Why is supervision important?
Did you know that psychologists review themselves throughout their professional careers? Why do they do it? What are the benefits of this supervisory practice?
The professional practice of psychologists is highly demanding not only in terms of the techniques they have to master but also in terms of their balance and well-being, which, due to the nature of their intervention, is particularly affected.
These reviews we are talking about refer to the supervision of psychological interventions and their clinical cases for face-to-face and online psychology sessions. Its purpose is educational, counselling, knowledge transfer and even therapeutic.
Why is supervision important for psychologists?
Supervision is a collaborative process in which a psychologist allows other professional experts in the field to examine their interventions on a specific clinical case to evaluate their therapeutic process and guarantee the quality of their procedures, always based on a scientific basis and allowing any suggestion for improvement in the case analysed in question, regardless of the modality in which the sessions are carried out, whether they are face-to-face or through online psychology.
Any psychologist who wants to keep up to date and perfect their skills as a psychotherapist should undergo supervision sessions of their clinical cases, as "the action or process of observing and directing what someone does or how something is done and making sure that everything is done correctly" is a very good way to provide excellence and consistency in their work according to Greenberg and Tomescu (2017, p. xi).
Contrary to what you may think, these evaluations are genuinely relevant for both the psychologist and the patients. And we are not only referring to the case of final-year or novice students who have just finished their studies but also to those who are more experienced and throughout their professional careers.
What are the reasons for requesting supervision?
- To clarify theoretical doubts about techniques, test interpretation or hypothesis formulation.
- To analyse the personal style of the psychotherapist and perfect their skills to resolve fears that may arise during sessions with the patient.
- To make progress with certain cases where there is no progress or evolution.
- To serve as a guide and orientation of their cases when a psychotherapist in training is starting and requires a professional expert in psychology.
How is it carried out?
Group supervision sessions are carried out through meetings of six to ten people who are experts in psychology, more specifically in psychotherapy, coordinated by a "tutor-supervisor". The psychologist who requests a supervision session presents a specific case requiring other professionals' opinions so that they can provide additional points of view based on their experience and knowledge of the subject, which can enrich the interventions with their patient.
There is also supervision in the form of mentoring, in which a senior psychologist carries out individual work with a psychologist seeking to improve their professional practice.
It also helps psychologists starting in psychotherapy rehearse and put specific techniques into practice with other colleagues before applying them to patients under the supervision of the therapist-tutor.
Supervision can be carried out in two different ways:
- "Live": by using a closed video circuit or a one-way mirror where live viewing by the supervision group takes place while the psychologist carries out the session with their patient.
- "Post-session": here, the psychotherapists must provide a video or recording of the session to carry out the supervision once the session is over.
At all times, with the prior consent of the patient.
The advantages of supervision benefit both the psychotherapist and the patient:
- Creates the ideal setting for the psychologist being examined to incorporate the therapeutic skills of their supervisor.
- Reduces the anxiety and worry that a particular case may generate by having the support and help of their colleagues.
- Increases confidence in their professional practice.
- Develops a more exhaustive follow-up of the case.
- Improves the therapeutic alliance, understood as the bond established between the psychologist and the patient in therapy.
- It favours treatment adherence, which means, according to the WHO report of 2003, that therapeutic adherence is: "the degree to which a person's behaviour (following the recommended guidelines or treatment) corresponds to the agreed recommendations of a health care provider".
- It boosts their self-efficacy in the face of possible difficulties that may arise during their work. This concept was coined by the renowned psychologist Albert Bandura (1995). It refers to the "feeling of adequacy, efficiency and competence" people have in facing the challenges and threats that life presents.
- It reduces the number of mistakes that may be made, as the techniques used with the patient in the session have been previously tested during the supervision sessions.
- It favours open-mindedness, reflection and a more detailed analysis of the case by receiving and contrasting other points of view different from your own.
- Likewise, anyone who attends the supervision session is enriched, even if they are not going to present a case and only want to contribute to explaining their point of view to another colleague about the case they are presenting, by witnessing the contributions of others that may be useful in their clinical practice, broadening their knowledge and experience.
- You are guaranteed quality psychotherapy.
- When there is a point of stagnation in the therapy where there is no improvement or evolution, it can be solved and thus be able to move forward.
- Improves the bond and the relationship with the psychotherapist.
- They adhere better to the proposed treatment.
- The resources and tools offered are scientifically endorsed and accredited by experience.
- You receive a more up-to-date approach to psychotherapy.
- They witness the significant involvement of the psychologist in their case, with the advantages that this entails for themselves as it will result in a greater possibility of success in their problem.
By way of conclusion, we can say that supervision, both in traditional face-to-face psychology and in online psychology, is the creation of a shared space that favours a context of learning between several psychology professionals, between one person who exercises the role of tutor-supervisor, while the others act as psychotherapists, providing an experience that has many advantages and that allows to:
- Have a more objective and open vision of the case to be studied.
- Develop a greater capacity for analysis.
- Increase the security of the psychotherapist.
- Tolerate moments of uncertainty by having exposed the difficulties to colleagues previously in the supervision group.
- Provide greater security in the application of specific resources and techniques after the implementation, as a trial, with the rest of the participants.
- Facilitate the emotional balance of the professional and tolerance to stress through the support and reinforcement of their strengths in the face of difficulties by their supervisor and other psychotherapists, through the creation of a secure base on which to stand.
- Receive immediate feedback when being evaluated as a psychotherapist and about their clinical practice.
The advantages that have to do with the psychotherapist and the evaluated therapy process are transferred directly and proportionally to the patient of that psychologist, whose case is worthy of study, analysis and exploration, benefiting from a quality service, scientifically endorsed, proven on the basis of experience, where the anchorage to the treatment will be better and more lasting in time, improving the therapist-patient relationship and making the problem to be solved have a greater guarantee of success.
The importance of supervision lies in its functionality:
- Attention, accompaniment and support for the supervised person
Although it may seem that supervision is a rigid and strict evaluation, where the work of the professional will be called into question or their mistakes as psychotherapists will be pointed out, nothing could be further from the truth. On the contrary, supervision is a space for communication, for positive feedback through the comments and opinions of experts in the field who will always invite them to improve, to enrich themselves with their constructive comments, to help them move forward in those aspects of the case in which they are stuck, favouring the ideal framework to give vent to all their worries and insecurities while they are dealing with a case, with all the advantages and benefits that these sessions entail, not only for the psychologists, but also for the patients, which translates into a double satisfaction that will make them grow exponentially as professionals, but above all, as people.
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References (content translated from the original language):
Moreno Pérez, A. I. (2016). Teoría y práctica de la supervisión. Análisis y discurso de supervisores y psicoterapeutas.
Orbegozo, M. (2022). Modelos de supervisión clínica. Una revisión narrativa.
Olivari Medina, C., Urra Medina, E. (2007). Autoeficacia y conductas de la salud.