What does Supervision mean for me? A well-fitting, bespoke suit!

– written by Gill Johnson and Alison Evans

On 11th June, Alison Evans (Supervision Lead and Executive Director at The Mindfulness Network and core trainer at Bangor University’s Centre for Mindfulness Research and Practice) and Gill Johnson (Friends of Bangor) hosted a Friends of Bangor event at 24 Greencoat Place, London for a FoB Specialist Day.  We gathered for the morning with the intention to bring teachers together in practice and dialogue to reflect on “What does Supervision mean for me?”  We had heard many times about how important supervision is if you are a mindfulness teacher, but what does supervision actually mean in the context of mindfulness-based interventions?  The message from our morning was that it is highly integrated with our work as mindfulness teachers and with our personal mindfulness practices, and is unlike supervision in other contexts.

The metaphor of a well-fitted suit emerged during the morning, from Gill, and (excuse the pun) became embroidered with subtleties as we reflected deeper on our own processes of supervision, our expectations and our fears. The supervisor (the tailor) and the supervisee (the customer) both bring their own expertise to the table to co-create the suit. The cloth, the pattern and design, the cut and assembly will all influence the final garment. If the tailor and customer don’t listen to or respect each other, the suit may end up ill-fitting and uncomfortable to wear. There needs to be an open spirit of co-operation where both parties want to deliver a “well-fitted suit” that may take a multitude of forms.

We explored various aspects of supervision, beginning with what it means to me. We took a moment to see the value of supervision and how it supports us as teachers, encouraging our growth and development. Alison shared a model of supervision for us to hold in mind during our own supervision sessions. We then explored what we choose, as supervisees, to bring to supervision.  We observed that there is a danger that supervision could become another thing on our to-do list, especially as it is required by the Good Practice Guidelines, or that our sessions could be reduced to a shopping list of problems for the supervisor to fix with no real depth or learning, and limited engagement.

Our attitude and intention towards the process coloured the way in which we approached supervision. As supervisees, we may tend to prepare, making detailed reflections after teaching, taking time for them to settle and then coming back to see the most pertinent aspects, and narrow down the focus ahead of the session. Or, we may be looser, allowing the agenda to unfold in the session and simply being present, sitting at the beginning of supervision with the supervisor and seeing what emerges. Or, our approach might sit somewhere in between.  It became clear that supervision offers us a space that should not be crowded with too much activity, so  that we allow time, for each agenda item, to pause and reflect. Several people spoke of preferring an hour rather than 30 minutes to give this aspect sufficient time and space. We noted, with amusement, that any aspect of our teaching and personal practice could be brought to the supervision table, even requesting a review of the supervision arrangement itself.

There were as many different processes for taking what has been learned in supervision forward as participants in the room.  The variety of different methods – such as making a few notes in the session and/or afterwards, with key points, discussing actions at the end of the session – reflected the rich tapestry of experience of both supervisee and supervisor. We could see the tendency to move from supervision straight onto the next thing in life. This made us wonder if the space that is created in supervision may need a bit of time directly afterwards – a moment to pause, reflect and take in the dialogue.

We ended the session feeling confident that we would be able to co-create our own bespoke supervision suit, which would fit well if we participated with care and attention.  The overall sense of the morning was one of feeling nourished from being in relationship with other mindfulness-based practitioners and teachers, through our practice, presence and dialogue on the day. This relational connection is, of course, a key aspect of supervision.

You find out more about Gill at the Friends of Bangor’s website.

You can find out more about Alison Evans by clicking HERE.

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