Coach Supervision: A Journey of Self-Integration


“One does not become enlightened by imagining figures of light, but by making the darkness conscious.

The latter procedure, however, is disagreeable and therefore not popular.”
― C.G. Jung

There will likely be an unending debate on whether coaching and/or supervision is transactional or transformational. My intention in this piece is not to answer that question, but rather to demonstrate that these two approaches can and should be integrated for clients to have a deep-enough experience that it is sustainable, and not a quick fix. This applies to coaching and supervision. Here, I will expand on how it unfolds in supervision, which in turn models how it might emerge for the coach in their practice with a coaching client.

Supervision addresses three aspects of the person: the individual as a human being, the individual as a coach, and the individual as a professional. For clarity, I am using different language in my descriptions, than what is used traditionally, because some of the original terms used may be ambiguous.

First, I will describe each of these aspects and then round off with how they integrate with each other.

The individual as a human being

When we interact with another person, even in a professional capacity, we come along with our personal psychological build up, perceptions of the world, cognitive, emotional, and somatic (bodily) experiences, preferences, biases, prejudices, and more. These will undoubtedly impact how we perceive and engage with clients, and this will largely happen implicitly (outside of our conscious awareness). We will have some experiences emerging from our engagement with clients which are a direct result of the client’s own psyche, and some experiences which are our own (not related to the client) but have been awakened by the engagement. Both will be subjectively experienced by the coach. Supervision brings these implicit experiences into awareness cognitively, emotionally, and physically. This then allows both the supervisor and supervisee access to a much wider and deeper scope of information relevant to the topic brought to supervision. It also serves a cathartic process in that awareness of implicit experience is a start and a part in processing it. An example would be a coach experiencing some form of anxiety relating to a client or a client situation, and through supervision recognising and resolving this anxiety. The philosophy underlying how this is done in supervision is Humanistic and the mode of relating is supportive. The coach and supervisor explore and integrate feeling.

The Individual as A Coach

There are implications to performing the role of coach for another person. Elements of this role are the coach’s framework, philosophy, interventions used, coaching knowledge, the contract with the client, etc. The dynamic which emerges between the coach and the parties/elements of their supervision topic (not the role) also needs consideration. Examples are the coaching client, the wider environment/organisation, the coach’s practice, and other parties to the coaching relationship. Unpacking, conceptualising, and understanding each of these elements and the relationship between them is largely a cognitive exercise. Using a theoretical framework for this purpose equips the coach with tools/concepts which can be applied not only to the case in point, but to past, present, and future coaching experiences. The philosophy applied in this aspect of supervision is Co-creative, the mode is developmental, with coach and supervisor exploring and developing thinking.

The Individual as A Professional

This is where the supervisor works with the coach to develop options for the application of their learning in the previous two aspects. This might take the form of further learning (e.g. training, research), an intentionally new approach to a situation, different behaviours in relation to a client, re-contracting with a client, or restructuring an aspect of the coach’s practice/business. The philosophy here is Behavioural, the mode is managerial (coach’s management of self and practice), and the focus is on action.

Each of these three aspects will be visited in a supervision session, usually in a cyclical nature. Each cycle affords a deeper exploration and integration of the learning about the whole of the situation (all the parties, dynamics, and experiences). This process and experience generate external and internal integration. Transactional analysis, a social psychology, describes human personality as comprising thinking, feeling, and behaviour. These are all explored and developed in supervision and thus integrated.

This piece has been largely a description of a process, which is not necessarily a framework used explicitly by the supervisor, but is integral to it and can be used as a guide. It also describes what happens in supervision from the perspective of a supervisor, and that does not (obviously) convey the experience. My hope in sharing this thinking is to provide some insight into the various aspects of supervision and how they relate to each other, and how it may benefit coaches.

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