The scope of mindfulness-based supervision: potential for growth and transformation


~ written by Alison Evans, Supervision Lead for the Mindfulness Network ~

I was recently at the International Supervisors SiTT group (support for integrity in teaching and training). I was reflecting with other mindfulness-based supervisors about what mindfulness-based supervision (MBS) can offer at different stages of development. I have a sense that the potential of MBS beyond initial learning of the curriculum, is not always known. In this blog, I hope to illuminate the wider scope of MBS.

I recognise from my own supervision and from supervisees, there is a strong need and desire to get to grips with the curriculum in the early stages of teaching. MBS is closely tied into training programmes, sometimes at very early stages of teaching, and often at the latter stages of training, when trainees are beginning to teach alone, to ‘real’ people, often within the structure of a mindfulness-based programme (MBP).

Whilst MBS for newer teachers, attends to the detail of the nuts and bolts of the curriculum and the development of becoming a mindfulness teacher, the mindfulness-based aspects can still be very present. This includes:  the pauses, the moments of practice, the checking in with internal experience – thoughts, feelings, body sensation, coming to the felt sense as well as the more conceptual.

And this essence of mindfulness and inquiry continues to grow within MBS. We don’t need to finish with MBS once we are familiar with the MBP curriculum. We may switch to a different frequency of supervision and widen out the focus. We have the potential within MBS to go deeper, for example: into aspects of teaching, personal practice, our underlying patterns of reactivity, and our unconscious bias. We can get more nuanced in our understandings and perceptions. The conversations become increasingly grounded in embodied presence and opening to what might emerge. I would suggest that these conversations can be transformational. Fiona Adamson and Jane Brendgen were inspired to write their book, Mindfulness-based Relational Supervision: Mutual Learning and Transformation, about their journey of supervision. They illustrate how a mindfulness-based relational approach supported a reciprocal process, a way of learning that was open and emergent.

Based on an exercise we include in Mindfulness-based Supervision Training (Level 1), offered through the Mindfulness Network, I have considered some of the possible characteristics of MBS at different stages of being a mindfulness teacher. I have mapped them on to the rating scales from the Mindfulness-based Interventions: Teaching Assessment Criteria (MBI:TAC). Of course, it is not so linear, but this gives some indication of the scope of MBS.

Beginner/Advanced Beginner stage

  • Boosting confidence
  • Offering support and scaffolding
  • Can be a lot to bring to supervision, can there still be space – moments to wonder
  • Reminding of intentions behind teaching
  • Helping into the culture of MBS and the inquiry approach
  • Live guiding of practice and inquiry
  • Encouragement to become a reflective practitioner
  • Anchoring to curriculum
  • Creating a safe space to reveal strengths and edges, particularly feeling into strengths (might be using the Mindfulness-Based Interventions: Teaching Learning Criteria (MBI:TLC) to support this)
  • Supporting letting go of striving and watching for the inner critic

Competent

  • All of the above continues in more nuanced ways
  • Exploring insecurities/ vulnerabilities
  • Finding one’s own way in teaching, own style, who you are as a teacher
  • Refining skills using the MBI:TLC/TAC to reflect and explore in dialogue together – might include more fine-tuned feedback, supervisee more able to pinpoint their needs and self-evaluation
  • May find MBS has a focus on certain petals (see MBS framework) so may pay attention to others (teaching skills, individual and group processes, mindfulness practice, theory and understandings, contexts)
  • Moving increasingly into the how of teaching, embodying of mindful attitudes and qualities
  • Furthering understanding about why/intentions of different elements of MBPs

Proficient/Advanced

  • Continued potential for insights and deep reflection
  • Supervisee might be moving into new areas of mindfulness work, so the scope of what is brought to MBS widens e.g., teaching new programmes, curricula development, becoming a supervisor, becoming a trainer, writing, research
  • More collegial relationship, exploratory, flexible, may be a need for more challenging questions to help grow, to see blind spots, to shake things up a bit
  • A place to be inspired
  • Not knowing what will evolve, resting into the embodied conversation, coming back to beginner’s mind, humility
  • Holding up a mirror with the supervisor being a reflector

I am baffled when I hear people thinking they don’t need MBS anymore. I think you may be missing something. There is always something to explore, to learn in ways that we cannot do alone. In the forward to the book, Supervision as Transformation, Ben Fuchs speaks about how “informational learning can happen in solitude, but transformational learning requires relationship with reflection” (page 10). I have certainly found that the dialogue that unfolds within MBS, opens learning in a very different way to my solo reflections.

Over the years, with my own supervision and with my supervisees, I see how MBS evolves, shifts, and moves according to supervisees needs. Sometimes with the same supervisor and sometimes different supervisors to meet different needs. The beauty of this embodied dialogue that I am calling mindfulness-based supervision is that it has the capacity to evolve in this dynamic way.

 

References

Adamson, F., & Brendgen, J. (2022). Mindfulness-based relational supervision: Mutual learning and transformation. Routledge.

Evans A. Mindfulness-based supervision. (2021). In Crane, R.S., Karunavira., Griffith, G.M. (Eds.), Essential Resources for Mindfulness Teachers (pp. 156-166). Routledge. (for the MBS framework)

Shohet, R. (Ed.). (2011). Supervision as transformation: A passion for learning. Jessica Kingsley Publishers.


Alison Evans – Supervision Lead

Alison Evans is the Supervision Lead for the Mindfulness Network, offering the Supervision Training Pathway, annual Supervisor Retreat and running regular Supra-vision Groups alongside her role as a Trainer and Retreat Leader.

This blog post was originally shared on www.vividmindfulness.co.uk and kindly republished here with Alison’s permission.

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