Ingrid Manning
Careers and professional development

Unlocking the secrets of Supervision: Exploring the impact of context

Chartered psychologist and lead for the ‘Supervision in different contexts’ course, Ingrid Manning discusses how context and situation can affect the experience of the supervisor.

16 April 2024

I have always felt supervision was, among other things, a privilege. A way to give back to the profession and support the development of applied psychology professionals.

Supervision has been a part of my journey for almost as far back as I can remember. Working in the private sector, it was a pleasure to support peers and colleagues with their supervised practice. Lately, I do this as a freelancer. What has struck me, thinking back on this journey, is that context matters.

The two contexts I have in mind are internal and external. When I started out providing in-house supervision, for developing applied practitioners of varying experience levels, it was by arrangement, and fitted in among other work commitments. I remember always doing my best to apply what had been covered in my supervision training and noticing what worked and where I could improve.

In time, it was helpful to set up supervision more formally within the organisation where I worked, with time set aside for supervision activities and agreed study time for supervisees. Navigating organisational pressures, as well as appreciating the support that was there, were all part of the journey. Lately, I am aware of the opportunities to really promote supervision internally, allowing the organisation to see the benefits and to smooth the path for the supervisee to get the time to study and access new learning opportunities.

Since becoming a freelance, I've kept supervision in my portfolio, and I have been struck by the way the experience is both the same but also different.

You soon learn to navigate responding to referrals and approaches on the RAPPS register. Usually there is a 'chemistry meeting' in order to ensure there is a good fit. What has struck me is the very different relationships you can have with the supervisee's organisation. Some are hands off, leaving it to you both to get on with it, others are keen to work closely with you, and with others again, there is something in between. There may be designated supervisors and the need to set up a good co-ordinated relationship, all while being external to the organisation. As a supervisor, you are quickly reading and picking up the culture of the supervisee organisation to offer the best guidance.

More recently, as a facilitator on the BPS Supervision Skills course, I value hearing the experiences of supervision from across the areas of applied psychology, whether forensic, health, educational, sports, occupational, clinical, counselling, coaching, or, like me, occupational. There are differences across the different fields of applied psychology and specific employers.

For some, supervision is standard and built into the trainee process, whereas for others it may be optional. Most, but not all fields, require supervision of supervision to be in place. There is much to be learned from one another. Despite the differences, I have noticed many shared experiences when it comes to supervision, with similar dynamics at play that depend on context.

Being the best supervisor you can be is a journey, just as is supervision itself. It involves reflecting on your own experiences while developing your knowledge and skillset through CPD.

As a part of your journey, if you are interested in delving deeper into this topic, of how context - internal or external - matters in supervision, then check out the course I've had fun authoring for BPS Learn. It has a mix of theory and plenty of practical tips for supervisors in exploring what to watch out for in their context. It would also serve as a general refresher, based on what I've learned along the way.

The CPD course Supervision in different contexts: Internal vs external is available on BPS Learn.


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