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Theoretical Foundation of Seven Eyed Model of Supervision

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Clinical supervision for mental health professionals started out much like “apprenticeships” in other fields. That is, a student/apprentice with minimal skill/knowledge would learn the work by observing, assisting, and receiving feedback from an accomplished member of the same field. It was believed that because the “master” was quite good at the work, he or she would be equally good at teaching/supervising. In fact, this is not the case. Today, we realize that, though clinical supervision and counseling have much in common (e.g., the ability to engage in an interpersonal relationship), the two tasks also utilize separate and distinct skills.

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The Seven-Eyed Supervision model was developed by Peter Hawkins and Robin Shohet in 1985, who integrated the relational and systemic aspects of supervision in a single theoretical model. The model is relational because it focuses on the relationships between client, therapist and supervisor and systemic because it focuses on the interplay between each relationship and their context within the wider system. The model is called “seven eyed” because it focuses on seven distinct aspects of the therapeutic process, as explained in the sections that follow. It’s important for supervisees simply to be aware of each of the “eyes” of the model, rather than learning each by rote. What follows is a guide to each of the “eyes” of the model. It is all too easy for us as therapists to see our clients in terms of their problems and how they might solve them. In so doing, we block ourselves from being able to empathise with the client, even though we may have their best interests at heart – we subtly objectify our clients. Focussing on the client may help you become more attuned to their motivation, needs and desires in the here-and-now of the therapeutic relationship. It can be an effective way of empathising with the client – experiencing the therapeutic relationship from their perspective. Each of us only can only ever experience ourselves from the inside. That means there will always be aspects of ourselves that we are unaware of, things that only others see. Conversely, there are aspects of ourselves which we hide from others, and there are those which are hidden from ourselves and others. By focussing on the interventions you use with clients, you can discover hitherto covert aspects of your therapeutic relationships

You might begin by asking yourself the following questions to discover the hidden aspects of your therapeutic relationships. When you and your client sit together in a session, you create something greater than the sum of its parts: a relationship. The therapeutic relationship is created in the here-and-now by both therapist and client and, in my experience, it is the vehicle of therapeutic change. Although the quality of the relationship is often the deciding factor in the therapeutic outcome, it is nonetheless an intangible, ever-changing experience which can be difficult to describe. To help you get perspective on a therapeutic relationship, it can be useful to consider of the relationship creatively using metaphor, or by taking a perspective view of it. You have the luxury of experiencing yourself from the inside. You know yourself better than anyone else, you are the expert on you. Your “process” is the sum of your moment-by-moment thoughts, emotions, sensations and behaviour (e.g. your body language) in response to your client. If you can gain awareness of your process, you may discover an invaluable stream of “data” that provides an opportunity to learn much about the client, yourself and the relationship between you that was previously unknown to you. For example, you can use awareness of your process to discover what within you may be hampering the therapy.

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From the 1970s, supervision models moved away from counselling and psychotherapy theories and moved towards emphasising education and the developmental stages of supervisee by cantering on supervisee’s clinical work. A ‘reflection on practice’ aspect of the clinical work was a major shift in the practice of supervision, a shift that separated supervision from counselling. As a result, Developmental and Social Role frameworks/models have emerged (Carroll, 1996). The Developmental Models emphasise different stages of supervisees’ development (novice to expert), suggesting that each stage of supervisees’ development consists of specific supervisees characteristics and skills that require supervisor interventions appropriate to each level

For example, during the beginning/ novice stage, supervisees are expected to have limited skills and lack confidence. Supervisees during the middle stage acquired more skills and confidence but have conflicting feelings about how they perceive their independence/dependence on their supervisor. At the expert end of supervisees’ developmental stage, they use good problem-solving skills and reflect on their counselling and supervision processes well (Haynes, Corey & Moulton, 2003). The Lifespan Developmental Models work with principles that therapists develop across their lifespan instead of just in their first few years of their professional life.

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As can be seen, we are all heavily influenced by our heritage, the influences of which can be external to ourselves

It is all too easy to inadvertently bring our own biases into the counselling room: personal development (to build self-awareness, including through personal counselling) and supervision are key here to safeguarding against this. Whatever their culture, some people realise during counselling training that they have less autonomy than they once thought, and are determined to address this. There is a history in counselling of there being more female practitioners but of many of the ‘big names’ being male, particularly historically. For example, it is thought that Laura Posner Perls (who was married to Fritz Perls, widely thought of as the founder of gestalt therapy) in fact thought up this modality.

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Borders, L. D., Bernard, J. M., Dye, H. A., Fong, M. L., Henderson, P., & Nance, D. W. (1991). Curriculum guide for training counselor supervisors: Rationale, development, and implementation. Counselor Education and Supervision, 31, 58-80.

Carroll, M. (1996). Counselling Supervision: Theory, Skills and Practice. London: Cassell.

Haynes, R., Corey, G., & Moulton, P. (2003). Clinical supervision in the helping professions: A practical guide. Pacific Grove, CA: Brooks/Cole.

Holloway, E. (1995). Clinical supervision: A systems approach. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage

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