Afterword by the Translator for "Supervision in the Helping Professions, 3rd Ed."

Supervision in the Helping Professions(Third Edition)

Peter Hawkins and Robin Shohet


Afterword by the Translator

Kouichi Kunishige, Nov. 2011


It has been stated in many places that supervision is essential for those who work in the field of helping profession.  The difficulty in helping others partly lies in the multitude of views and attitudes that are needed to attend to the lives of others, let alone the skills involved in the process.  There are various possibilities in how to look at things, how to grasp the situations, and how to select the direction of intervention.  The theoretical background of the practitioner certainly casts effects on his or her prioritization, but the person’s preferences and life experiences can give influence to it as well.  The characteristics of the organization to which the practitioner belongs can also influence the decision making.  This would lead to the point that what a practitioner does in order to help others cannot simply be judged by the positive or negative effects which come up to the surface.  If, however, a practitioner tries to reflect upon his or her practice, this means to expose oneself to the social gaze reinforcing its professional status in the society, which often forces the person to evaluate one’s professional work from the strictest standards. As a result, the practitioner can never be satisfied with his or her work and often end up feeling inadequate.


Moreover, because of the specific characteristic in helping profession, one tends to feel that he/she should always be striving for the others.  Although it is vital to maintain one’s welfare in order to function, the more responsibility one feels, the more difficult it becomes to pay attention to his or her own needs.  Especially in Japan where there is often no specified job description that marks one’s professional boundaries, it is not easy to grasp the clear-cut outline of one’s responsibility,  and the practitioner can end up in grinding oneself to one’s limit.  In worst cases, they might leave the profession believing they were not cut out for the job, or they might lose interests and fall into the pattern of automatically repeating the routine.


If supervision is made available to those who work in the helping profession, it will provide the opportunity to reflect their ways of attending to their clients, working out how to bring in objectivity into one’s own state of mind, judgement, and thinking process. In order to achieve this, the surroundings of supervision have to offer a sense of security. Only when this sense of security is established, the practitioner can start breaking down their wall of protection and look into their own practice with honesty, which in turn will lead to higher quality in supporting their clients, and to further their learning. It is not reasonable to depend on the resources of a supervisee to reveal and reflect on his or her blind spots, immaturity, and inadequacy.  A safe place where these activities can be carried out will clearly have to be provided.


It is also necessary for supervision to be clearly programmed in the practice of helping professions.  It would also be necessary, I should like to say, for this supervision opportunity to be like a set-menu meal at a nearby café one can casually visit, rather than a full-course French dinner at an expensive restaurant one might visit once or twice in life. An opportunity, shared with someone one can trust, to articulate one’s problems and concerns in practice and to discuss and confirm the possible future directions is a rare and precious one.  This can only be achieved by having someone to talk with, in the form of dialogues, which all counsellors, who offer opportunities of conversations to their clients, should be well aware of. We can fully appreciate the meaning of our own words only when they are returned to us by the participant in the conversation.


Having stated the above, I had a clear motivation when I started translating this book to the Japanese readers, which was to demystify the stuff surrounding supervision and supervisors.  I often had this feeling that I could not see the real shape of “supervision” or “supervisor”, although I heard these words often enough. I could not find out the actual figure how many practitioners were receiving supervision, who and how many supervisors were offering supervision.  Neither could I find any course offered to train supervisors, and it was never clear how supervisors were trained and appointed.


This book is a complete translation of “Supervision in the Helping professions” (Third edition) by Peter Hawkins and Robin Shohet.  Translating and introducing this book to Japanese readers is not only because their model is a superb one, but also because I feel this book articulates so many of the issues surrounding supervision, in a way that we express in Japanese, “putting and dissecting supervision, supervisor and supervisee on a chopping board.”


This book is most widely quoted in research concerning supervision, and has been recommended by a professor studying supervision in New Zealand.  It would be, therefore, suitable to get shared and standard understanding on supervision.  It is also an introductory book on how to become a supervisor, starting with a chapter how to receive supervision as a supervisee. They offer various models in supervision that can be studied from multiple angles.  The idea that supervision is not something one just receives passively will come across very clearly to you.


In Japan, it is not easy to find a supervision provider, which cannot be explained by the lack of professional practitioners who can offer supervision.  Many practitioners seem to regard themselves as not mature or experienced enough to call themselves supervisors, or even to shy away from being supervisors, which should be a serious aspect to be discussed.


 Why is supervision regarded in this way?  I think it is because the word “supervision” or “supervisor” is shrouded in a mystic veil.  Many supervisors have never seen other supervisors supervising practitioners.  There are not many publications describing the theoretical background or practical case studies.  Some publications offer even thicker veils instead of articulating issues and describing the actual practices.  The very word “super” might contribute further to this obfuscation.  In narrative therapy, in which I am particularly interested, the word “co-vision” is sometimes used in order to make the collaborative aspect clearer.


Even in these unsatisfactory circumstances, many supervisors are willing to do their best in providing some form of supervision within their capacities to their supervisees.  However, the mystic veil works against to these supervisors as it even makes the standard of judgements murky by specifying nothing in particular.  All they can do is to manage somehow on the basis of trial and error, or on the basis of their own experience and sensitivities.  They will never be able to feel what they do is adequately justified.


