All about Relational Supervision.

The format of this post is a series of questions and answers from Lin Cheung and Helen Rowland about Relational Supervision.

Why are we doing this? Well, Helen and I thought it might be helpful for people who are interested in finding out more about relational supervision. So that there is additional information about the groups, as well as the experience of relational supervision.

How would you describe relational supervision?

Lin: I think there are two main differences for me. Firstly as supervisor I’m looking to facilitate the emergence of unconscious processes. I want to do this so that supervisor and supervisee can think and use theory to develop client work.  Secondly the main way this happens is by using the members of the supervision group as a resource for this.  What this actually looks like in practice is that, first of all, the person bringing a client talks with the supervisor about the client. Then either myself, or Helen, will invite the other group members to share their responses. I’ve found it to be absolutely fascinating what is revealed and spoken of in this process. What else would you add to this Helen?

Helen: Yes, everything that Lin just said! I think therapists are getting increasingly skilled at listening to their internal responses to their clients and thinking more about the ‘use of self’ as therapeutic tool. In a group setting like this, where we each participate in every piece of supervision, we can really hone our interpretation skills in order to turn our responses into useful therapeutic interventions. I think the distance that is created by being a participant-observer in someone else’s supervision helps us to learn how to bring our mind to what is fundamentally a very embodied experience.  A key phrase I use in these groups is ‘how do we think like a therapist?’

What have people who have attended found useful in this style of working?

Helen: For me these groups are all about putting theory into practice. Lots of us understand the importance of working with the relational unconscious, and we really want to develop our skills in this area, but the theory is sometimes very dense and it’s not always obvious how to translate the theory into skilful interventions in the therapy room. My aim in these groups is for people to go away feeling skilled and empowered when translating the theory of relational working into practice. I think often what people get from these groups is a real permission to experiment with different ways of working, as I’m pretty keen to debunk the myth that there’s a ‘right way’ to do relational therapy!

Lin: I think the thing I noticed most was the collaborative style of this approach. Whether you bring a client to discuss or not, everyone has the chance to participate in the process, as everyone contributes their responses to the narrative about the client.  The discussions about the work are full of theory and practical application of how to take this learning forward.  This type of learning experience is, I think, very helpful for practitioners who are able to learn from others in the group.

Why did you decide to start running these groups? 

Lin: It was Helen’s suggestion, on the back of some experiences we had in working with Bill Cornell. For me, I was interested in working with Helen as I think she and I have some interesting similarities in our approach to supervision and client work, as well some stimulating differences. A particular area of interest for me is how unconscious processes emerge both in the relationship between client and therapist, and then in the supervisory arena as well.

Helen: I’ve been in a supervision group with Bill Cornell now for over 10 years, and I can honestly say that it has transformed my practice. Learning to listen to the unconscious process and using my embodied experiences as a source of information has enabled me to work with my clients both at greater depth and with greater ease. And the cornerstone of that for me is great supervision! I am so passionate about the value of good supervision and I really want the opportunity to share that experience with my supervisees and others.

What else would you like to say to people about these groups?

Helen: I want to really encourage people to discover the joy of working in a relational group, and would emphasise that this is for practitioners at any level of experience. Very experienced practitioners and beginners alike can participate equally in a group when it is based on getting in touch with the relational unconscious. The bit I would want to emphasise for people who haven’t attended before is that we run each piece of supervision in a boundaried way: this is a supervision and learning group, not a therapy group, and we are mindful of keeping the boundaries around learning and professional development.

Lin: My final words to people thinking of attending are don’t be intimidated if you are fairly new to practice. We will be running these groups a couple of times a year, Spring and Autumn so there will be lots of opportunities to join us. It is also possible to attend the group and contribute to the discussions without presenting a client. I think people do need to be seeing clients but other than that there is no experience level requirement.

The next relational supervision group is on Saturday 26th and Sunday 27th October 10am – 5pm both days, at the Hebden Therapy Centre, Hebden Bridge.

You can email for more information using the contact form below. To book your place go to our online booking page on Eventbrite.

Published by Lin Cheung

I am an artist, coach and teacher. I love working with people to help them be more creative.

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