressing emerging wisdom. I can still recall physically sweating with anxiety the first time I brought mandala work into a zoom room as part of a group supervision session. With some preparation and a minimum of refocusing the camera, the creative work in that instance became a deeply relational community sharing. I have now easily reconnected with using creative activities as part of my online supervision sessions. It is true that it does take some preparation, and also that we cannot physically touch or share as we might in a physical room. None the less using the creative modalities in one to one virtual work is both possible deeply satisfying. There is no soft way of easing into this – trust the process, be bold, and allow your creativity to emerge.
I have now returned to meeting a limited number of clients for Cross Professional Mindful Supervision but I also realise that online is truly a viable way to do relational work, and I am grateful to have the option. If you are reading this please believe me if I can honestly say that I mostly forget now that I am in zoom space when working with a supervisee online, then anybody can negotiate their way to a level of comfort in this non physical, but non the less real space of relationship and growth.
‘Good workplace wellbeing support through Cross Professional Mindful Supervisors can take you to incredible heights. They can help you to learn to fly, providing the wind beneath you, and providing a net when you fall.’
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