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Clinical Supervision - what is it and do yoga teachers and therapists need this?

In the field of clinical psychology supervision of therapists is considered crucial to good professional practice and is a very important part of training and continuing professional development. Milne (2007) defined supervision as 'the formal provision of a relationship-based education and training that is work-focused and which manages, supports and evaluates the work of colleagues'. The practitioner regularly meets with another professional, usually someone specifically trained and with the skills of supervision, to discuss casework and any professional issues in a structured way. This helps the practitioner/therapist to ensure that they can provide the best quality of client care as well as continuing their professional development in a systematic manner.

'Supervision leads to a mental and emotional education that can guide practical work, frees fixed patterns of experience and promotes the willingness as well as the ability to act suitably, carefully and courageously.' Koster

In contrast, due to the looser accreditation criteria of yoga teachers and despite the therapeutic nature of practices that have evolved to examine the nature of heart, mind and consciousness, no regular supervision is recommended or required in the field of yoga tuition or therapy. In over twenty years of experience, I have never seen this debated or recommended and having navigated a number of challenging professional situations alone and unsupervised, I can't help thinking it might be a good idea. Wouldn't this be a sensible requirement for all teachers and therapists of yoga because as Houston describes, 'supervision is the creation of that free space where the supervisee lets herself tell back so that she hears herself afresh and invents in imagination how she can best be for her client in their next session.'

So what does good clinical supervision look and feel like; the ability to form supportive relationships, having relevant clinical skills, showing commitment to providing supervision as well as having good listening skills? The main methods used by specialist supervisors are corrective feedback on performance and collaborative goal-setting, and evidence has shown that there can be positive effects of supervision for practitioner’s satisfaction, self-awareness and autonomy (Wheeler & Richards, 2007). Further research suggests that clinical supervision could have some effects upon the competence of recently qualified practitioners. (Alfonsson , Parling, Spännargård, Andersson, & Lundgren, 2017). The evidence shows clearly that clinicians view the implementation of clinical supervision as a positive aspect and see it as a way for reflecting upon and influencing patient care. Of course one disadvantage of implementing clinical supervision can be the time and money it requries and as such prioritising this professional development in a self-employed capacity can feel challenging. Another issue could be becoming over reliant on the clinical supervisor and confiding in them too much. As well as this, more research found that some staff members had concerns about the additional stress that clinical supervision may bring, due to having to go back over past events and how self-reflection can be taxing (Fowler & Chevannes, 2001). Clinical supervision is an integral component of therapist training and professional development because of its capacity for fostering knowledge, self-awareness, and clinical acumen. Nancy Kline- 'Supervision is an opportunity to bring someone back to their own mind, to show them how good they can be.'

At Island School of Yoga we are experimenting with optional supervision for our yoga teacher trainees in 2021. This is a nine month study and will form the basis of whether it becomes a compulsory in the future. As the senior teacher and founder of the school I have committed to have regular sessions myself to ensure that I have support in evaluating my work and the needs of my clients. What are your thoughts? Do you consciously already employ this technique? Do you think that you would be a better, safer, less isolated teacher if you had compulsory supervision? Please let us know your thoughts.


Alfonsson , S., Parling, T., Spännargård, Å., Andersson, G., & Lundgren, T. (2017). The effects of clinical supervision on supervisees and patients in cognitive behavioral therapy: a systematic review. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy , 206-228.

Fowler, J., & Chevannes, M. (2001). Evaluating the efficacy of reflective practice within the context of clinical supervision. Journal of Advanced Nursing, 379-82.

Wheeler , S., & Richards, K. (2007). The impact of clinical supervision on counsellors and therapists, their practice and their clients. A systematic review of the literature. Counselling and Psychotherapy Research, 54-65.


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