“Attitude is in direct proportion to altitude; if we have a negative attitude toward ourselves our inner happiness and peace will reflect this, and will subsequently be reflected in our attitude to others”

The assumptions we make as to one another’s motives are so circumscribed, our understanding of the universe and its forces so false, that the more we analyse, the more injury we do.

(Below, 1989, p.95)

The work of the supervisor is to show that the work is ongoing, that there is no "way," that one never knows for sure the experience of the other, and that it is in the mutual participation of discovering the essential quality of the client that the healing takes place.

(Shainberg, 1983, p.164)

Supervision is the process through which therapists explore their work with clients in a non-managerial environment with a supportive and experienced colleague.

(Merry, 2001, p.174)

"Thank you for you invaluable support and guidance throughout my placement. I have learnt so much from you and the supervision group. You have helped shape me into a better therapist. Thank you for allowing me to take the space I needed to use it in a way that feels supportive, held and nurturing. I hope our paths will cross again in the future. Anu.".

Supervision of Counsellors & Psychotherapists

Supervision: Rationale and Guidelines

I qualified as a Person-Centred counsellor in 1995 and as a supervisor in 1998. I have been in a private practice for fifteen years. I currently practice from my consulting rooms in Fleet Street, City of London.

In setting out these thoughts about supervision I have two aims; to explain how my philosophical rationale informs my theoretical approach, and how that in turn informs my practice. I also explain my perception of the three purposes, or aspects of supervision, and what they might look/sound like in practical terms.

Philosophical background

As a Person-Centred practitioner I hold as sacred the belief that everyone is essentially trustworthy, that everyone has a formative tendency that impels us to growth and personal development in a positive direction. Also that we are all experts on ourselves and that we know best how to achieve our growth and personal development. Therefore, I also hold that everyone is doing the best they can with their world as they perceive and experience it. It is these philosophical tenets that inform the theoretical approach that I take with supervisees, and, consequently to my supervisee's clients, and their friends and families.

Theoretical approach

Because my theoretical approach is Person-Centred I believe that the six necessary and sufficient conditions for therapeutic change also apply to supervisees and their processes of becoming counsellors, as well as their processes of Becoming a Person (Rogers, C. 1961)

Practice and aspects of Person-Centred supervision

Aspect 1: Examination of process

In my view supervision is most effective when we focus on our own process in relationship with our clients. My idiosyncrasies include the belief that describing our practice as right, wrong, good or bad is unhelpful and counter to the principle of unconditional positive regard. I prefer to examine what works, or is helpful or unhelpful to the client and the development of the therapeutic relationship.

Focussing on negative beliefs about our practice gets in the way of objective dispassionate examination of what is going on in our process that might be getting in the way of our empathy, unconditional positive regard and congruent responses. We might end up being quite directive, or rescuing, or feeling powerless, useless and ineffective; you could say that we end up being therapist-centred rather than client-centred (the time for that is in supervision and our personal therapy). So, focussing on our own process in relation to the client can seem a lot like personal therapy. There is a difference between personal therapy and supervision, the difference being that it can be therapy with an agenda, i.e. personal and professional development in the interest of our clients.

Some ways of approaching the question of how we are with clients is, in my view, well examined by Dave Mearns (1997) in his chapter on supervision. He asks 20 questions of his practice with each client, only one of which is about the client! Reproduced below is his checklist for supervision.

  • How do I (the counsellor) behave in relation to this client?
  • What do I feel in relation to this client? (note, not about the client, but in relation to; and no confusion about the distinction between thinking and feeling)
  • What do I think when I work with this client?
  • What goes on underneath for me?
  • What parts (aspects) of myself am I using with this client?
  • Am I changing (using different parts of me) in relation to this client?
  • What parts (aspects) of myself am I not using in relation to this client?
  • What is the nature of my empathy with this client?
  • Are there any blocks to my empathy with this client?
  • How is my warmth with this client?
  • Is my warmth different with this client than with others?
  • Do I have a tendency towards conditionality with this client?
  • In what ways am I being incongruent with this client?
  • Am I feeling any problems in relation to my contract with this client?
  • Am I experiencing any boundary problems with this client?
  • What am I learning in relation to this client?
  • What are my assumptions about how the client is experiencing me?
  • How am I checking on the client's experiencing?
  • What is my judgement (or assessment) of this client's locus of evaluation?
  • Is my judgement of the client's locus of evaluation affecting my communication with this client?

