Developing your practice
I am delighted that Omar has invited me to write a column in ETQ on the topic of EMDR supervision. This has been an abiding interest of mine for several years and I have recently embarked on writing the first book, specifically on the topic of EMDR supervision, which will be published by Routledge.
Why should EMDR supervision be of general interest to all the readers of ETQ? ‘I am not an EMDR Consultant or trainee Consultant, and I have only just completed my own training in EMDR. So why should I be interested in reading your column?’ A good question. Well, hopefully, you are in receipt of supervision yourself and, if not, this column may help you realise how important it is that you do receive supervision.
In addition, supervision is a two-way process and feedback should go in both directions. An effective therapist will regularly ask their client for feedback about the process of the therapy and how it is going. Similarly, an effective supervisor will do the same with their supervisees. So, as a supervisee, it is important for you to know what to expect from your supervision and, by learning more about the process of EMDR supervision yourself, you may be able to get more out of the supervision that you are receiving. In fact, one of the key texts on clinical supervision (Hawkins & McMahon, 2020) devotes a chapter to ‘Becoming and being an effective supervisee’.
In this column, I will frequently be telling stories from my own life and, in particular, about times when things went wrong and what I learned from them. Storytelling can be a powerful therapeutic tool as we know, for example, in the EMDR storytelling approach (Logie et al., 2020, shameless plug, I know, but all proceeds go to Trauma Aid UK) . As well as using stories in therapy, I frequently tell stories when I am teaching and supervising. Here is a story to start with, which relates to giving feedback to one’s supervisor.
Wind back the clock to 1982, when I was a trainee clinical psychologist. One of my placements was with a supervisor who did not give me enough clients to work with. Those clients that I was allocated all had the same presenting problem or were clients with whom his previous supervisees had made no progress. For most of my time on placement I was at a loose end. ‘Is there anything you can usefully do?’ would be his mantra and I would bring my coursework and reading in with me in order to keep myself occupied. He taught me virtually nothing and the experience was dismal and depressing. On a routine visit by the course tutors towards the end of the placement I was asked how it was going. ‘Fine’, I answered. ‘No complaints.’ I still feel guilty and ashamed after nearly 40 years that I didn’t speak up and tell them how it really was. But my supervisor was an important and influential individual on my training course and I just wanted to keep my head down and pass the course.
Those of you who know me may be surprised by this story as I know I come across as reasonably assertive. But it is all about context. In this situation, the power was all in someone else’s hands and this power dynamic was thwarting a supervisory relationship that could have been useful and effective for me as a supervisee. ‘…both supervisor and supervisee have power and influence in the supervisory endeavor and … supervision works best when that power and influence are mutually used and shared for its enhancement’ (Watkins & Milne, 2014, p. 676).
So, supervisees, please give feedback to your supervisors, however scary it may seem. And supervisors, please ask your supervisees for feedback, however scary that may seem for you too! And remember, if as an EMDR Consultant, you are giving feedback to your supervisee about their practice as an EMDR therapist, why shouldn’t they also give you feedback about your performance as their supervisor?
So, as well as being useful to all those EMDR Consultants and trainee Consultants who read this column, I hope that it will help EMDR supervisees (which should be all of us) to understand better what the process of supervision entails and what we should expect from the supervision that we receive.
In order to make this column as relevant as possible for all readers of this column, I plan to write it from the perspective of the supervisee rather than the supervisor as this should benefit us all. My future columns will be looking at answering a series of questions. To give you a flavour of what is to come, here are some of the questions that I will be attempting to answer:
- What is supervision?
- Why is supervision necessary?
- How is EMDR supervision different?
- What is actually going on in a supervision session?
- How might the supervisee’s level of experience affect the form that the supervision takes?
- How and why does supervision go wrong and what can we do when it does?
- What are the pros and cons of doing supervision in different modalities such as online, by email or by sitting in on a therapy session?
- Why should supervisees video record their therapy sessions?
- What’s good about group supervision?
It would be great if this column could be interactive, so please feel free to email me with your comments and questions (I am inviting feedback too!) and I can incorporate these comments and questions into my future columns.
And to finish, another story for you which also relates to feedback and has a happier ending than the last one: Some years ago, after a couple of sessions of supervision, one of my EMDR supervisees (who I will call Mark because that was, indeed, his name) said, ‘Robin, can I give you some feedback?’ ‘Yes, of course,’ I replied, inwardly thinking, ‘no, no! Arggh! I don’t want to hear this!’ Mark then told me that, compared to his previous supervisor (someone for whom I had a lot of respect) I was too laid back. ‘I would like you to be more on top of things and give me more detailed feedback about what I am doing right and what I am doing wrong,’ he said. I realised he was right, I was too laid back, not just for Mark’s supervision but for many of my supervisees. From that day, my demeanour changed with all my supervisees, I was more ‘on it’, more focussed and actually started enjoyed supervising more. So, thank you Mark! You did me, and my other supervisees, a favour. Your bravery in giving me feedback, even when it was not invited, stood us all in good stead.
Hawkins, P., & McMahon, A. (2020). Supervision in the helping professions (5th ed.). London: Open University Press.
Logie, R., Bowers, M., Dent, A., Elliot, J., O’Connor, M., & Russell, A. (2020). Using stories in EMDR. A guide to the storytelling (narrative) approach in EMDR therapy. Brighton: UK: Trauma Aid UK.
Watkins, C., & Milne, D. (2014). Clinical supervision at the international crossroads. Current status and future directions. In C. Watkins & D. Milne (Eds.), The Wiley international handbook of clinical supervision (