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In some professions, attending supervision is mandatory if one wants to keep practicing under a licence or an accreditation. This is particularly true in the field of mental health, where counsellors and psychotherapists are bound by their professional organisation to engage in regular supervision with a trained/accredited supervision.
This practice of looking at one’s work through supervision is becoming more and more common in coaching. The European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC) makes it a requirement for their accreditation process and even has a Supervisor accreditation (ESIA), while the International Coaching Federation (ICF) supports it as a continuing professional development activity.
In this article we are going to look at what coaching supervision is and what its purpose is.
What is coaching supervision?
Coaching supervision is a collaborative learning dialogue that allows the coach to better understand themselves, their client’s, their own system, and their clients’ system. It raises awareness on how and why the coach reacted (as opposed to responded) to some clients or some topics that were discussed.
In their book Supervision In The Helping Professions, Hawkins and Shohet (2012) describe coaching supervision as:
“A joint endeavour in which a practitioner with the help of a supervisor, attends to their clients, themselves as part of their client practitioner relationships and the wider systemic context, and by doing so improves the quality of the work, transforms their relationships, continuously develops themselves, their practice and the wider profession.”
What is the purpose of coaching supervision?
Supervisors agree that coaching supervision has three functions for the coach: it supports them as a coach, as a person and as a professional. These three functions have been explored by a few authors:
- Proctor (1986) discussed the formative, restorative, and normative functions,
- While Hawkins (2006) describes them as resourcing, developmental, and qualitative.
Both authors offer a similar approach:
- Formative/Developmental: Supervision helps the coach develop their skills, effectiveness and capacities ; It helps the coach develop their internal supervisor and become a better reflective practitioner.
- Restorative/Resourcing: Supervision helps the coach manage their emotions and prioritise their wellbeing ; It offers a supportive space for the coach to process what they have absorbed from their clients and their clients’ systems.
- Normative/Qualitative: Supervision also helps the coach in maintaining an ethical approach and high standards of practice ; It helps to keep the coach honest and courageous, attending to what they are not seeing, not hearing, not allowing themselves to feel or not saying ; It also offers a chance to look at where and how the coach may need to refer the client on for more specialised help.
As you can see, coaching supervision is much more than discussing coaching cases, even though you can always bring these to your sessions. Supervision can be the starting point of a deeper reflection about yourself as a practitioner, and a way for you to look at your practice with some distance.
Hawkins, P. & Shohet, R. (2012). Supervision in the Helping Professions. Open University Press.
Hawkins, S. & Smith, N. (2006). Coaching, Mentoring and Organisational Consultancy: Supervision and Development. Open University Press.
Proctor, B. (1986). Supervision: a co‑operative exercise in accountability. Enabling and Ensuring: Supervision in Practice National Youth Bureau Agency. Pp.21-23.