Please note that the above is a checklist and as such is not intended as a spring clean of your relationship with each client every time you come for supervision! It is intended for use as a guide to preparation for supervision; a way of looking at one or two aspects of your client/counsellor relationship dynamic that might be useful to talk about in supervision.

(Mearns, D. 1997, pp88-89)

Aspect 2: A teaching element

I believe we are all learning throughout our counselling careers. For that reason there is bound to be an aspect of teaching in the supervisory process. Sometimes the philosophy, theory or practice of a theoretical approach is misunderstood and straightforward teaching becomes necessary to avoid a long-laboured struggle to understand why something might not be working in our counselling relationships.

I would encourage all students to allow themselves to be learners, and not to believe, or worry that supervision is some kind of examination! This, for some (many?) is an ongoing personal struggle against conditions of worth going back to childhood.

Aspect 3: Monitoring ethical practice

The BACP Ethical Framework is a useful way of monitoring ourselves to check that our practice is ethical; the principles of least maleficent and most beneficent are useful guides to reaching an ethical compromise on what can be difficult dilemmas to resolve. I would always encourage counsellors to look at their work dispassionately and non-judgementally (holding ourselves in unconditional positive self-regard) so as to reach a conclusion about the best possible way forward.

The issue of ethical boundaries often comes up in supervision and I encourage supervisees to look at what function the boundary serves; boundaries imposed for reasons that are not understood are difficult to set and maintain.

I hope this page is helpful in making your decision about whether to come to me for supervision. If you would like help making the most of supervision or your case study follow these links. If you have any questions please feel free to phone or e-mail me.

Annette Ansell, BA, MA, Dip. Counselling, Dip. Supervision MBACP
89 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1DH
Phone: 07931 333 679
E-Mail: annetteansell.1@gmail.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/TheFleetStreetPractice


It has been a real pleasure to have known you this year; you have shared much of yourself and its felt very real to me. I have appreciated you sharing insights into my Humanality and feeling so understood and cared for during a very dark time for me. I will miss meeting with you but I will not forget you and hope to offer something of the conditions I've received from you to my own clients. I wish you well for the future.

I wanted to reiterate my thanks to you personally for being my Woman's Trust supervisor for the last two years. You have given me a new frame for thinking about and being with clients, and also with supervisees which is very valuable to me. I have hugely valued the Woman's Trust placement, and I can say that my work with clients and reflections in and out of supervision of the women I have worked with have really formed the basis of my clinical experience to date. It has been one of those 'formative' experiences for me and a really excellent one for which I am very thankful.

Once again I just wanted to say thank you very much for all your warm, non-judgemental support during our supervision time together - I learnt a lot!

Annette was my supervisor for about two years. It is only since my own training as a supervisor that I realise how lucky I was to have her, especially while I was a trainee counsellor. I never felt like an inexperienced therapist. Instead, my learning and inexperience was nurtured so that I felt energised to move towards more authentic relationships with my clients. Although I often struggled with fears of failing, Annette was so accepting and respectful of my feelings that I realised it was the one place in my life where I could say anything without that fear of falling short of the mark. I could tell her anything, and I did. When she was congruent and sometimes challenging, I also knew that she was inviting me into her experience of me, rather than discrediting any experience I had of myself. Annette taught me to hear feedback with an open mind, to hear the detail but also to trust my own experiences.

Annette strikes the perfect balance between offering warmth and deep acceptance, whilst providing challenge when needed. I have benefitted greatly from her wisdom, compassion, and intelligent sense of humour. Her nurturing presence and generosity of spirit have inspired me and empowered my growth as a professional counsellor. I feel privileged to have her as my supervisor.

Annette's professionalism and openly collaborative approach has encouraged me to trust my judgement, deepen my self-awareness and build my confidence as a counsellor. In sharing her knowledge and experience, she has given me a sound basis on which to develop my skills in the future.

Annette has been my supervisor for over 10 years and I have complete trust in her integrity and professionalism. I have always found her approachable, honest and encouraging. Her support has helped my confidence in developing my own career.