Why finding a good counselling supervisor is important

Why finding a good counselling supervisor is important isn’t necessarily obvious to some counsellors. For those who have newly trained, before they even really consider whether a potential supervisor is any good or not, the biggest stumbling block they usually look at is cost. “I’ve already spent more than I can afford on my training, now I have to spend even more money on a supervisor????? I’m not even earning anything yet!!!!!”. I’ve heard this exclamation a thousand times from newly trained counsellors. The usual outcome for these struggling therapists is to try and find a placement that offers free supervision. They’ll join Mind, Cruise or some other such charity and try to build hours without further expense.

Next, we have the counsellors who are a wee bit further along in their development. They’ve worked at their placement for the last year and have managed to build up a hundred or so hours of face to face work. Now is the time for taking things further and trying to finally earn a living as a professional.  When it comes to choosing a good counselling supervisor however, more often than not expense still seems to be the primary focus. Back when they were newly trained, it seemed reasonable to seek free supervision through their placement. Unfortunately, such a year of free supervision tends to cause several problems:


  • As with this time last year, these counsellors are still not earning any money. On top of this, they are only just starting to truly become aware of the realities of running a counselling practice as a business. And, as if this isn’t enough to deal with, because a whole year has passed since they’ve completed their training, pressure from their partner to begin contributing once again is starting to build up. Partners don’t tend to appreciate the fact that another entire year of work has been given away for free to a charity of some sort. As a result, this is around the time that even the most supportive of partners start getting a bit twitchy and begin asking questions like “When are we going to see from financial benefit from all of this time, cost and effort you’ve put into this counselling lark?”


  • The free supervision offered by counselling charities is very limited in scope (and highly varied in quality). Often, such supervision becomes little more than showing up every couple of weeks to tell the supervisor about your clients. I know from personal experience (back when I was new), and the experiences of many others, that such supervision isn’t all that helpful in terms of a counsellor’s development. There is not a lot of actual value to be had when supervision becomes a case of meeting with your supervisor for the sake of being able to tick the box that says “I’ve had the required amount of supervision hours”.


  • Because these counsellors have been working in a charity (which are notorious for being poorly run), these counsellors often have no real idea of how to develop and build an actual practice. Certainly, private counselling practices that are run with the same degree of professionalism as the average counselling charity, aren’t likely to get very far. The usual first step for counsellors starting off in private practice is to either redecorate a room in their home (the conservatory or a back bedroom) into a counselling office, or join up with a colleague who is in the same position and rent an office together. Back of a napkin calculations are done to demonstrate that “All we need is 4 clients each a week and we’ll cover all our costs. From there we can start earning a profit!!!!”. Covering the fast growing list of unexpected costs quickly becomes the primary concern and once again, decent supervision is seen as little more than a drain on resources and therefore is not prioritised.

Finding a good counselling supervisor is not a drain on resources however. A good counselling supervisor has the experience and knowledge to help counsellors in a variety of ways. A good counselling supervisor will not only help you in your client work, but will also be able to help you in your practical practice development. A good counselling supervisor will help you create policies to deal with all the potential pitfalls and eventualities that, quite frankly, counsellors just starting out in practice are not likely to see or anticipate. A good counselling supervisor can help you work out whether or not a particular set of premises will actually be suitable when it comes to seeing clients, or will just be an albatross of rental costs around your neck. A good counselling supervisor can help you understand what types of advertising are worthwhile, and which are a waste of money. A good counselling supervisor is worth their weight in gold – literally!

Good counselling supervision goes way beyond helping you with the face to face counselling work you are engaged in. Far from being a drain on resources, a good counselling supervisor will save you time, money and effort on the practical aspects of your your practice as well. The money spent on supervision will more than cover itself in savings as well as assist you in developing as a counsellor. It is difficult to describe the difference in private supervision from which is received for free in charity work. The best way I can sum it up is to say that in charity work, your supervisor is only concerned with your client work. In private practice, a good counselling supervisor is looking at the entirety of your counselling practice – not only what you are doing with clients. If you live in the general Bishops Stortford area, and would like more information on the counselling supervision services I offer, please contact the office on 01279 834467 for a fully confidential, no obligation discussion of your needs.