Self-supervision is a form of supervision that is always relevant, even if you are receiving good supervision elsewhere. One aim of all supervision is to help practitioners develop a healthy internal supervisor which they can have access to while they are working.

An important aspect of self-supervision is to be able to reflect on one’s own working. Borders and Leddick (1987) provide some very useful questions for such a reflection process, and these are listed in the box.

Reflecting on your own working 

Self observation (linking counsellor thoughts, feelings and actions with client behaviours):

  • What was I hearing my client say and/or seeing my client do?

  • What was I thinking and feeling about my observations?

  • What were my alternatives to say or do at this point?

  • How did I choose from among the alternatives?

  • How did I intend to proceed with my selected response(s)?

  • What did I actually do?

 Self-assessment (evaluating counsellor performance by observing client response):

  • What effects did my response have on my client?

  • How, then, would I evaluate the effectiveness of my response?

(Borders and Leddick 1987)

This reflection process can also be deepened by the supervisee developing their own system of writing up their casework. This should not only record the facts necessary for professional practice, but should reflect on the process of the work and monitor body sensations, breathing, feelings, thoughts and actions while with the client.

These written processes of reflection can be further deepened by using audio and visual tape-recording of work with clients and patients and deve­loping ways of using these tapes to further one’s own self-supervision. Kagan (1980) has done much to develop ways of learning through seeing videotapes of ourselves working and we have written elsewhere about our own systems for self-supervision (CSTD 1999).

What is essential for all forms of self-supervision is giving oneself enough time and also being willing to confront one’s own ways of working. Many of our trainees have found their first attempts to learn from listening to themselves on tape to be both challenging and instructive.


Hawkins, P. and Shohet, R. (2000). Supervision in the helping professions (2nd edition) . Buckingham: Open University Press

















Borders, L.D. and Leddick, G.R. (1987) Handbook of counselling supervision. Alexandria VA: ACES

Kagan, N. (1980)  Influencing human interaction: Eighteen years with IPR, in A.K. Hess (Ed.) Psychotherapy supervision: Theory, research and practice. New York: Wiley

CSTD (Centre for Staff Team Development) (1999) Supervision resource book,. Bath: CSTD