Learning by doing 

I am currently on a clinical supervision course and I am finding it really challenging – not academically but emotionally. Of the three weekends so far I think I have experienced a range of emotions from hopelessness and extreme frustration to joy and optimism. I have not had this experience on a course for a very long time and have wondered about continuing. It is a course where I am in a minority – most of the other participants are counsellors or psychotherapists so much of the discussion is around the nature of supervision in their role and also, as it is mandatory for practice, it is a “taken for granted” activity and it feels self perpetuating and there are enormous assumptions about how the whole thing is enacted. One of the learning approaches is that of action groups where we “try out” different tools or techniques within a mini supervision session of 20 minutes. I usually enjoy this but this weekend I had a bit of a “moment”. The person I was listening too seemed to have reached an impasse with their dilemma and I said that – I said that I didn’t know what to do and what to say to move the conversation forward and this resulted in a “I am now feeling very criticised” response. Well I found myself unable to manage my emotions and got very upset and angry. I felt hopeless, useless and helpless and that was not very nice at all. Within minutes I knew where it had come from but I had stomped off and got upset. I knew I needed to find a route back, a method of reparation and a way of communicating that was not about name calling and blame. I am not sure how successful it was but it was a horrible legacy of my experience last year. It was reminiscent of the sublimated anger I dealt with from some of the staff that frequently manifested it in petty gripes and circular moaning that never led to any personal responsibility and action. I realised that I still get very frustrated and discouraged by folk who cannot see a solution and fail to see that they need to recognise their role in seeking clarity and coherence. The drama triangle of persecutor, victim and rescuer can be exhausting and knowing what is going on and finding ways to get out of it are very tricky – especially in a person-centred environment where you are not meant to tell folk what’s going on but let them find their own way. Well I’m sorry that gets us nowhere – showing people the possible origins/causes of their behaviours may be just what is needed and I reckon poetry and creative writing holds the key. I’m a little wary of what I perceive as gimmicks – empty chairs and objects and I think there is a place for more of a focus on actual creativity – encouraging the use of the imagination and expressive arts in helping people see around and through their blind spots.

I would love to cultivate the confidence to really promote this approach but also have the opportunity to “try out” the approach with real practitioners – out in the “real” world. My previous experience of offering clinical supervision led to some interesting discoveries but the one thing I do know is that folk out there need to have access to supervision and support and we need to find novel and approachable methods to engage people who are in most need…. those who don’t think they need it or who refuse to explore the landscape in front of them.


2 thoughts on “Learning by doing 

  1. Sara mathews says:

    I am full of admiration for the searing honesty with which you look at yourself (although you know I think you are sometimes hard on yourself…) and at processes. I don’t have to imagine how tough and weird it must be to be working wth people who sometimes seem like they are from a different tribe as I feel that way myself more often than not.
    I don’t experience the techniques we are learning as tricks. For me intentionality informs technique (or not) to give any method an integrity. I’ve been thinking about definitions of creativity. I have a background in drama so for me conjuring other characters or representations of feelings feels very creative. I think I know that for you creativity is often tied into the visual arts and I don’t think our course is particularly strong in this area.
    Selfishly I hope you continue as I love what you bring to the group. I also love spending one weekend in four with you having some shared experiences. However as your friend I want you to grow and flourish and smile and be all that you can so brilliantly be. Whatever your decision it remains my pleasur to be your friend.


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