A conversation about mindfulness-based supervision


In November 2021, Alison Evans and Pamela Duckerin  came together for a conversation about mindfulness-based supervision (MBS). This event was part of a series of events celebrating 20 years of mindfulness at Bangor University, and the launch of the new book ‘Essential Resources for Mindfulness Teachers’. They were delighted to speak about MBS and to have so much interest, in what can sometimes seem to be a slightly neglected area of teaching mindfulness. The recording of the full event is available via the Mindfulness Network Community Friends area of our Community site, which is open to all.

Alison (A) is Supervision Lead within the Mindfulness Network (MN), a core trainer with the mindfulness training team at Bangor University (specifically delivering Supervision training and MBCT training), and one of the supervisors in the MN. Pamela (P) is also a core trainer with the mindfulness training team at Bangor University (specifically MBCT, Supervision, and Professional Issues), an MN supervisor, and a Clinical supervisor.

 

This blog post offers some snippets based on that conversation:

 

P: Tell me about your early experiences of supervision:

 

A: I had a very steep learning curve when beginning to teach as it was in preparation for a research trial at the University of Exeter. My very first 5-6 MBCT courses were filmed and supervised. I was lucky to be supervised by some brilliant supervisors and key people in the field (all on the phone at that point – no Zoom!). It wasn’t always easy as there was a lot of emphasis on competency and adherence. I had a lot of Mindfulness-Based Interventions: Teaching Assessment Criteria (MBI:TAC) assessments of my teaching.

I then moved into MBCT in my NHS work and had the experienced of shared supervision on the phone with my colleague. This was a more relaxed atmosphere and allowed me to move more into the ‘how’ of teaching and finding my way into embodying the core attitudinal foundations in the midst of teaching.

My next experience was for a large MBCT research trial. We had two years of group supervision every two weeks in person. It was an incredibly rich learning experience. We incorporated taking it in turns to show some of our teaching via video recordings.

 

P: My experience was quite different. I was initially not in a position to teach, so my supervision was a precious space to explore the 8-week course through my own personal practice and through reading. Then when I started to teach, there was an emphasis on learning to teach from a place of my own vulnerability. I recall a strong sense of being held and seen by another. A place to make mistakes and grow from them.

 

P: Have there been any challenging moments in supervision?

 

A: Yes, for sure it hasn’t always been easy. The experience that comes to mind is an occasion where I did not feel supported by my supervisor at the time. I felt they had misunderstood and not seen the importance of something I was sharing. My natural inclination was to continue without mentioning it or go and slope off and find another supervisor, but I decided to find the courage to speak with them. It turned out to be a valuable conversation and I was really impressed with their openness to inquire into what had happened and how we might resolve it.

 

P: How did you begin to get interested in supervision?

 

A: From my own experience of supervision, which for me came before any significant amount of training. Then when I was leading the MSc in MBCT at the University of Exeter, I was aware of the crucial role that supervision played in a mindfulness-based teacher’s development and ongoing good practice. I trained first through a pathway and then went on to study for my MSc in MBCT making MBS the topic for my dissertation.

 

P: I know you and Cindy Cooper worked closely together before her death; can you say some more?

 

A: Yes, I found out that Cindy Cooper and Jody Mardula, both with the Bangor training team, had been developing a body of work around MBS. We began collaborating together. I joined Cindy in delivering the supervision training and we worked to evolve it. I have vivid memories of our first teaching together and the last time we taught, close to her death. We also co-led the supervision team within the Mindfulness Network, with many fond memories of coming together for an annual supervisor gathering.

 

P: Since Cindy’s death how have you continued to grow this work?

 

A: The MBS training has continued to evolve. It is great to have you (Pamela) alongside me with the developments. We have many international participants on our training now and it has moved to online, which helps to support accessibility across the world. My dear colleagues in the supervision team at the MN have regular conversations and developments around supervision. The MN has a partnership agreement to provide supervision for trainees at Bangor University and the teacher training pathway delivered in collaboration with the MN. We have also developed a partnership with the Oxford Mindfulness Centre around supervision. I have continued to develop research in MBS through my doctorate studies – a ground theory study of MBS.

 

P: What is the role of supra-vision?

 

A: Supra-vision (Supervision of supervision) helps to hold the integrity of MBS by supporting supervisors to work with the MBS framework, hold the different aspects of supervision (formative, ethical, restorative), work skilfully and ethically with challenges, checking things out with another to see any blind spots and reflect upon their role as a supervisor.

 

P: Tell me something about your supervision in recent years?

 

A: Over the years my supervision has been varied. I have had many different supervisors, depending on my needs at the time, and for different aspects of my mindfulness related work. Some have been peer-based supervision relationships. There have been lots of different styles but common threads of mindfulness and an inquiry base to the conversation. As already mentioned, this has also included periods of group supervision.

 

P: If I were to ask you to summarise what supervision means for you what would you say?

 

A: The strong relational base has been hugely important in feeling that I have another alongside me. It is a place to be honest and talk and show vulnerability. A place I learn and get curious, I am never quite sure what will come to light. It supports keeping my teaching and work alive.

 

P: Yes, I would echo your words. It’s this precious gift of being seen and held in the presence of another, a place of honesty, integrity and transparency. It’s supportive and challenging. An important connection to the lineage of experienced teachers.

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The event continued to give an overview of the MBS framework, highlighting the part of embodied presence in MBS. And then a Q&A session with the audience. A full recording can be found HERE.


Mindfulness-Based Supervision References

  • Evans A. Mindfulness-based supervision. In Crane R.S, Karunavira, Griffith G.M (Eds.), Essential Resources for Mindfulness Teachers (pp. 156-166). London: Routledge.
  • Evans, A., Griffith, G. M., Crane, R. S., & Sansom, S. A. (2021). Using the Mindfulness-Based Interventions: Teaching Assessment Criteria (MBI:TAC) in Supervision Global Advances in Health and Medicine, 10 1-6https://doi.org/10.1177/2164956121989949
  • Evans, A. (2019). Supervisors’ and Supervisees’ Perspectives of Mindfulness-Based Supervision: A Grounded Theory Study. https://ore.exeter.ac.uk/repository/handle/10871/37542
  • Evans, A., Crane, R.C., Cooper, L., Mardula, J., Wilks, J., Surawy., Kenny, M., Kuyken, W. (2014). A Framework for Supervision for Mindfulness-Based Teachers: a Space for Embodied Mutual Inquiry. Mindfulness 6(3), 572-581. https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12671-014-0292-4

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