Every year, more and more people join the helping profession.  It cannot be expected that those who have just completed the initial training or qualified as helpers to do the work in full competence.  This does not mean the shortcoming of the training courses, but rather, it means that certain aspects of training can only be facilitated after the worker has started working in his or her post. However, in Japan, these opportunities tend to be restricted only in the training courses, with often one instructor to many trainees, which is not suitable for attending to the individual needs. This is where supervision, in which individuals look into their experience and explore learning resources to maximize their support to clients, should be offered. Without these facilitations, helping professionals will not be able to maintain their welfare and further their learning.


In order to realise this facilitation, it would be necessary to drag the supervisor from its current pedestal, look into the real-size requirements of this role.  To attribute this role only to those who have acquired superior, benevolent personalities would simply create a stumbling block to the future of helping profession in Japan.  The realities have to be described, articulated and discussed in order to avoid this mystification.  Once stated, each component can be investigated and specified.  To write a statement such as “Supervision is an art that requires high skills and profound experience” would not help anyone when they face providing supervision for the first time.  To share the understanding that even an un-experienced supervisor can start from certain area will ensure the number of newcomers to the supervisory role. 


Having reached this understanding, we can now discuss the vital issue of how to train supervisors.  The skills and the supporting facilities to become a supervisor cannot be obtained by practical experience alone.  Training opportunities to learn how to offer supervision should be planned.  However, in the current situation in Japan, who would plan a training session for the “revered” supervisors?  Who would become the instructor/facilitator for such a session?  Only when supervisors have come down to their own life-size, we can realistically start considering how to train supervisors.


What are, then, the areas in which an un-experienced supervisor can start with?  At the moment, there can be two important functions that should be offered, although further consideration on this would be needed in future.  These two functions in supervision are : (1) to offer a supervisee an opportunity to reflect on his or her own practice by talking with a third person, (2) to offer a safety net to a supervisee.  When something happens to one’s client, when one has got involved in an unexpected conflict, or when one receives severe criticism, the supervisee will need a safe place to talk about his/her cases.  When further resource is needed for the supervisee, he or she should be given advice on this.  If these are offered as the bottom line for new practitioners, this would become a cradle for the professional community, which would also give encouragement to training courses for practitioners.


To develop supervision training on this basis also indicates that the supervision skills are not separate and independent but similar to the ones the practitioners have developed in their initial training, and therefore, it would remind them of the fact that the resources are already within themselves.  As is quoted in this book, Carifio and Hess found the qualities needed for a supervisor was very similar to those for the ideal psychotherapist; namely Roger’s empathy, understanding, unconditional positive regard, congruence, genuineness, and Coche’s warmth and self-disclosure, together with flexibility, concern, attention, investment, curiosity, and openness.  All these elements will lead to some sort of sense of safety, and hopefully more and more people will be encouraged to start their training in one way or another.  


In 2001, Kagoshima Prefectural Association of Clinical Psychologists started a trial run of a supervisor training model.  It states that receiving supervision is “advisable”,and “highly advisable” especially for those who have less than five years’ practice.  On this basis, it encourages as many practitioners with certain experience as possible to start acting as supervisors. This period is called “supervisory internship”, during which they can accumulate experience as supervisors by concentrating on the two functions described above.  In this way, a certain number of supervisors will be active in the field, and thus, the opportunity of having supervision will be increased.


When more and more practitioners receive supervision, there will be an inner voice for an experiences practitioner that he/she should be offering supervision as an internship supervisor.  As this model does not specify a theoretical background, people will not become involved in theoretical conflicts, either.


I feel it is high time for a model such as above was implemented in all the fields of helping profession in Japan. I once talked to a counsellor from North America that at the moment in Japan, having supervision or not is entirely left to the judgement of individual practitioner, who pointed out the ethical problem of sending newly qualified clinical psychologist to the field without supervision.  In NZAC (New Zealand Association of Counsellors) to which I belong, supervision is compulsory to all practicing counsellors.  The number of counselling experience does not come into the consideration of being relieved of this requirement. To locate supervision requirement into the system would involve various issues of responsibility, but I would like to emphasise that there exists a more serious ethical issue in putting nothing in the system.


I feel strong possibilities of the translation of this book becoming the basis for discussing a supervision model, how to put into a system, how to start training courses in a more realistic manner.  In order to start the discussion, it would be necessary to look into the various aspects such as the culture of Japan, how the helping professionals are positioned in the current society, and its organizational culture.  However, reading this book will make it transparently clear that if supervision got positioned in the old and cosy structure of “master and disciple” or “seniors and juniors” it would create huge and serious problems in the helping profession.  In what way, then, should relationship be captured, described, and be connected to how supervision should be formed?  A huge amount of practical experience, trial and error, and hot discussions will be needed.  I also feel the need to set up this supervision model away from the traditional characteristics of educational training.  I would like to start discussing these points with those who are working in the field.  In order to do so and also to make supervision more wide-spread, we should set up time and place to discuss our own problems, dilemmas, and needs.


If you, as a reader, have any views and comments on this book, please contact us the translators.  We would like to bring the experience of reading this book beyond the one-sided action separately experienced by individuals.


心理援助職のためのスーパービジョン: 効果的なスーパービジョンの受け方から,良きスーパーバイザーになるまで
心理援助職のためのスーパービジョン: 効果的なスーパービジョンの受け方から,良きスーパーバイザーになるまで ロビン ショエット ピーター ホーキンズ Robin Shohet

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