If you’re a coach (or want to be), you’ve probably heard of coach 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 through often challenging periods of transition and growth. The inherent demands of this work mean you must be well-supported to do your best work. That’s where coach supervision comes in.
Coaching supervision allows you to:
1. Work safely and effectively
In supervision, you can privately share details of your caseload to gain insights and clear direction, so you’ll work more effectively. You’ll get practical support, such as time to review your coaching contracts and bounce around ideas, methods, and techniques, to 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 121 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 actually use services such as the AC’s coach supervisor finder to find a supervisor.
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, with more currently being trained by Animas’ sister school the International Centre for Coaching Supervision (ICCS) through their ICF and EMCC accredited coach supervisor 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.
The Association of Coaching Supervisors (AOCS) and the Association for Coaching (AC) both have online searchable databases and are good places to begin your search.
Some things to consider when choosing a coach supervisor:
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!