“We may encounter many defeats but we must not be defeated.”
Some of the phrases often heard by fellow artists speaking of their creative challenges are about the impact of their inner critic, or how much they experience fear and resistance and imposter syndrome in their work.
In May 2018 I wrote a post about the inner critic over on my artist and coaching website. I use some theory from transactional analysis to understand the critical internal voice. Over the next few weeks I am going to explore some of these other challenges artists face using my personal experience as artist and therapist to bring some theoretical ideas to understanding what might be happening at a psychological level and then to offer some simple tips and ideas for problem solving.
Today I’m beginning with that early post, click on the link below to read. If this topic raises deeper questions for you than are answered by this post, and you think psychotherapy may be helpful for you, then please do get in touch. We can arrange an introductory conversation to see if I might be able to help.
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
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
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.
We will be using my consulting room in Buxton which can comfortably seat six people. We will begin with a short check in with each other. Checking in involves each of us taking a few minutes to say a little about ourselves and sharing any relevant material. Sometimes we have things happening in our work or personal lives that are significant, and we want to share as a cause of celebration with the group, or there may be difficult things going on that we want to name so that we can then focus on the task of the group for the day.
Having spent some time getting settled with each other, I will then take the agenda for the day. This means that I will ask each person what they want to work on in that session. Sometimes this might be to bring a client case for discussion, a piece of theory for further explanation, an ethical dilemma. For people engaged in exam preparation it might mean support in essay or dissertation writing, practising playing tapes, or exam coaching. Not everyone will have an agenda item and sometimes people may have more than one. We will prioritise and aim to cover all topics, recognising that sometimes with a particularly full agenda not all items will be answered.
Once the agenda is established we will then move to the topic for the session. Lin will present an article, piece of research or theoretical idea as an input to the group and for discussion for the first hour. Then we will move to working through the items on the agenda.
There will be time for a 20 minute break and I will provide hot drinks and biscuits.
The group will end as it began with a short check out as each person may wish to say something about their learning for the day.
Think this might be something you would like to include in your approach to your professional development? Contact me to book your place or for further information.
The second of my short videos where I am speaking about how I think about supervision. Counsellors and therapists who are not yet qualified are at an interesting stage in their development. They are building experience and working effectively with clients and developing a sense of themselves as a practitioner. In this Vlog I’m describing how I approach supervision, the importance of learning in supervision and the role I take.
My morning’s dog walk could have been cold wet, dark and miserable. It was 7am, still very dark, raining, with quite a cold breeze.
Yet, it was really quite ok. As I made way around one of my usual routes I found myself thinking about how much our perception can change our feelings about an event or experience. If I had been feeling grumpy and determined to experience my walk this morning as cold, wet, dark and miserable then that is undoubtedly what it would have been. Instead, it was enjoyable walking the streets in the half-light as the sun was coming up. I enjoyed seeing who was also out and about. The rain felt refreshing. The air crisp and wintry.
Unfortunately some experiences we are faced with my be too difficult or traumatic for us to shift our perception of them. The recent floods in many parts of the UK, brought on by similar rain to that I enjoyed this morning, will be an example of this. Some people’s lives will have been dramatically impacted by what has happened.
Therapy for difficult memories
Sometimes experiences in the present can be too evocative of painful experience in the past. We may be unable to move past the significance of certain events without professional help of therapy. For example, significant anniversaries may be triggering past losses, day to day events may trigger anxieties about past traumas. If you have had an experience where shifting how you perceive it might be useful, therapy can often be very helpful in that process.
But this morning was happily one of those days when what could have been cold wet and miserable was refreshing energising and connecting.
In the midst of the celebrations and holidays, whether religious or otherwise, I hope that you have had the opportunity for good times spent with people you love and care about. Unfortunately for some people Christmas will have meant a host of family arguments, relationship problems, disappointments, painful memories, losses and grief.
Stress at Christmas
There is a tremendous amount of expectation put on us at this time of year. Expectations about spending time with people that we might actually not get on that well with for the rest of the year. Along with eating too much, possibly drinking too much and spending too much money. It undoubtedly can be one of the most stressful times of the year – Christmas stress. As a therapist I have spent several weeks in the run up to December 25th talking to many of my clients about Christmas. How they were feeling about it. What meaning did they attach to the event. Were they having the kind of Christmas they wanted? Or were they under pressure to meet other’s needs. How they might take care of themselves in the face of spending time with people where relationships might be difficult. Or deal with painful memories of events or of loved ones who are no longer here.
Improve your life
I’m also expecting an influx of calls following Christmas as many people reach the point of “this can’t carry on.” This is often the result of a miserable few days spending an intense amount of time perhaps with a partner or family member where things are not going well at all. Where with the stress of Christmas all the problems in the relationship become heightened.
I invite you to give yourself permission to do what you need to do to take care of yourself. This might begin by not adding extra pressure by thinking “but it’s Christmas, everything should be different.” Although Christmas is heralded as a time of year of goodwill, for some people in some situations that is not feasible or even desirable. If you need to do something different with your situation to improve your life then please don’t let the time of year stop you from taking action to change your situation.
It might also might mean contacting someone you’ve not been in touch with for a long time. Telling someone something important. Deciding not to spend next Christmas with family. Seeking out counselling for help with a relationship problem.
These last few days at the end of December can be lovely; with time for resting, celebrating in ways that are healthy and enjoyable, being with people you love and who love you. Making meaning and finding ways to mark the changing of the seasons and the time of year that aligns with your beliefs and values. If that hasn’t been your experience this year my encouragement to you is to reflect how you might have this for yourself next year.