If you’re a coach (or want to be), you’ve probably heard of coaching supervision.
But you might not know exactly what it is or how it could benefit you and your clients.
As a coach, you work to support and ‘hold’ your clients, often through challenging periods of transition and growth. The inherent demands of this work mean you must be well-supported to do your best work. As a transformative coach, where you are working at deeper levels of inquiry and change this become even more vital.
That’s where coach supervision comes in.
In this article, we’ll explore why coaching supervision matters and looking at six key benefits.
1. Work effectively and ethically
The first and, perhaps, most obvious benefit of coaching supervision, is that you have a space in which to discuss your coaching work in a confidential manner. This allows you to look at where challenges lie, how you might coach more effectively in certain areas and where there may be ethical dilemmas that are causing you some concern.
Supervisors will provide practical guidance, help you review your coaching contracts, bounce ideas, methods, and techniques around, encourage different viewpoints and learn new ways of working. Your supervisor can help you more easily identify and work with the issues that clients bring to sessions and ensure you’re always ‘fit for purpose’.
Supervision also helps you recognise whether a client’s issues make them more suited for work with another type of practitioner, such as a trained psychotherapist.
2. Reduce your blind spots
Even if you have years of hands-on coaching experience, you’ll still occasionally encounter gaps in your knowledge. Supervision allows you to explore ethical dilemmas or boundary issues that may arise with your clients, and helps you understand how your own perceptions may influence how you’re approaching a situation.
Sessions can also help you to place your work within the context of wider systems (which might be different than your own), such as organisational, social, and economic, each of which can influence your coaching conversations. This can be particularly useful if you’re an internal coach, as you’re far more likely to be subjected to biases and pressures from your company or organisation.
3. Grow your confidence and abilities
Every coach, especially if you’re at the beginning of your coaching journey, can feel pressure to ‘get things right.’ While it’s perfectly normal to feel out of your depth at times, having a dedicated space to explore your concerns and worries can be a source of great comfort.
A supervisor can coach you on specific issues to further your growth and can also offer reassurance, affirmation, and constructive criticism. All this comes through the lens of their lengthy practical experience, training, and continuing professional development.
4. Better understand the psychology of the coaching relationship
As coaches, we’re always impacted, often almost imperceptibly, by the dynamics of the relationship we create with our coachees. These psychological undercurrents, such as transference (where the feelings, desires, and expectations of one person are redirected and applied to another person) take place unconsciously but can greatly affect our work.
Supervision provides a space for us to become more aware of these subtleties, understand their potential impact, and learn how to work with them.
5. Encourage self-care
Holding space for others, while rewarding, can also be draining. Supervision gives you space to vent your frustrations and talk about awkward situations or difficult relationships. And since client material can trigger our own emotions, supervision helps reduce the likelihood of having your ‘stuff’ enter into and detract from the coachee’s sessions.
As the proverbial saying goes, a shared problem is a problem halved, and talking can go a long way toward lightening your load.
6. Feel more connected
A busy coaching caseload, particularly when you’re practising remotely from home, can foster feelings of isolation, so conversations with your supervisor can be especially welcome. Coach supervision not only provides a tangible sense of belonging to the larger coaching community but also connects us with the greater ideal of purposeful and meaningful service.
How to find a supervisor
Some coach training programs provide supervision for students and/or alumnus as part of their fees. However, this is often in a group (rather than one-to-one) and not with a dedicated supervisor, so it’s recommended that all coaches take private supervision to gain the benefits of an ongoing supervisory relationship. Supervision is part of the Code of Ethics/Practice for members of the Association for Coaching (AC), International Coach Federation (ICF), and the European Mentoring and Coaching Council (EMCC), and you can use services such as the AC’s coach supervisor finder or the directory of the International Centre for Coaching Supervision (an Animas institute) to find a supervisor.
The Association of Coaching Supervisors (AOCS) also has online searchable database and is a good place to begin your search.
You might also ask in your coaching communities for those that are coach supervisors and explore your options there. At Animas, a number of coaches are also qualified supervisors having qualified with Animas’s International Centre for Coaching Supervision (ICCS) through their ICF, AC and EMCC accredited coaching supervision course.
It’s suggested that you have coaching supervision at least every four to six weeks. Your timeline will depend on how often you see your clients, the type of coaching you do and the audiences you work with, as well as your own experience as a coach. If you have a heavy client load, you may want to have supervision more often.
How to choose a coach supervisor
As in coaching itself, the relationship between you and your supervisor is fundamental. It can be useful to schedule introductory calls or trial sessions with several potential supervisors to explore who will be ‘the best fit’. You may also wish to initially contract for a few sessions before committing to a longer-term relationship.
Some things to consider when choosing a coach supervisor:
- Do they have a recognised qualification in coaching supervision?
- Do they adhere to high ethical and professional standards?
- Do they have at least several years practical experience as a coach?
- Do they have a high level of psychological understanding?
- Can they show that their work has been supervised for an extended period?
- Can they work with different coaching styles and approaches?
- Do they stay current with developments in the field of coaching and coaching supervision through professional development (CPD), such as workshops, short courses, and further education?
So there you have it; some of the reasons why coaching supervision is so important if you’re serious about being the best coach that you can be, as well as some questions to ask and things to consider when searching for and choosing your coach supervisor. We hope that you found this article useful!
If you’d like to explore coaching supervision in more detail, why not download a free copy of our book, Picturing Coach Supervision: An Illustrated Guide to Common Themes and Issues which you can find at our coaching supervision school.
Interested in training as a coach?
Explore our coach training programme the Accredited Diploma in Transformative Coaching.
Or book a free spot at out Introduction to Transformative Coaching.