My supervision relationship with Karen goes back almost 10 years.  Karen was my first supervisor as a new graduate and I attribute my growth and development through those initial years to her skills, her knowledge, her patience, and her perseverance with me.  Our working relationship has been built on trust, safety and a deep respect for each other and our professional, ethical responsibilities.  What I reflect on here was one of our annual supervision reviews and the process of reporting on our work together that, while challenging, helped bring us to an even deeper understanding and respect of our supervision relationship.

In my current place of employment, I am required to provide an annual supervision report to my employer and further details around this will follow this blog.  This one particular year, Karen and I went through the template together, answering the questions, providing feedback to each other as we reviewed the previous 12 months in our work.  I offered to write the report, so to save Karen the extra time and pressure on her busy workload, but also to take time to reflect further as the template leaves a space with the subtitle, Any further comments.

I value these reviews and annual supervision reports immensely with Karen, as her reflections and insights into my engagement in supervision brings forward areas of growth and development into my consciousness.  Karen is great at surmising consistent themes throughout the year which to me seem like ramblings each time we meet.  On this particular year, as I took notes and began to draft the report, when it came to me adding Any further comments, I shared my reflections on how not too long prior to that date we had our monthly supervision and I was feeling the end of year fatigue and was venting my frustrations about my work and Karen, as she has always done with me, challenged my thinking around a particular issue and for a split second in the moment I took exception to her challenging me and I had a fleeting thought of, ‘time to change my supervisor’.  Nonetheless, as that session continued, I got over my feeling sorry for myself, and Karen, as she always does with me, enabled me to walk myself out of that rabbit hole and I again felt free of the burdens I had carried into supervision.  As I wrote that reflection in the annual report it brought me to conclude that, despite a brief moment of thinking I needed a new supervisor, it helped me to realise that it was exactly the challenge I needed in that moment and it affirmed for me that our working alliance continues to grow, stretch, and mould me as a practitioner like nothing else can!

After completing the draft annual supervision report with ‘that’ reflection, which I was quite proud of, I sent it by email to Karen for her to review prior to our next supervision session which would be added to the agenda.  The reply I got from Karen was kind of unexpected.  I knew it would be a revelation to her that I had ‘that’ moment and that I might have some questions to answer, but the email reply left me wondering if my reflection had harmed our working alliance and that our next supervision session would address some of the wonderings we both had as a result of this report. When we met for supervision to finalise the report Karen had lots of questions focused around my reflection, but the one that stood out was her wondering whether she needed to change the way she approached challenges with me, or whether I needed something done differently in the way we worked.  As I think back now, it was this moment and working through the issues around it that served to deepen our supervision alliance and understanding of how each of us work.  This is the ultimate value that annual reviews and reporting loops offers me – an opportunity to go deeper into reflecting on my developmental process and stepping into the vulnerable space with the desire to only bring greater awareness.  This is where the transformative learning happens for me and where growth can be experienced.  This is why I advocate for this process to be an expectation of supervision.   

Shane K