Supervisors have been described variously as guides, supporters, mentors, teachers, consultants, confidantes, collaborators, etc. But I’ve been thinking recently about our role as ‘buffers’ - those who absorb the shocks.

The coronavirus disease itself isn’t the only pandemic virus that is being passed from one to another at an exponential rate. The spreading fear, anxiety and uncertainty have been just as contagious. Many of your supervisees will find themselves held in its grip. And, like health professionals who are often perceived as having some kind of immunity to disease, supervisors may be assumed to have an inbuilt resilience, but are actually just as vulnerable as anyone else.

In addition to containing our supervisees’ anxieties, we are likely to be caught up in the fears of our friends and family and those close to us. Then we have our own personal reactions to what is going on and we are all affected in different ways. We too are human, living in the same fragile world as everyone else, prone to the same risks and dangers and fears.

We shouldn’t underestimate the burden of bearing so many layers of dis-ease. I’m thinking of the impact not only on our supervisees, but also on our own clients, our supervisees’ clients, our trainees’ diminishing placement opportunities, and so on. Like a railway buffer, we’re absorbing the pressure, soaking up the effects of disruption, stress and grief that are brought to us from so many different quarters. Perhaps like never before, we need to take seriously our own self-care, and that might mean holding onto those in our lives who represent consistency and continuity when all around seems so precarious.

See the Good Practice in Action resource 088 – Self-care for the counselling professions, and don’t forget the many FAQs on the website offering guidance in these extraordinary times.

At this time of social distancing, can I stress the importance of staying connected. Probably all of us believe that ‘it’s the relationship that heals’, and that applies to us as much as our clients. Even if the means of communication has, for the time being, to be a virtual one, we’re still real people at each end of the line. We’re made for relationship and we need each other.

Talking of which, do feel free to get in touch with me if you’re a supervisor and would like the opportunity to offload or simply have a chat about what’s going on for you. It won’t be a substitute for your own supervision, or personal therapy, but it might help to talk things over with someone outside your own circle, someone who knows a bit about what it’s like to be a supervisor who isn’t ‘supposed’ to have their own problems! Feel free to book a call-back via the Ethics hub. I’m not a robot, and I’d love to hear from you.