What is supervision?

I have three definitions of supervision. The first is that supervisor and supervisee do whatever is necessary to bring the supervisee to be more present with their client. I hypothesise that the source of the issue being brought is at some level the supervisee’s lack of presence. The second is ‘taking the fear out of our work’. Both these definitions overlap, as one of the main reasons for lack of presence is fear.

The final one, which I love, is given by a six-year-old. He is learning to read and reads the title of a supervision book which is on his mother’s desk. His mother asks, ‘Do you know what supervision means?’ ‘Oh yes,’ he replies confidently, ‘It’s when you see through things and see what’s really there.’

What has inspired you on your supervision journey?

The short answer is my work at the Richmond Fellowship in the late 1970s, where I was a residential social worker in a halfway house for people coming out of psychiatric hospital, run as a therapeutic community. Our house was the senior staff training house for other houses in the Fellowship, and we devised a supervision policy for the organisation. I owe a lot to Peter Hawkins and Joan Wilmot, colleagues at the time, and from whom I learnt so much. It was my first taste of supervision, and I know I would have burnt out without it. My first thoughts about supervision were: ‘This is better than therapy. We have to look at ourselves, but put this into practice immediately with the residents.’

There have been other influences, which I write about in In Love with Supervision.1

What does spirituality mean to you?

I love the Course in Miracles quote: ‘Teach only love for that is what you are.’ I see spirituality as a commitment to removing the blocks to this love. I could write pages on this, but that goes to the heart of it.

Most useful piece of advice for a student or newly qualified supervisor

Trust yourself. One of my first books I read on this path was If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.3 I was lucky to start my career when there was no need for accreditation and qualifications. For better or for worse (I think both), that is no longer so easy, but whatever external hoops you have to go through, retain a sense of deeply listening to yourself and your intuition.

Do you have a favourite quote?

The one above: ‘Teach only love because that is what you are.’ I also like Byron Katie’s ‘If I argue with reality, I lose, but only 100% of the time.’

Favourite supervision book

Any book that points to something that is beyond the egoic mind, because I bring that approach to supervision. Probably A Course in Miracles,2 not a supervision book obviously, but an approach which informs all aspects of our lives.

Favourite podcast or website

I have been very influenced by The Work of Byron Katie so, www.thework.com

Favourite piece of music

Well, for sentimentality and nostalgia, most Beatles songs, then most Bach and Vivaldi; but I also enjoy Klezmer and Ladino music from my Jewish roots, so I will go for Flatbush Waltz, played by Andy Statman.

Tip for a successful supervision session

Pay attention to what is happening in the here and now and don’t get too distracted by too much story. In jargon, use mode six of the seven-eyed model. If you are sensitive to the here and now, it will tell you so much about yourself, the supervisee and the client who is not present, but is in some way.

What is the most important issue facing the supervision world today?

To realise how much fear there is in our work, whether it is the scripts of ‘Am I good enough?’ or ‘Will someone take out a complaint?’ Fear is sneaky and can come out as blame, comparison, judgment, need for recognition. Helping to dissolve it paves the way to love and connection. So, the issue is to not let the alienation and ‘othering’ that seems to be such a big part of society dominate our work.


1 Shohet R, Shohet J. In love with supervision. Monmouth: PCCS Books; 2020.
2 Foundation for inner peace. A course in miracles. New York: Penguin; 1996.
3 Kopp S. If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him. London: Sheldon Press; 1974.