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  • Writer's pictureClaire Hilton

Creatives! Lets talk about Supervision What is it? and why does it matter? (Part One)

This is a post I have been thinking about for a while and something that I am quite passionate about. Supervision comes in different ways and forms of supporting your work and its really important to look at the different types to see how these may apply to you and your work.

I am going to start by outlining the 3 main categories below:

  • Management Supervision

  • Clinical Supervision

  • and Project/Practitioner Supervision.

Management Supervision:

Most people have this built into their employed roles within their workplace. Its more logistical and covers things like time management, any issues at the workplace and in terms of any issues that are impacting on your performance at work they may work with you to try and support you better to be able to fully engage with your work in a more effectively. This is usually a routine meeting that you would have at work with a set person only a month or every few months so they have an overview of your work.

Clinical Supervision:

This is a legal requirement for certain job roles. Art Psychotherapy is one of these as well as nurse practitioners and counsellors etc. The main aim of this space is to help explore tricky stuff around the work with our clients to make sure that what we are doing is ethical and adheres to all best practice guidelines. You focus mainly on what is going on with the people you are supporting and sometimes reflecting on how this may be affecting you. This should not be confused with therapy, it might be that a supervisor may advise that there are certain experiences or feelings that should go to a therapy space instead of a supervision space. Any safeguarding concerns would also feature here and support in reporting/acting upon these if appropriate. I have two clinical supervisors because I work within a NHS setting and also externally with my private practice and its important that your supervisor knows about the sectors/areas in which you are working. They can help identify reading and research that you can utilise as well as explore session directives and suggestions with you if you feel that that is helpful. They may also ask you why it is that you did certain things and its important that this role also has an element of challenge within it to keep your practice moving forward and accountable in a positive way. These sessions are usually a scheduled meeting that you would have within your working hours with a set person - how frequently depends on the amount of client work that you are doing within that role at any given time. To see more information about the competencies applied through HCPC to clinical supervision click here. Counsellors, Nurses and other clinical roles have this built into their working practice.

Within am employed role these two meetings/spaces outlined above will often work hand in hand together with slightly different objectives but all in all to support your ongoing work and wellbeing to help you to continue to do the job that you do.

Project/Practitioner Supervision:

This one is slightly different. This is an optional support for practitioners who are operating within a non-clinical setting and/or role but are still delivering work which for one reason or another can be complex and challenging. This could be emotionally, or this could be physically or both. An example of this would be facilitating an arts in health space for the public which can present in challenges through attendees or our own 'stuff' as facilitators - meaning we are finding this work to be extra draining and difficult over a long period of time. This has an added extra facet in that often we work in many different project roles throughout the week to make up a full time 'job' and that in itself beings a unique perspective to the work and often means that we are working within complex dynamics in different places at different times without any processing space! If a facilitator comes from a non-clinical background then any sort of supervision around the work is often overlooked as this is not a compulsory requirement. This can be a really valuable space to explore the delivery, how things are put together and identify any potential activities and risk assess for suitability or make suggestion from a trauma informed perspective. We can also de-briefing and unpack an experience within a session which can alleviate any worries or fears and also allow actions to be supported if needed in terms of safeguarding concerns. Basically 'Are you OK?' and 'What do you need?' in terms of the project delivery.

Its also important to note that depending on what is most appropriate your project or clinical supervisor could be internal (within the organisation in which you are doing the work) or externally appointed as someone with good knowledge of the area you are working in. This is an important consideration in how it is you find what you need as the person receiving the support. For example, a supervisor with a good knowledge of working in schools may not be a good fit for you if your work changes to supporting adults, or you may need somebody with a broader knowledge of working in a different setting specifically to support the work that you do.

I have been a freelance arts in health facilitator for a number of years now, and due to my dual role between Art Psychotherapist and Creative Facilitator within community settings I know how valuable a supervision space can be to help support working in lots of places at once and meeting lots of people where they are in a community access project. Pre-covid I went to a Bedlam Arts day full of presentations for Creative Practitioners and was lucky enough to hear Nicola Naismith talk a bit about her research into support for creative practitioners and what the sector was needing to be able to continue to support people as it had been thus far (if you are interested then the paper is free to access here). This really highlighted to me that I had benefitted so much from supervision support as a clinical practitioner that this had undoubtedly played a huge part in bolstering my creative practice so that I was able to continue doing what I wanted to do, and thousands of other creatives maybe didn't have that resource, or knowledge that this could even be available to them.

Of course then we could never have foreseen a 2 year lockdown and the changes to services that have happened as a result. It feels like now more than ever before we are working in ways which are so needed and challenging but also super rewarding - but the questions of 'who supports creatives work?' doesn't really seem to have been addressed in a consistent way.

It has been mentioned in a few arts in health spaces recently - notably as part of the Creative Health review roundtable as part of the National Centre for Creative Health (NCCH) and All-Party Parliamentary Group on Arts, Health and Wellbeing (APPG) Creative Health Review (you can watch that here). As well as 'practitioner wellbeing' being included as part of the Arts Council England's new Arts and Wellbeing Strategy (click here to read it) and I believe supervision is a key part of this.

At this point I will openly acknowledge that Supervision, both clinical and non-clinical is a service that I am able to and do currently offer on a 1:1 basis. I have worked with local organisations to support artists and creatives with their public facing work. I also work with Art Psychotherapists and supervise their clinical practice (both, on a freelance basis). However this was not the point that I am trying to make by writing these posts (and there will be more about why supervision matters and possibly what to look for in a supervisor in coming weeks) but...


Creative facilitators who work independently (this could mean that you work FOR an organisation but deliver on your own or that you are freelance in your creative delivery) I ask you this question:

What is it that you need to continue to do the valuable work that you do?

what would be helpful and what is missing from what you are currently doing and your way of working?

Let's have a discussion. You can talk to me by commenting on this post or emailing me directly. Via Facebook or Twitter if its easier but I would really like to know what 'support' for you looks like.

I hope the rest of this post is useful to you with the resources provided and I will follow up with part two really soon.

As always take care and be safe


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