I feel compelled to write about this topic as I have been a supervisor for the last 3 years. In my own journey I had many supervisors. I felt the disappointment when a supervisor was unwilling to listen to my experience in the room with a patient, and only wanted to supervise per their ego needs. I also had supervisors that were flexible in thought, willing to look at my process as a therapist, and help me use my process as a therapist to help my patients.
It is in those great supervisions that I gained insight into how “meeting the client where they are” made sense. It is important to be flexible in thought and understand how knowing different modalities can inform the therapist on how to work during a therapy session. Becoming an “Integrative Therapist” can expand the richness in the therapy room for both the patient and the therapist.
I have used Meaning Centered Therapy, (read Viktor Frankl and his Logo Therapy modality), as my foundation for the last 10 years. This allows me to be fluid during a therapy session so I can integrate different modalities such as attachment, narrative, psychodynamic, in order to connect with my patient during the session. In my experience, therapy sessions are rarely a straight line and it is my responsibility in service to my patient to help them find insight and awareness into their process. This allows the patient to become independent and learn how to have compassion for themselves and others.
My group supervision usually starts with a short talk about what I may be noticing regarding process with my patients or what I’m hearing from other clinicians. I pose a question or a statement related to expectations the patient has of the therapist or therapy. We as a group find how these expectations can allow for deeper meaning in the therapy room. We then talk about each supervisee’s cases and attend to any “red flags” or crisis the patient may be experiencing. I encourage the group to support each other in supervision, as they might have a different perspective that is better than mine. This interactive approach creates cohesion within the group and also builds confidence.
Another piece of supervision entails how the trainee or intern is managing countertransference to make them aware that they are experiencing countertransference. Also, the experience of projective identification happens a lot more in the therapy session than one might be aware of. I feel it is my responsibility to help increase this awareness as to when the therapist might feel lost during a therapy session and how to recover. That experience can create havoc for the therapist, leaving them feeling inept and dis-regulated if not discussed in supervision. Projective identification and countertransference can be a wealth of information for the therapist. These experiences are not to be feared or avoided, but embraced. The more the therapist understands about their unconscious material the better.
As a supervisor I also see my role as a mentor as well. I invite my supervisees, whether in my group or in individual supervision to process how they are doing on their journey to licensure. So many moving pieces are in action and at times it feels overwhelming. Believe me, I have not forgotten my own journey, and that gained experience has given me the wisdom to pay it forward.
Supervision continues to be exciting and illuminating for me. It is a chance for me to challenge myself and continue my education by reading, attending workshops, and listening to my supervisees for their wisdom.
If you are a supervisor or a supervisee, please feel free to reach out to me. I love the collaborative process and believe that is what makes us better therapists. Also, I will take this opportunity to invite those of you who have not attended one of our Network Meetings or Special Interest Group workshops to come and experience the wonderful family that continues to grow at LA-CAMFT.
Valerie “Billie” Klayman, M.A., LMFT, an integrative Meaning Centered Therapist, became a supervisor at Antioch University Counseling Center in 2014. Billie initiated a partnership between AUCC and the Culver City Senior Center offering pro-bono therapy and group therapy to members of CCSC. In December 2016, Culver City hired Billie to help residents of the community at the Culver City Senior Center. She’s presented on Substance Abuse and Addiction. Billie can be reached at email@example.com.