As therapists, it is vital that we have a good support system in place for our professional and confidential work.
Personal therapy is one way in which we can get this support. Supervision is another, and it will be the focus of these posts.
In the next few months, I will talk a bit about 18 ways in which we should expect supervision to work for us.
I will discuss 18 things we should expect from our supervisory relationship in order to be accountable and working to a professional standard, for the sake of our practice, our profession, and most importantly, for the sake of our clients.
In this post, I want to talk about Containment and Holding in the supervision setting.
Containment and Holding are usually linked more to the therapy process. In this context, it means that the therapist is there to support the client through difficult emotions, feelings and situations.
Staying calm, strong and professional amongst their client’s storm is key for the therapist, as this will help the client explore his/her issues without worrying about falling apart — the therapist is there to help.
The way the therapist helps might vary – the therapist might fill in gaps by providing information about how they feel when the client tells their story, or ask questions about how the client feels in that moment (it all depends on the therapist’s modality); or the therapist might allow some silence to process the things that are coming up for their client.
Another way might be the therapist, who might see the problem more clearly as an outsider to it, is able to provide deeper understanding of the situation for the client, allowing space to process and develop a new way of thinking about it all. This takes time of course.
In a similar way, the therapist will need containment and holding in their supervision session.
Why is that?
Dealing with strong emotions and difficult situations that our clients bring, can take it’s toll or at least have a small impact on the therapist’s life.
Therefore, the therapist needs a safe space to go through a smilar “parallel” process, to regroup, re-energise and gain some further perspective on what happened in the session, what went on for the client and what went on for the therapist themselves.
This is important as it will help pin-point “blind spots” in the relationship with this client, or simply allow for space to process their own emotions and thoughts about this client, which leads to the therapist being able to better help the client in the next session.
Supervision is so important in this respect.
I find that sharing the emotional and psychological load is sometimes enough, especially after a particularly difficult session.
I find that when my supervisor listens to me, I feel contained and held by them, and able to have “a moment” while I regroup and while we work together into making sense of what went on for everyone in the session.
This “moment” remains in the supervision session, but it is important to process it in order to be able to be present, calm, strong and professional with our clients in their time of need.
Feel free to share it with your colleagues, supervisees, supervisors and others.
The more we talk about what supervision should be about, what it should cover, and how it should support therapists in their private practice, the better equipped we all will be, and we will provide the a better service to our clients!