Are you debating the merits of coaching supervision? 

As an unregulated profession, coaches do not even need to be trained, let alone have a supervisor and many opt not to use supervision. Those that do have a supervisor, are often motivated by stipulated requirements when signing up to a professional body. However, supervision has a number of critical purposes which make it worthy of careful consideration, with or without a professional body requirement. 


Using Proctor’s (2000) three main functions of supervision – normative, formative and restorative as a basis, I developed my own set of six primary purposes of supervision.

Six critical purposes of supervision

1. A safe space to voice and explore coaching experiences

It can be really difficult when you are working as a coach and you experience a challenge. Sometimes reflection post-coaching is not enough and you feel the need for a safe space to digest, verbalise and discuss what you experienced.

Supervisors are bound by confidentiality rules so you have the opportunity to talk freely with an experienced professional who can offer time for you to explore and, if warranted, gain insight from the supervisor’s own experiences. Sometimes coaches come to supervision without any queries, challenges or issues but with experiences to celebrate.

Supervision provides valuable time to look at positive coaching experiences, to reflect on coaching patterns, approaches, styles and how they may have impacted outcomes for the client.   

2. Upholding the ethics of the coaching “profession”

I personally hope that one day coaching becomes a regulated profession so I am keen to play my part in understanding, respecting and applying “professional” ethics. There is an agreed set of global ethics based on ethical constructs from regulated industries like counselling, medicine and psychotherapy. These ethical guides are important for prioritising client safety, providing the coach with an ethically informed view, and positively building the reputation of the coaching industry.   

3. A holistic review of the landscape

In my supervision approach, I apply an adaptation of the 7-eyed model (Hawkins, 2011) to explore the broader landscape that may exist for the coach or their client. Hawkins’ model offers a systemic approach, zooming out to look at the network involved and reviewing the roles played by key individuals and key relationships. In my adaptation, I also include perspectives from across the network towards “inanimate objects” like the topic, the company, or the culture. 

4. Deep exploration of a case

After looking at the broader landscape, supervision often involves looking at a particular client case. When this occurs, it can be helpful to spend time looking at the case in greater detail. The 7 conversations model (Clutterbuck, 2011) can be useful here. Seven different conversations are explored including direct and internal dialogue, with reflection before and after the session.

Although the model encourages self-exploration and self-development for the coach, it was still possible that the responses prompted by the seven conversations model, could remain at a shallow level, so I was keen to include more prompts to go even deeper (see three layers below). 

5. Self-exploration and self-development

One of the most important roles of supervision is the learning and development of the coach. To help structure this exploration I split the development phase into three layers; the explicit, implicit and complicit.  

The explicit layer: The first layer is the explicit layer – this was about the initial description of the client and their situation by the coach. The developmental intent was to increase what the coach notices, and increase the quality of their perception. 

The implicit layer: The second layer, called the implicit layer, involved looking a bit deeper at the assumptions at work – and understanding the extent to which biases, prejudices, expectations, preconceptions and stereotypes were impacting the coach or client's views. The intent here was for coaches to re-examine the phenomena or the client more objectively. The questions I ask at this stage are designed to prompt a different viewpoint. This may be through increasing the metaphorical distance, either physically or temporally, or by trying different lenses.

Different lenses may originate from new vantage points within the network, or trialling an opposing view to that expressed. By looking at different or opposing views, the intent is to identify client or coach biases and assumptions for further exploration. 

The complicit layer: The third layer, the complicit layer involves raw self-honesty with exploration of self-deception, personal blind spots and inauthenticities.  

This phase is about the coach being more discerning, taking an honest look at themselves and their role, passive or active, with a particular client. As part of this phase, coaches may reflect on and articulate how an assumption has been constructed, a question formed or an option selected. To prompt self-critique, the coaches explore polarities, generating both positive and negative points, recognising gains and losses of their approach. 

In evaluating how they might be complicit with their client, coaches are encouraged to examine any similarities, congruences, concordance and consistencies as well as any differences, incongruences, discordance and inconsistencies. By juxtaposing these extremes, coaches can experiment with different perspectives. 

6. Self-care

A supervision session can be an important opportunity for coaches to review their physical and mental health within the framework of using oneself as an instrument. The way a supervisor behaves can be pivotal here - holding a safe space, offering pure listening and facilitating coach development are all key aspects of encouraging coach reflexivity (Jackson, 2011).

In conclusion, whether you are motivated by accreditation requirements, or a desire to self-develop, supervision plays a vital part in meeting your duty of care to your clients as well as improving the reputation of the coaching industry as a whole.

If you have not tried supervision before, please feel free to get in touch and book in a taster session. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Life Coach Directory are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Banbury, Oxfordshire, OX15
Written by Tessa Dodwell, (BSc in Psychology, MA in Coaching and mentoring)
Banbury, Oxfordshire, OX15

After 15 years coaching I decided to try supervision. So as a newly qualified supervisor, this article sets out my approach to provide some transparency about what happens in supervision. I am keen to work with coaches who want to trial a supervision session without having to make a long term commitment.

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