People working in ministry or in the caring professions find themselves facing escalating demands and challenges in their work. They can often experience increasing levels of distress and anxiety in their work lives and in their personal lives, and the lines in between can become increasingly blurred.
Reflexive supervision ensures that your practice is competent and safe and that it is based upon solid theoretical and ethical foundations. It aims to:
better contain the anxieties of those with whom we work, while offering increasingly helpful pastoral interventions
increase our self awareness and ability to apply our theological perspectives/ professional training to make sense of our experiences in ministry / work
readily identify and creatively manage the impact of our work on ourselves
increase our sense of professional responsibility through better managing those aspects of ourselves that impact on our work in both resourceful and non-resourceful ways
Reflection in a supervisory relationship requires a foundation of honesty and trust. The goal is to create an environment in which people do their best thinking—one characterized by safety, calmness and support. Generally, supervisees meet with supervisors on a regular basis, providing material that will help stimulate a dialogue about the work. As a team, supervisor and supervisee explore the range of emotions (positive and negative) related to the families and issues the supervisee is managing, and they work to understand and identify appropriate next steps.
Reflective supervision is not therapy. It is focused on experiences, thoughts and feelings directly connected with the work. Reflective supervision is characterized by active listening and thoughtful questioning by both parties. The role of the supervisor is to help the supervisee to answer their own questions, and to provide the support and knowledge necessary to guide decision-making. In addition, the supervisor provides an empathetic, nonjudgmental ear to the supervisee. Working through complex emotions in a “safe place” allows the supervisee to manage the stress they experiences on the job.
Supervisors can also support staff’s professional development by using supervisory meetings as an opportunity to scaffold, or support the acquisition of, new knowledge. One way of doing this is to encourage supervisees to analyze their own work and its implications.
The supervisory relationship is one characterized by a feeling of trust and safety, where difficult issues can be discussed without fear of judgment, disclosure, or ridicule. Open communication implies curiosity and active listening.